Monday, April 26, 2010
Mostly as steaming street food.
And I always knew it was bugs, but I never knew what kind until tonight when I stumbled across it looking up Isaac Toast.
Well, turns out it's silkworm pupa.
You read that right. The festering eggs of the worms.
It was a serendipitous discovery though, because just tonight, while having Korean BBQ, the hosts thought it would be pretty funny to bring the foreigners this tempting treasure (sigh). It was the first time we'd ever seen it up close.
(FYI: it's no better looking in real life.)
Beondegi, for that is it's given name (really? I totally would have guessed "puke worms"), is one of only a couple things I cannot bring myself to try. Not even a little bit.
Not even the tip of my chopstick.
It is covered in sticky, brown sauce (Read: slime).
It LOOKS like bugs.
So, we did not try it. But we didn't give them the satisfaction of being grossed out either.
At least, not outwardly.
And in retaliation, I ate lots of kimchi and all my raw green onions.
And I am certainly hoping they were properly surprised, because they have gross kimchi and their green onion salad leaves something to be desired.
I miss our old KBBQ place.
This is your typical toasty sandwich from Isaac Toast, probably the most well known toasty chain in Korea.
And People Baking Toast is one our favorites.
These ones are all over Daejeon. There's one right outside Ewha and I'm pretty sure they make the prized toasty sandwiches Ben mentioned.
There are also loads of little independent toasty shops, too. We have one called TOAST about two blocks away from our apartment.
These places have all kinds of sandwiches, but most seem the same to me. All of them feature a fried egg and American cheese, and almost all feature shredded cabbage, corn (often fried inside the egg part) and pickles and/or some sort of sweet sauce. Many locations carry several flavors of these sweet sauces. I know Isaac has their own "Isaac sauce" and I'm sure People Baking Toast probably does, too. A few sandwiches will have different meats: bacon, ham, Korean sausages, etc..
It might sound a lot worse than it actually is. I know the thought of eating cabbage on things was not just a little repulsive to me when we first got here, but now it hardly fazes either of us. It's really not as awful as it sounds, although, at the same time, it's not something we're dying to have. Maybe it's the sweet sauce that puts it over the edge..
If you think about it, though, this must seem to the children like Jesus came and a made a perfect Korean combination.
Corn: on EVERYTHING.
Eggs: on everything ELSE.
And Cabbage: on ALMOST everything.
So, I guess they just kind of took all the things that go on everything and made a sandwich. It probably seemed like a brilliant plan and I'm sure questioning the ingredient choices would be met with a sort of, "duh, eggs, corn and cabbage are the perfect combination," kind of response.
To Koreans, they truly are.
What is funny, to me, is that Isaac Toast just opened a location in California: Korea’s Isaac Toast Sandwich Shop–First U.S. Location Now Open in Westwood–First Impressions
Head on down to California for an American Toasty Sandwich...
You may notice the wheat bread, the delicious looking tomatoes and crispy bacon. Note that none of those are typical of a REAL toasty sandwich.
Here, you will find yellow-pink, slushy (yes, slushy) tomatoes, pure white 1950's style white bread and limp, pink -- not red or brown -- bacon that neither breaks nor crunches when you bite it.
This sandwich, by comparison, actually looks pretty durn delicious.
For a look at The Real Korean Toasty Sandwich Experience, check out this blog post: Isaac Toast: The Korean Version of the Ramly Burger .
I don't know what a Ramly burger is, but THIS is toasty sammies at their best.
Or.. worst, after seeing the American picture.
Scroll down to the last picture on the blog post and you'll see the kind of bacon I mean.
...sorry if I made you hungry. : - |
Saturday, April 24, 2010
These are the "Ewha stickers," the much desired carrot of Ewha's carrot and stick child disciplining approach to encouraging good behavior. There isn't actually any stick, besides getting the Korean teachers to yell at and maybe scare the kids, so we're pretty much dependent on bribary to get them to sit still and do a lot of things that kids never want to do. They can take the stickers and use them buy goodies from the front desk. For the younger kids there are pencil cases, pens, and rulers. For the older kids they can get computer game money and coupons for toasty sandwiches. Some of the older kids also use them to gamble with.
For my first two months I didn't actually know about the stickers (go Korean communication/teacher training). When I found out, I thought I could give out any old stickers, so I tried to give my students some animal stickers that I found in my desk. They were cute, but worthless as Ewha currency. The childrens quickly set me straight. Since than I have given them out like they are little sticky pieces of sugarless candy. It is an utterly painless way for me to bribe the kids and curry favor. The other American teachers are pretty stingy (mostly because they don't seem to like the children), but I see no reason to spare the stickers.
My ultimate goal, besides paying off the kids, is to pass out so many stickers that German style hyperinflation will take hold of the Ewha economy, hopefully resulting in new stickers or something equally exciting. According to my kids, the sticker payoff system as already had to be revalued twice during the past two years, causing the price of a toasty sandwich to increase from 30 stickers to it's current price of 120 stickers. Hopefully with time and determination I can help to drive the price up to at least 500 or so stickers.
I think I have seen "nowadays" written more times in Korean than the rest of my life combined.
When they write "almost people," what they really mean is most people, not some subhuman group of cloned "nearly" humans that exist only in Korea.
Finally, funny is constantly miss used to when they mean "very fun." As in, "I went to watch the movie "2012," it was very funny. Or, "playing computer games is funny." No matter how many times I explain that "funny does not equal very fun," they will write it week after week. So I've long given up and accepted it. Living in Korea is just more funny that way.
Cause it is here:
For a sense of scale, the thing in the right hand corner is one of those ridable floor moping machines. Yes, this sign is big, about 10 feet by five feet big. Also it is just one of two, there is another one, the same size, on the other side of the room. You know, just in case you somehow managed to miss the first sign.
This in a country which is horrified when Catie wears a sleeveless dress. Also while Mel was here we had all the trouble finding places for her to feed Rocco. Clearly we were just missing the GIANT signs.
Friday, April 23, 2010
You know you've been in Korea too long when...
- It feels normal to see and hear little kids playing in the street at midnight.
- You no longer notice that all the meat at the butcher's is still recognizable as actual body parts - full heads, ears, feet, etc.
- You realize you really do know all the words to "Country Road" and "Let it Be".
- You select shoes based on how easy they are to get on and off and you can tell the ones that aren't because they're all bent flat in the back.
- The smell of soju mixed with sewage means you're home.
- You can fall asleep on the city bus and wake up at your stop.
- You can shove your way past a crows of ajummas (old ladies) to get to the front of a line.
- It doesn't seem strange to have a male friend tell you how handsome your husband is.
- All "good looking" men look more like girls.
- You stop holding the door for people entering a store behind you, no matter how close they are.
- You start eating onions topped with ketchup and mustard as a side dish.
- You understand the mystery of the missing 4th floor.
- You start dropping all articles of speech. "I'm going to the store," becomes, "I go store".
- You can recognize and sing, from start to finish, most popular K-Pop songs.
- You no longer pick the corn off your pizza. Or your toast. Or out of your hot dog.
- "Toast" means a fried egg, bologna and cheese sandwich with cabbage.
- You start wearing a surgical mask as soon as it gets cold out.
- You recognize traffic lights as mere suggestions and always listen for honking cars when in the crosswalk, because those are the kind that will run you over.
- "Eating out" means eating outside, on brightly colored child-sized, plastic stools right next to a mobile grill.
- You understand the mystery of the missing 4th floor.
There are a lot more that are equally as applicable, but now I'm TIRED.
It's just funny to think we've been here 7 months. Everything is just so normal now and even though I am dying to get back to the US, I also know it'll be overwhelming. I never understood reverse culture shock, but I think I will. Korea drives me CRAZY, but I think it's also secretly become home and that's just weird.
There are certainly things I miss:
- Corn meal.
- Whole milk that doesn't smell and taste like corn.
- Good chocolate.
- Superstores you can enter with a product in mind to purchase and actually be able to walk out with said product.
- Diner breakfast. Being able to eat out for breakfast is impossible unless you wake up and get to McDonald's before 10am.
- My sewing machine.
- Other people's babies. Do you know how long it's been since I've gotten to hold a baby? Yeah. Seven months. Koreans don't let creepy waygooks (foreigners) touch their babies.
- Out of season produce. I know I shouldn't miss this because it's really good to eat in season, but I still do. Also, produce from afar. Avocado for less than $12.00 how about?
- Consistently hot showers. Even with our hot water heater fixed, there are just some days when hot showers don't happen. We hear that's common in Korea and I'm used to it, but also done with it. I guess it makes sense that showers would be warmer in the summer )(because it's hot outside) and colder in the winter (because it's cold), but then, along another line of thinking, it doesn't.
Still.. the longer we're here, the less I have very many feelings one way or the other. I have fewer and fewer I Hate Korea Days and it kind of feels like a game now. I spend a lot of time feeling like we're on the frontier or something because we're always making do with FAR less (and for FAR more money..) than we would in America. And while it's definitely irritating sometimes, it keeps life interesting.
Also, there is Han Sam downstairs, who came up just now to collect our water bill. Something he's taken on since our next door neighbor (probably the most angry ajumma in the entire world) moved out. Interesting to note that since she moved out, our water bill has been cut in half... But Han Sam is very sweet and is always saying things to me that I don't understand and making wild hand motions and dancing. He pats me a lot and tells me to call him, "oppa" which is a sort of affectionate, respectful name for men who are older than you. We see him all around our dong, chipping ice and fixing his car and riding his bike. He always says hi and smiles and sometimes we have to go into his ginseng shop and drink tonic (so gross, you have no IDEA), but I would only do it for him. His wife is on the iffy side. I can never tell how she feels about us, but she knits and crochets and likes to show me her projects. I think she likes us.
And I think those are the things you have to think about when the shiny wears off and all you want is cornbread with your chili and more embroidery floss than just the primary colors. Also, pinto beans...
Not thinking far into the future helps, too. I keep myself focused on today and tomorrow, but rarely anything past the end of the week. Time flies that way. I can't believe we're at 7 months already. In, I think.. June, we will reach the halfway mark. This, though, is past the halfway mark for Ben's first contract and we only have five months to go before we'll visit home.
I can't wait to eat cornbread and legit Mexican food with REAL refried beans and Americanized Chinese food and real milk and maybe even some Hamburger Connection.
Catie: All the Finer Points of Our Anti-Diet.. Diet (subtitle: way more information than you ever wanted about what we eat)
Not bad boring.
I wake up, wash the dishes, clean the house. Maybe I leave to buy groceries, or maybe I just stick around all day, making peanut butter and granola, or chopping onions for the freezer. I start dinner right before Ben gets home. We eat dinner, and then we... knit some socks. Watch a show. Go to sleep.
It is a good life.
We like it a lot.
But there's not a lot to say about it. We're homebodies. We like to cook and we like to knit and we like to read.
None of those things involve a lot of exciting narration.
But.. we have been eating freakishly, which... I do keep talking about. It's become apparent that this is my current obsession. Really. I've even taken a hiatus from knitting for the past 2 or 3 weeks because I haven't been interested in anything but good food.
...although, I did cast a sock toe on last night and it's coming along nicely.
Anyway, I thought I'd go all rambly and tell you exactly what we were doing.
Since it's really not like anything ELSE is going on over here, this is the only halfway exciting thing happening. Believe me, if there were anything else I would tell you. I know this is my favorite topic, but there's a good chance it's not yours...
Maybe I can have Asperger's Syndrome for the day, which would mean that I didn't have to pay attention to the fact that you were disinterested and I could just talk for as long as I wanted about one thing.
Sounds like a plan!
This is our diet (and when I say, "diet" I mean, "what we are eating", not, "restrictive, trendy plan"... not that we're not trendy, because we totally are -- it's what keeps us on the cutting edge of awesome) with numbered, bullet points:
1. No enriched or refined flours or sugars. This one's the biggest, I think, because these two are what make countries with excellent health (i.e. some places in Africa and South America) start getting really sick once they're Westernized. It means no white flour, no white sugar, no brown sugar, no fructose and no corn syrup. We are sweetened with honey and real maple syrup only now. Also, sorghum, if we could a hold of it, but.. we can't. Honey makes it so we still totally get to eat sweet things. And, when baked, honey tastes at least as good as sugar, if not better. I am not even lying.
Our bread we get from Costco and it says "whole grain", which I know can mean about a hundred things in the US and I'm sure it means bad things here, but it's also the best bread we can find. We keep it in the freezer and don't eat much of it.
2. No processed foods (or, foods with ingredients we can't pronounce, things with weird preservatives, and things that wouldn't have been recognized as food by people 100 years ago). We've cut out almost all canned foods, although we do keep tomato products around like paste and diced tomatoes. Also, we have some coconut milk that I need to find a use for (coconuts are amazing, fyi) and some chicken broth leftover that I'm going to use up. Other than that, unless I can it myself, we'll be off the cans. I'm hoping to can some diced tomatoes myself come summer, as well a few other things like strawberry honey jam with homemade pectin (yes, you can make apple pectin yourself, I found out!).
3. No trans-fats. That means most unsaturated fats, I think (if not all, I'm not exactly clear, but I do know how to stay away from them), and all hydrogenated oils like shortening and hydrogenated soybean oils. This one's real easy as long as we're staying away from processed and packaged foods because trans-fats don't come in bell peppers or brown rice.
4. Lots of lacto-fermented, fermented and probiotic foods. This is where my yummy yogurt comes in, and kombucha tea (which I am working on securing a starter for locally..), plus lacto-fermented mayonnaise that goes into our salad dressing and would go on sandwiches, but we rarely eat them (Korean bread makes crummy sandwiches -- haha, crummy.. crumby.. haha).
Lacto-fermentation is pretty cool and I'm planning to make some lacto-fermented salsa once summer rolls around (or maybe sooner) with the cultured whey we always have in the fridge now after making yogurt cheese. I'd also like to try making my own lacto-fermented kimchi and cortido. Basically, you can ferment anything and it can be better than canning, from what I can tell (though it also takes a more refined palate.... which I hope to gain... we shall see). Fermenting preserves vitamins, and also enhances them (which is why Koreans survived a bazillion winters on kimchi alone). Probiotics are all the good bacteria and stuff. They help you digest your food, especially other dairy products. They're in fermented and lacto-fermented foods. And they're yum.
5. Whole foods. We make our food from mostly whole foods. This means foods we can recognize as having come from the ground or as something that's eaten food from the ground. It gets complicated in Korea because how we'd like to eat (entirely grass-fed meats and grass-fed, raw dairy, organic fruits and vegetables, etc...) isn't realistic. So, we get organic where we can (in, like, two things.. no, wait! three), but try to trust that Korea is usually smarter about things like pesticides when it comes to food than Americans and.. inorganic fruits and vegetables are far better than NO fruits and vegetables.
We try to keep our meats on the bone with all the fat, because animals products are much more usable by your body when in their original state. This has been a little gross as I had to de-neck a chicken the other day and it had a couple feathers still attached and then we developed a kindred relationship... But it's a growing experience.
There is quite an argument out there for natural, saturated fats and we've bought into it. I've read a lot about it and, to me, it makes sense. Also, I've lost a somewhat significant amount of weight now, all while eating bacon, dark meat chicken and as much butter as I want. Paired, though, with lots of vegetables always, all the time, lots of vegetables.
6. Filtered water. We have a pitcher that filters out all chlorine and other.. stuff. We probably should have gotten it earlier and we really got it because not even Koreans drink their water from the tap. Although, we never did get sick from it..
We are also almost drinking only water now, not really anything else. Well, coffee and tea, and I like the Talking Rain from Costco (it's only 1,000W a bottle at the vending machine and they have ORANGE!), but we don't drink soda, for obvious reasons, or juice because, blah, blah, blah, I know, but fruit juice separated from fruit fiber makes your blood sugar skyrocket and so on, just like refined sugar. So, while some is probably okay, none is probably better and we don't have a juicer anyway to make our own.
I do want to start making green smoothies, though. They're supposed to be delicious!
7. No more soy (you have to type in your email to get to this article, but they won't spam you, I promise). Soy can mock estrogen in your body and is especially bad for young boys (it's in almost all baby formulas, too - hooray), but also bad if you're a woman looking to reproduce. It can really mess up your reproductive...ness. It can increase chance of cancer and maybe it's also good for you in some ways, but all the good things about soy can be found elsewhere, in foods that are less controversial. Plus, it's all heavily, heavily processed. I know, I sound like a broken record. I bore myself, too.
8. Soaking our nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. This is the freakish-est of all the freaky and it's actually taken me a few weeks to come around to even believing I should put the time and effort in. In the end, though, I figure it won'thurt. At the most, it will make our grains easier to digest and make the vitamins and nutrients more accessible to us, and at the least, we'll have softer grains and, hopefully eat fewer of them (since they're really not the best compared to meats and vegetables) because the time it takes to soak stuff is boring and long.
The main argument in favor of soaking (which, of course, I find infinitely interesting) is that nuts, grains and legumes are all seeds which are not really meant to be digested by animals, but to leave the body, unchanged, so they can grow where they're "planted". This means they all have a bunch of.. stuff in them that keeps them from being very easy to breakdown. Which is why people develop wheat allergies and generally have trouble digesting wheat and other grains. Apparently, we weren't meant to digest them at the rates we do.
However, if you soak them in warm water with some sort of cultured, "acid medium" (I use whey because we have it but you can also use kefir, yogurt or.. something else, too, I think), it mocks the seed sprouting environment and makes them kind of sprout (but not really), just enough to release the bad stuff, as well as the stuff contained in them that's meant to eat the bad stuff, so they can grow.
If you really care, you can check out this blog post. Soaking is, like, totally all the rage.
Another big argument is that cultures all over the world have been soaking their grains for centuries and, only in the past few hundred years have we decided it was unnecessary.
It's better, though, in my opinion, not to eat that many grains. They obviously aren't meant to be consumed at the rate we consume them and we keep them to a minimum.
9. No more plastics. This might be as freakish as the soaking.
I know. It's probably overkill, but as long as we're crazy, why not just go whole hog.
As we all have heard, most plastics (except, thankfully, for my precious Nalgene) contain BPA (Bisphenol A) which can do just terrible things. It's been linked to serious weight gain, and also thyroid dysfunction (a huge problem I'll probably have to cope with anyway) because it's an endocrine disruptor. I guess it's been decided by some folks how much is "safe" for humans, but I'd rather not ingest any of it.
Still, we all will because all canned foods are lined in plastic and have BPA leached into them, as well as most plastic, air-tight containers.
Korea, though, has super sweet glass lock-n-locks (awesome sort of tupperware) and real cheap stainless steel containers.
So, we're going plastic-free, though this is taking a long time.
Those are the basics, but we've been implementing them slowly over the past couple months or so, so it hasn't seemed like a huge deal all at once. Also, because we get to eat honey and it's not a plan-diet, we don't have points to count (I was always terrible at that sort of thing) or real restrictions and simply cutting out the things we have has made the hugest difference.
Basically, the more I read, the less I want us to eat the things we did before. And the less I eat refined sugars and flours, the more I develop a real taste for soaked whole wheat (soaking makes it lighter and less strong-tasting) and honey. I don't crave foods much at all anymore (except chocolate sometimes and then I just eat it because... I CAN).
Also, it's kind of fun. It makes cooking more interesting (I'm easily bored, maybe it's the ADD), and shopping much more interesting.
Plus, we both feel better. And we still get to eat almost every single thing we did before, we just make it ourselves now so that we know what's gone into it.
I feel like a dork most of the time, being all overly concerned about BPA and phytic acid and so on, but all it took for us to feel better was taking out processed foods, so... that made it easier to jump on the no-plastic, grain soaking bandwagon.
Right now, I have rice soaking for paella tonight. And, yesterday, we had chicken fajitas (we're going through our stock of white flour tortillas because they're yummy, but then I'm going to make my own!.. I hope). The day before that we had roasted Crock Pot chicken and it was SO good I thought I might die.
That is all.
Right now, I have to straighten up the house because it is lame in here.
Sorry we're so boring nowadays! Maybe it'll get more exciting once it gets warmer out and we actually feel like leaving the house.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Or, just craft supplies in general.
But, occasionally, I'm able to pull some things off.
Like Mr. Flopsy (not be confused with the Flopsy of "Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail").
[caption id="attachment_536" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Yes, I do take ALL my pictures in the kitchen window... you'll soon have an intimate knowledge of the neighbor's rooftop garden, like we do."][/caption]
As usual, you can tell that amazing photography skills don't belong to me.
Until then, sorry about all the blurry.
[caption id="attachment_537" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="My favorite is the sweet little Japanese fabric his shirt is made out of."][/caption]
He was hand sewn (obviously, since we don't have a sewing machine), which was a little bit a nightmare (not that I wouldn't do it again about fifty-hundred times if I had the fabric). The fabric is pretty coarsely woven, maybe a linen. The linen look is popular here. Anyway, though, to keep him from fraying, I had to sew every seam twice: once in running stitch, once in blanket stitch.
It was fun, though. I just complain because really I wish I could do it again.
I actually had all of this lying around the house. The red felt was from the stockings I made us for Christmas, the white I bought to embroider, but didn't, and the brown and cute fabrics I had from a project I started... a long time ago.
I made him from the Black Apple doll pattern, here, from Martha Stewart.
I don't have paint and I'm all about the embroidery now, so I embroidered his face instead of painting. I also modified the pattern to make him a boy. Hopefully he looks like a boy, I'm not sure.
But he is. So, at the least, he'll just be a girly boy.
Anyway, that's what I've been up to.
[caption id="attachment_544" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="A closeup of the cute fabric. Sorry about the dark, my trusty kitchen window was having a light malfunction today."][/caption]
Oh, that and the quadruple batch of These Muffins that I made. Well over 40 muffins have been shoved in our freezer, which is nice, because then I don't feel like I have to eat them all the time, but I also don't feel like I have to MAKE them all the time.
I switched the recipe up a little bit to accommodate what we had and because the first batch made a real thick batter that baked up dry and crumbly. They turned out way better the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times and it's my new fave muffin recipe.
I also added streusel with a teensy bit of cinnamon, which just.. I mean, why even MAKE muffins without streusel is what I want to know?
1. We didn't have all whole wheat flour, so I did half whole, half white.
2. I put in maple syrup instead of sugar, cup for cup. I'd usually cut the other liquid in the recipe back because of it, but it was so dry before that I didn't this time. Also, quick FYI: Maple syrup is my new best friend, because it doesn't make me feel nauseous when I eat it, it doesn't make baked things brown too quickly like honey does, and it tastes exactly like sugar.. which is probably because that's all it is.
3. I added yogurt for half the milk because A.) The oil it called for isn't enough fat (our yogurt is about 1/6 heavy cream, which I thought might help), so the muffins ended up really dry, and B.) I didn't want to use all the milk we had. Ben likes his milk. This was probably the best improvement.
4. Flavoring: I added the zest of one lemon + the juice of half a lemon. I also added a little vanilla, because I have vanilla and I like to add it to stuff and I can if I want. This really combated the blah factor that was all over the first batch.
Aannd... that was all.
They're still a teensy bit dry when they come from the freezer (especially the ones from the 1st batch), but if I defrost them in a ziploc it seems to help.
I like blueberry muffins the best of ALL.