Pantry capsule

So  I’m a little behind the trend or maybe I’m just learning about whats going on in the world outside of Korea. This past weekend I’ve been learning all about capsule wardrobes. It’s a very cool fashion idea which poses the thought that you can look amazing with a minimal amount of clothes cluttering your life. I’ve been a long time believer that I ‘should’ spend more money on fewer clothes to make my life better. Korea has really helped me cull my collection to a few pants and a couple shirts. I keep trying to throw away my jacket but every time I put it next to the door it snows. Come on, Winter, shove over for Spring already.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention in my house is the tiny kitchen. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m working on a pantry capsule. I want to have things in the kitchen I use 95% of the time. I think this will mean sticking to my convictions when I go shopping. It means having a focused effort on using up the last bits of precious foreign items and working with Korean ingredients. I have a pretty good outline of what this looks like.

I feel like the spice/ tea area is my big down fall. Confession, I don’t really drink tea. As for the spices what I use feels like a small portion of what’s there. The spices I use on the regular are purchased from the local grocer. I use salt, pepper, cinnamon, Korean red gochu pepper, garlic powder, parsley, basil, sesame oil, sesame seeds, fish sauce, soy sauce, white vinegar, spaghetti sauce, corn syrup. Other cooking essentials are flour, rice, baking powder, baking soda, panko crumbs, corn starch, sugar, brown sugar, onions, canola oil, and olive oil. I think I can pair this down even more by taking out the spaghetti sauce and corn syrup. In my Korean fridge, you will always find kimchi, eggs, soy bean paste, spicy soy bean paste, milk, ground pork, lemon, minced garlic. We often have a variety of vegetables and one kind of fruit.

This is not what my kitchen looks like today but I hope it will be here soon. I’m also working to have fewer pots and pans. It feels like a big task but I think it will happen.

photo 2

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Korean style Tom Kha

I really didn’t have everything I wanted but…. I had some ingredients for this soup so I went for it. The result was delicious!

1 carrot
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 whole chicken (mine was chopped at the store)
6 cups water
1 Tablespoon grated lemon
half a package of rice noodles

1 can of coconut milk
Sesame leaves (thin sliced)  and lemon to garnish

Start by chopping your vegetables and heating up the soup pan. Put your chicken in first so it has the time to brown and grease up your pan. Then throw in your veg. When the onions are translucent add water and turn to low. Cook until chicken is done (about 40 minutes).

Fish out the chicken to cool and shred. Add the coconut milk, stir in the cream. Then put rice noodles in while shredding the chicken (they take about 13 minutes to cook).

Dish into bowls. Top with chicken, sesame leaves and a squeeze of lemon.

Goals for this month

1. Writing everyday

2. Packing the apartment and sending things home by post or not!

3. Completing several work goals

4. Applying to jobs in the Bay Area

5. Checking out Wwoof in South America

I think the order of this list is very fitting. The daily things are important. I’ve made the habit of cooking lunch and dinner before work everyday. Now it’s time to expand my mind. Writing everyday is the perfect opportunity to gain mental clarity. I’m starting with a 30 day challenge, my friend Sarah is doing. It’s a great chance to do something together while I’m out of the country.

Over the past year, Wyll and I have accumulated many things. There is a collection of wooden spoons and a fat stack of notebooks  that need to go somewhere. The spoons will be coming to America. While the notebooks are full and perhaps can be burned or disposed of where no one can find them and learn English or game math with them. I’ve also bought a few fancy gifts and should decide if I’ll send them or take them by plane.

Work goals are boring but they too have to be part of this list. I need to ensure that my students are taken care of in my absence. That the paper work gets done before I leave. And that I get my extra money. I want that extra money!

Applying for jobs in the home state seems like a no brain-er. I’ve already started. Hopefully, my next endeavor will be fun and courageous! I’m looking at Social Media, Social Work, sale in Woman’s fashion. It would be fun to be a professional food blogger so maybe I’ll get a job as a waitress. If the bay area job market is as tough as I remember it being, I will go to South America to learn Spanish. Of the many things Korea has taught me my Spanish ability is not too shabby. There have been many times when I want to say something and I try to use Spanish. Most Koreans do not understand Spanish, so this tactic has never worked for me.

It’s only Monday

On my walk home, I realized if I learn anything from Korea it will be how to entertain a group of people for an hour at a time on the fly. A new season of classes started today. For half of my classes, I knew what I was doing. Basically the same thing I’ve been doing just with new books or new students. A slight variation on the old. The other three classes are totally new and the product of my co-teacher and director. I will call these classes their brainchild. They gave me a few books and said choose some chapters then there will be a followup. So this afternoon was Monday and at 2:53, seven minutes before my first class of the day I was kind of freaking out. It seemed obvious that my director had a certain idea about how she wanted the classes to go. This much talking, this much speaking, this much writing. Asking questions led to being deferred to later after talking with a… someone else. As far as I know, I picked a few chapters and that’s that. I copied a chapter for each class and went to work.

It was a hellacious day; harder than I realized.

At 9:05 I headed home, planning the pasta dinner as I went. I’ve been wearing these adorable Tom wedges and miniskirts to work. I have a lot of fun watching my legs as I walk. I walk toward the street to pass a group of young men. They were saying goodbyes to a woman and three children. One of the kids is very young and grabs at woman’s arm when he sees me. As a foreigner, I have superpowers. I pay pretty close attention to things around me, but I look like I’m busy. This makes it easier for me, especially because children cry when they see me. It’s heartbreaking for me and embarrassing for them. This also helps me avoid troublemakers who are looking for a good time to practice English, specifically older men- you know who you are!

I cross the street getting a chance to see the full moon. It’s bright white and fills the sky. Black clouds linger around it but not obstructing it. How beautiful! How lucky am I! As I get close to my apartment I cross the street again making my way over a speed bump in the road up a little sidewalk that is half covered in cars and turn the corner for my building. Behind me I can hear tiny running footsteps. Children are a common occurrence in Korea. They are usually seen in herds with pockets overflowing with won and fists full of candy. Small footsteps make me smile so after some hesitation I turn to smile at the small creature giving me some happiness at the end of a long day. A skinny and seemingly very fast toddler decked out in an adorable heart tee, a diaper and sandals is excited to see… me?

Longing to put down heavy backpack and cumbersome dishes, I turn back to my path happy to be so close to home. Half way to my building stairs I hear a car. In Korea, I have developed a healthy fear of cars, specifically Jeeps. Why are Korean drivers in the Australian Outback? Are there giant rocks to drive over? Vicious predator animals ready to strike? Maybe they think a rabid croc is after them and that’s why they drive so fast. I turn to look and see the baby in the driveway as the Jeep (of course, it’s a Jeep– a little too fast and a little too tall) shines it’s headlights in my face. Time slows. My brain thinks two things The small child will be fine, It’s not my business. In one short lived moment, I turn back to the building. In all the time my brain took to recognize and weigh the variables my body took over. Before I knew what was happening my hand was stopping the Jeep and grabbing at a very small hand. I imagine myself in a movie, headlights casting me in shadow.

Somehow her mom also recognized what could happen and ran from four times my distance. Korean words poured from her; words of concern and fear then gratitude and love. The child was now terrified and screaming. As the mother grabbed her daughter up into a big worried mom hug, she thanked me and stared, eyes growing bigger at my face. I had no words, tired and emotionally drained. Wanting to get out of this staring contest I mumbled “No problem.” I felt very dazed as I turned back to make my ascent finally home. In the elevator, I recounted the event and thought of all the things I could have said like Omma- mother, I could have shouted across the parking lot to ease her nerves. All the language flowed from my body and I was left with a silly phrase from my youth. Dumbstruck, I stumbled out of the elevator; shuffling to my apartment door. Lights were on and so was the stove top. Oh, man I left on the stove, totally bummed. I didn’t leave the stove on. Wyll was home making boiled water, bless his heart. I collapsed in his arms. Oh, love.

A whole Lotte party-ing going on!

I have to say the biggest company in Korea is Lotte. They own fast food chains (complete with squid burgers! YUM!), grocery stores, outlet malls, movie theaters- they make movies!, and on the weekend before last I was introduced to a whole new product- LOTTE WORLD!

This theme park boasts human size rodent mascots!

That’s not me or Wyll but I think you get the idea (Minnie and Mickey have been turned into squirrels or maybe chipmunks?)

Anyway we had a bunch of fun with a bunch of people and I thought I’d share some of the photos with you!

I would also like to add that we have been going to the bigger cities and seeing live bands. We also hit up a club with Angus and Jim! That was tons of fun. I’ve really started learning Korean vowels, so I should be able to read… any day now…. 🙂

Wyll also finished the beta version of his game and it will be play tested across the world in the next few weeks. The cherry trees are blooming and life is starting to out pace me again. Spring has sprung!

Exotic

I am a Zebra

long blonde hair flows from my head like a candy river

touch it, I dare you

blue blue eyes gaze out, smiling to themselves about nothing

How did I become so beautiful, so pawed at?

What are you looking at cute, nice lindsy teacher?

Are you dreaming of your wylliam teacher?

long blonde hair flows from her head like a candy river

lindsy teacher, when you go to the beach everyone is in love

you lounge under an umbrella and watch tv

lindsy teacher you and wylliam teacher have hearts in your eyes

smile lindsy teacher, eat this choco lindsy teacher,

long blonde hair flows from your head like a candy river

Making Kimchi

How can I describe the emotions surrounding  making kimchi?

When I was trying to convince Wyll that Korea was the place to be we watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. Bourdain gets a whorl wind tour of the country. At one point he meets up with some older women who are making Kimchi. They do NOT let him touch it. He waits, watches sadly and tells viewers what is happening. Watching the show I thought how sad for him. Kimchi is a process unlike most other fermenting cabbage dishes, hello fish! It could easily be the mascot of Korea. As it is a source of pride and eaten with EVERY meal, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to eat his poorly seasoned cabbage everyday for months. Then again I wished that I would have the opportunity to watch artisans make kimchi.

I knew before we came that November was kimchi month, prime cabbage harvesting time. At Y-mart down the street, the cabbages are displayed on pallets. Walking to work, truck beds piled high with cabbage drive past us. I have also noticed the arrival of very cute plastic food grade tubs with snap on lids and handles. Grace claims few cooking skills. I talked with her about kimchi season. She said her aunts do that sort of thing, when she was vacationing in Korea they sent her some. I knew that Sam and Mr. No (our off-site directors) were involved with farms. They had both brought us huge persimmons. One day I sneak attacked them. I stopped at work to drop off some things for later. They were there cleaning- how embarrassing! I think we were all surprised. I mean what was I doing there!?! Trying to smooth over the situation Mr. No and I were talking about farming and he invited us out to make Kimchi! I was like jumping off the walls. V is for VICTORY!

I was ecstatic. Rather impatiently, I waited. Toward the end of November I was beginning to feel like maybe it wasn’t going to happen. One day Grace would look up from her desk and say ‘No-can-dos-ville babydoll’. Then at least I would know. On Monday (Dec.3) Grace hung up her phone and said ‘it’s getting so cold- I hope we don’t have to make Kimchi’. I thought Oh, no here it comes. It was like she knew it was coming. Mr. No set the date for Friday. We would have to go in the morning and it would be outside. The way Grace talked about it we would be watching. Then we would eat and go to work. I was a little disappointed, but at least I would be outside at a farm surrounded by happy people making a ton of kimchi.

Wyll and I got ready according to Graces description. If we weren’t going to be getting dirty then we should dress nice. Dress to impress. Wyll (the smart one) wore jeans and a button up. I wore several layers, slacks, two new sweaters and went with my heeled boots. We headed put into the mini blizzard that put other areas on snow alert. Grace met us at the call taxi luckily moments before the driver had taken us to the bus terminal. (Being two of the 14 foreigners we are easily recognized- many times Grace has called ahead so the locals know what we are about.) The taxi driver didn’t want to take us all the way to the house. You can’t blame him really. The roads had snow and horrifying ditches on either side.

When we arrived we were taken past two dwindling pallets of salted and cleaned cabbages into the house and given gloves.

“What!?! Oh yes!”

Mr. No explained that we can’t have lunch and a bucket of Kimchi for nothing. This is a community event. This is the third and easiest day. If we are only here for a short time other people will get upset.

Oh man, AND we get to take some home! Too bad we were wearing such silly outfits. We walk into the green house where everyone is set up working in groups of three. I can tell that the expectations are low, we were given a much smaller bowl and pile of cabbage. However, this was a good move on their part. Mr. No’s brother comes over to give us a visual how to. I sit on my legs. Grace laughs and says I’ll be sitting for a loooong time. So I play around with some other way to sit. Mr. No’s brother brings me a Styrofoam cushion to sit on. This proves to be very difficult with the height of my shoes.

So I’m rubbing the red paste into my cabbage leaves. Each leaf is done individually and you have to make sure to get all the creases and folded parts even the very bottom. Mr. No’s mom comes by and tells us to make sure to get the diakon and onion in there. She tells us to taste it. The salt flavor will mellow and the pepper flavor will be the same. Then she sneaks some large chunks of diakon into our bucket. Wyll didn’t notice. 😛

Wyll and I are unsure how to taste the paste. (Well remember the lady hand feeding us at the farmers market, it seems that Koreans are unafraid of germs). I grabbed a diakon piece and chowed down. This is the fresh version of Kimchi. The cabbage is crunchy and you can taste the complex flavors in the red paste. There is no shellfish in it at this point. It was so freaking good. Grace is chowing away and really slathering the paste onto the cabbage leaves. Mr. No’s mom comes back and says we shouldn’t put on so much- why do one cabbage when you can do two?

Wyll and I fill up our bucket like pros. Grace’s bucket is full. They set them aside and bring over new ones. We passed the test so we get to make kimchi for other people! Let’s finish the radio flyer of cabbage!

When we first walked into the house we briefly met Mr. No’s sister. She is the family cook, head chief, also a professor. As we begin to assemble kimchi for relatives who could not make it, this stemmed pork is placed in front of us. Mr. No’s mom say wait I’ll get you kimchi. The smaller fresh leaves are put next to the pork. She then rolls the pork in the leaf and hand feeds Wyll. He tries to bite it in half. No she sternly tells him in Korean that he has to eat the whole thing. In one bite. Grace laughs as she translates then Mr. No’s mom feeds her too. She was a little surprised. So, I’m ready, but my mouth is small. I have to look at the ceiling to keep all the food in my mouth. Wyll tells Grace about how I look like a chipmunk when I eat. We laugh and eat the best food in the world. Mr. No is very excited to give us the best makgeolli he could find. He tells us a story abut how he had to try every kind at the supermarket. I think he had a lot of fun doing that. Then Sam came by and gave me soda! Thank you, SAM! Makgeolli is a Korean unfiltered wine. It was good with the food, but on it’s own it reminds me of banana peels (this is between you and me).

Before our dish was finished we were brought out more food. Grace and I gorged. It was the first time I had a home cooked Korean meal. Grace kept talking about how expensive it would be in a restaurant. I just kept thinking so freaking good, I may have danced a little in my squatting position. When we finished our extra cabbages (these were packaged with a plain leaf on top so they would know it was made by beginners), we headed inside for a little clean up. I think all three of us had red paste on our pants and arms. We cleaned up in the bathroom. Grace told us about the importance of finding a good man in Korea. Mostly it surrounds his mother.

Does he participate in kimchi making?

Will I have to make kimchi?

These answers are like a double edge sword. You want a man who will make kimchi instead of watching soccer. (GOAL!) You want a mother-in-law who will work with you, not steam roll you.

Mr. No comes in. I point at some crazy looking pickled ginseng…? Wyll and Mr. No think I am pointing at a picture of Mr. No’s son. The wall behind the TV is covered in family photographs. There are several recent ones a few older ones, there is one of Mr. No in his 20’s during his time in the Korean Military. Every man has a mandatory 2 years in the Army. They do not look forward to it. There are two large family portraits the women are all wearing hanboks (the traditional Korean outfits). As Mr. No heads back outside his sister sets up a table and lays out more food for us, fish soup and ten different side dishes. Everything tasted so wonderful.She is an amazing chef. I raved so hard we were invited back for lunar new year!!!!!!!  There was an acorn tofu jello thing, dried menos, cold sesame spinach, pepper soy sprouts, raw oysters, rice and of course kimchi. I can’t remember everything….