Thursday, February 18, 2010

Food For Thought

I always ask people, "If you could have one superpower, what would it be?" and I always thought my answer would be to be able to apparate. (If you don't know what apparation is, go read Harry Potter.) But today I changed my mind. My superpower would be able to speak every language. Now most of you know how I desire to be bi-lingual or maybe even tri-lingual one day, but if I could know them all? Well this afternoon would have been a lot easier.

After touring Haeinsa (so cool, and I promise to write all the cool cultural things, some day) and taking the most nauseating stop-go, swerve, honk, go, go, stop, honk, swerve, brake cab ride, sitting in on Jack's first class I decided that I should eat. (The only thing I had eaten at this point was some iced coffee thingy from a convenience store and water, so naturally, I was starving.) Having gotten over the fear of eating alone back in Vienna I knew that wouldn't be a problem, but the issue was where to eat? Jack recommended a Japanese restaurant nearby but I decided I wanted Korean food (it is seriously delicious) so I went in search of the perfect restaurant.

Well, any restaurant. And as there is a restaurant every other step I had plenty to pick from. The thing holding me back? I didn't know which one to pick, would they be open? Many Swiss restaurants are closed in the afternoon post lunch and pre-dinner. Also Michelle and co. said that many Korean restaurants won't serve you if you are by yourself, so I didn't want to be shunned. After an hour (yes an hour) I said to myself, "Jill, you are being ridiculous. Just go in the next one you see." After six more restaurants (oops) I walked up to one and opened the door.

No one was in there, except the workers who quickly ushered me to a table. I'd say Korean hospitality is unparalleled, they are generous and wonderful, so naturally my experience at this place was different... I opened the menu and it was full of Korean, which is fine, I didn't expect an English menu but what I had hoped for was a picture or two. Nothing. So when she came to take my order I just pointed at something. Instead of nodding or smiling she shook her head and spoke to me in Korean. I smiled and tried to gesticulate and articulate that I literally have no skill in Korean. Unfortunately my confused looks did nothing but make her shout Korean at me. Now this is a little trick that I've seen countless Americans perform, if some one doesn't understand your language it does not help to shout it at them. I promise. Volume will not make them understand you. She called over a co-worker and he shook his head (while I was thinking, WHY CAN'T I EAT IT?!?!) and finally pointed to the chiles on the table. Ahh, she understood it would be too spicy for me. Got it, he pointed to something else (more symbols I couldn't understand) so I just nodded and smiled.

When my food came it looked and smelled wonderful. Noodles in one bowl (that I noticed they made fresh there) and a dark red-ish steaming bowl of... something. The guy tried to offer me a fork (no thank you) and I started to eat. I saw the woman laughing at me (never a good sign) and she came over and dumped the red-ish food on top of the noodles (oops) and brought me a fork, which I left in the bowl unused as a sign of protest. (I would have rather dug my hands into the bowl than disgraced myself using a fork!) I took a bite of the meat-looking thing and it was delicious; consistency of chicken in a great sauce, so I was really happy with my semi-choice. There was a shrimp in the bowl too which I thought was weird with chicken... and then I saw it.

A tentacle.

It wasn't chicken, it was most definitely octopus. I'm adventurous in my eating (although I told Jack I would not be participating in the Korean tradition of eating a LIVE octopus--you have to chew it very fast so it's tentacles don't attach to your throat...Yum) but this was unexpected. I ate all the un-tentacled parts first, but after embarrassing myself enough at this meal I knew I had to eat it, all of it. (With the exception of this creepy looking part that I knew I just couldn't stomach.)

So my meal was excellent, surprising and best of all less than $6.

But I still wish I could have spoken Korean to save face and perhaps make a more educated order next time.


  1. Hope you brought along a jar or two of NUTELLA.

  2. It is so funny that you're talking about "saving face"...that is such a huge thing in Korea and Asia in general. Reading your blog makes me remember my year in SK...good times.