This weekend can be described by the foods I ate.
Fresh strawberries: Seeing as strawberries are grown fresh this time of year in Korea, there are festivals popping up everywhere. There are some right outside of Seoul in my own area, and some not so much. When discussing with The Squad which one we wanted to go to, and some serious google translating by Maria, we decided on a promising one that involved “strawberries, trout catching, lunch, and wish stick.”
Little did we realize that it was also the farthest one from us–resulting in a subway ride to literally the end of the line 2 hours from Seoul to a hodunk town in the mountains, then a bus ride that turned into a taxi ride because we could not find the bus to a small restaurant on a one way street that even the taxi driver was confused about, and then because we were late the owner of the restaurant had to make some phone calls and we got in his van and he drove us out to a random field. I was having major China flashbacks.
But then we were given plastic containers, sorted into lines and shuffled into greenhouses. The people at the front of the line got all the big ones so us late comers got just the medium sized and small ones. But they tasted pretty good.
For some reason everyone else had a mode of transportation so we were brought back in the director’s car which was a little awkward but hey, yoko.
Bibimbap: The awkward ride was fine because we were first in line for the homemade bibimbap…at the same restaurant we had awkwardly arrived at. While eating we noticed a small stream running through this campground and there were small children splashing around screaming. It looked like fun, but perhaps not quite age appropriate for us.
Korean Pizza: After a short walk, the tour lady who had taken us under her wing brought us to another room for “Korean Pizza”. Korean pizza is the same as Western pizza because it is circular. Literally everything else is different.
There was a random pizza oven outside and an ahjussi loaded them in the oven and I was reminded of my days at Legends Grille where I learned how to use a pizza paddle. His form was only so-so.
It had a variety of tastes that rolled around in phases. First the strong mozzarella, then the subtle brown sugar, then the crunch almonds, and then the soggy tortilla. It was an interesting experience that I recommend you try sometime in your life. Once.
Trout: We ventured down to the stream and found that the children had turned into Tom Sawyer and were romping around…catching fish. Some man brought in a truck load of trout and dumped it into this stream.
Maria REALLY wanted to catch a trout but she didn’t want to shove a small child out of the way. Luckily the man brought another truckload later and this time the parents were helping so we didn’t stand out as much. Silvia caught one and it fell on the ground flapping and I picked it up and brought it to the catch bucket screaming so I consider that a success. Maria did eventually catch one too.
We were like, well that was fun. If it was just the strawberries, bibimbap, and trout catching I would have thought it worth the trip. But no. There was plenty more waiting for us.
About an hour later, our guide lady brought us to a corner and handed us a cardboard plate.
We were a little skeptical at first. These were fish from who knows where that had been caught by strangers with their barehands and then fried in something and served with chopsticks. But why not.
So it actually turned out to be really delicious. We kind of demolished it. Except for the head.
One thing I’ve learned about food in Korea.
Ice cream: The ice cream bars in China were delicious and I had a blueberry and/or pineapple one every day. I noticed that everyone ran into a convenience store room and naturally I followed and there was a giant refrigerator of ice cream. I picked some out and tried to pay for it but then the guy (the guy who drove us in the van) shooed me away and I was like…okay maybe later…but then tour guide lady mimed that it was free!
And when I thought this trip couldn’t get any better, tour guide lady handed us a piece of wood and a black marker and told us to write something on it. Not entirely sure WHAT we were supposed to write we just decided to be cute and wish for something.
And then we were given a ziptie and we wrapped them on a bridge over a river.
The whole experience was about 5 hours (not including traveling) and we considered it a success. Now it was just a matter of getting back, seeing as we discovered that everyone else was either families who drove in their cars or two tour buses. And it’s not like there are taxis running through this village.
We decided just to stand around looking sad and pull the damsel in distress look because it’s worked for us before. We stood by the bridge looking off into the distance as everyone loaded up and then our restaurant friend ran over and said that there was room for us on the tour bus.
So we even got a ride back to the train station in style. For free.
Cheesecake: The next day we went to Costco, because Silvia was craving Lucky Charms and I just wanted to see what a Korean Costco was like.
The answer? Just like Provo on a Saturday morning.
We split a Costco card and bought junk food. Things that I’ve been craving–like Mommy hot dogs and Lucky Charms and Cheetos. And then we saw a giant cheesecake and it wasn’t even a question.
There were little ladies handing out samples and I tried some good things–some kind of salad with tuna orange juice, and some very bad things like rubber wrapped cheese and fried spam.
While waiting in the 15 minute line, I remembered that we have to cart all this home, which included the “Costco Bus” which looks like a hotwheel, a 30 minute subway ride with a transfer, and a decent walk. I realized that I don’t actually need a giant $10 bag of Cheetos because I don’t even like Cheetos. It’s just–in every convenience store there are Cheetos but they are “flaming spicy” or “meat” flavored and all I want is cheese flavored.
So we paid for everything in cold hard cash since they only accept cash or Amex and stuffed it into three cargo boxes. We didn’t know where to catch the Costco bus back so we tried to flag down a taxi to take us to the subway station but we ended up waiting outside for 40 minutes talking while the taxis either sped past us or heard we were waiting and took a different route. Eventually we just walked to the KTX because there was a train leaving at 6:30. It was about a mile walk. With giant boxes, balancing a giant cheesecake on top.
In synopsis, my arms really hurt today and we were quite the spectacle.
But we did eventually make it. I went to Sylvia’s and we opened the cheesecake, got a spoon and a fork, and went at it like neanderthals.
Fried Chicken: Still hungry, we wanted to order chicken–specifically Mexicana chicken.
With ads like this, how can you not?
Unfortunately, Silvia and I have tried to order food before and every time it’s been rather awkward saying “bibimbap chuseyo” and they’re like, “weyo??” and we’re like…
And we just end up hanging up on them.
To give you an idea of how bad we were craving it–we went down to her apartment buliding’s security guard and had him order it for us. That is not a joke. We showed him what we wanted and gave him the number and he called and ordered us fried chicken.
And that was my weekend in food.