Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why is my luggage is so bulky?

Prologue

When one is traveling, one spends an inordinate amount of time planning the daily basics (shelter and food) -- it's humbling.

I had a "brilliant" idea.

You see, I don't like Chinese food. (Yes, I am Korean, and I don't like Chinese food.) The very smell of Peking duck wafting over from another table is enough to make me double over with nausea (sorry to anyone who likes Peking duck, but it's true, my physiology can't tolerate any trace of it).

What mostly informs my opinion is American Chinese food (greasy, salty, heavy and meaty). And given I detest it, I was worried about what I would eat in general in China. While I am not vegetarian, I generally don't eat a lot of meat nor pork, and am eating less chicken which I began a few years ago when I realized how much chicken I was eating not by choice but by default. I will probably avoid it altogether when I'm outside the U.S. due to the avian influenza virus. When I flew China Airlines from the U.S. to Korea in April (family trip with mom and sibs), I deliberately ordered vegetarian (because I assumed the food would be predominantly pork-related, and I dislike pork except in Cubanos, a type of Cuban sandwich that are a favorite late night snack after dancing salsa into the wee hours, but that is another story). Anyway, when I opened my "breakfast" -- I nearly got sick right then and there just by the sight and smell. Well, maybe that is an unfair yardstick, as this happened as well with Western airplane food.

...And I heard about the train food in China. Noodles with hot water available, whenever any one I've known has tried anything else from a vendor they ended up sick. Well, noodles are not very nutritious (bleached flour and water). And in Tibet, the lack of vegetables has me concerned. So my brilliant idea is to bring dry (cut) seaweed from Korea and eat that instead of noodles. There is a really delicious seaweed soup in Korean cuisine (mi yuk guk). Anyone who has had it knows how delicious and satisfying it is (and so very healthy). While my train version won't be as good as that, it will be better than noodles (for me). So, I'll be bringing dry seaweed to China. Happily dry seaweed is light and fairly compact and rehydrates easily! Hoorah! I'm trying not to go crazy and bring enough for Africa (I'm worried I'll be craving veggies there, too.)

One of my elder cousins, Juho (closest in age to me of my elder cousins) -- who has visited China several times -- counsels me to bring a jar of kochu jang. That is Korean fermented red pepper paste -- yum, and I tell you the concentration and fermentation of the red pepper boost my energy-level and mood when I eat it! He and I both had the good fortune of growing up with culinarily-talented mothers (like their own mother, my maternal grandmother) who elevated the status of cooking and eating well from quotidian to artisanal. Well, maybe I won't bring kochu jang (I'm sure I can find some acceptable red pepper product in China!)

All of that being said, I hope to find out that I was completely misinformed regarding Chinese food, and I hope to find myself in foodie-heaven.

Epilogue

I have 1 more week in Korea. The time is flying. I feel very comfortable here, so this was an easy start to some anticipated rough-going (China, Africa, etc.).

Spending time with my cousins has been really joyful -- it's fun to be a part of the familiar and familial banter and at the same time the feeling is profound when I look into their faces and see reflections of myself. (This may be ordinary to those who grew up around a large extended family but because only my immediate family was in the U.S. and all my extended family in Korea, this is new for me, and I so relish it.)

5 Comments:

Blogger christene said...

I hope I haven't offended anyone with my opinions about the Chinese food I've had! If anyone could help I'm open to suggestions about how to find good food in China (I have the feeling the answer, like in many places in the world, is to eat at someone's home -- which may not be an option for me.)

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Chelsea Girl said...

Well.... I'm offended about the Peking Duck! Yum, yum. And I'm a veggie!!
(I trust you can hear me chuckle to myself right now.)

One of the greatest meals I have ever had was a Chinese banquet at the Chinese Embassy in London, before becoming vegetarian.
I was lucky enough to be invited along with my parents, by the ambassador and his wife. My father was asked to design a unit for the Beijing University at that time.
Anyway, the food was incredible, and designed with such an eye for detail! I sampled the most delicious thing I've ever eaten, and the most off-putting thing at that time too.... all in one meal.
There were so many courses, and each course came with it's own particular drink accompanying it. Often a different wine.
There was one course which was a bowl of jellyfish; and, I don't know if you've ever tried eating jellyfish, but I just couldn't get the thing chewed and swallowed... it took ages and had no pleasant taste at all. I was being a good little English girl, and finished off all the jellyfish on my plate very politely, if somewhat laboriously. So the ambassador asked if I liked it. I naturally replied that it was very tasty thank-you very much, to which response he answered, "Oh it's my favourite dish too! Here have some more."
Yikes!
But the most sublime dish I have ever tasted, was for dessert that night. It was Lotus flower soaked in syrup. Not only was it perfectly sweet (delicately so, not sickly so) and a wonderful unexpected texture (if you could imagine the texture of a marinated radish... something like that); but it was of course also absolutely beautiful to look at before being devoured.

Well, anyway... my life was never again so luxurious; and I don't suppose you will be doing the 'lotus flower trail of China'. But you never know how pleasantly surprised you may be by the cullinary experiences awaiting you there. Let's hope so.
Meanwhile, I think that seaweed idea sounds fantastic, and VERY healthy! Maybe someone could send you some seaweed to Africa?

Sorry to go on, but: I saw the most wonderful film the other night about a Panda protection programme in China! I don't know if it was the place where you hope to go, but I totally fell in love with those panda bears. I hope you get to see some.

Love the photos - no complaints from me about quality!
D xxx

10:30 AM  
Blogger christene said...

D.-

I'm sure those immaculate banquets are culinary feats of perfection, I just never attended one as of yet ... but who knows, I still have time and opportunities!

Chris

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Christene.
Your pictures are really great. It sounds like you have been having a wonderful time with our cousins and with the sight seeing. I can ship you some dried veggies or whatever else might make it to China and Africa. Let me know if that will be helpful.
Sarster
P.S. I am posting this comment as anonymous because I don't recall my password--and my knowledge, use and endurance for blogs are limited.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Richard Thornton said...

What's going on in the blogosphere?

11:19 AM  

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