Its All About The Banchan, Baby


“Hey, where do you want to go for lunch?”

“I don’t know, I think I’m feeling Korean food right now.”

“Yeah, me too. Do you know what you want?”

“Um, I mean I could do a jjigae, I could do a bap dish, I could do galbi, or shabu shabu.”

“Right, me too. How about…”

“Honestly, I’m just in it for the banchan. You know me, as long as the sides are plentiful or self-service, I’m happy.”

That’s about what it’s like figuring out where to eat with me. I offer no help simply because I’m in it for the side dishes. Banchan – or side dishes – are really what make a meal for me. Sure I like the variations of rice dishes and the endlessly savory deep soups that taste like health, Earth, and delicacy all at once, but what I love is dipping my chopsticks into little side dish bowls, tasting the odang, variations of kimchi, the radish, bean sprouts, some root covered in delicious sauce, or the rare but delicious lotus root.

Continue reading

The Tightrope

Friends, foes, family, familiar frequenters of this food-rich fantasy, I have a question for you: Where are the rules on how to spend money? This might seem like a silly question, but get to know me and you’ll find our that I go in waves of spending money like a trust-fund kid to hoarding it like my great-grandparents during the depression. It all depends on what I think – that week, day, hour, moment – is worth my money.

As you can surely tell, I spend money – generally – on food and travel. I like to see new parts of the world, and I like to taste new flavors. I mean, not only does the geography and culture determine how other people see the world, but so does food. Don’t fret, I’m not going  to go into some long-winded tangent about geographical determinism or – as I like to call it – gastronomical determinism. I’ve done that too many times with too many people and seen too many yawns to keep going.

Continue reading

Soup Season Means Autumn

There is something about autumn that overtakes me. It wraps me up in a nice warm blanket and takes me to the park underneath that one tree that’s started to change colors and tells me to be patient. To wait for that one crimsoned leaf to fall right beside me.  And it hands me a cup of tea to sip slowly.

Fall takes me back to my younger years when I would go to Iron Kettle Farm in Upstate New York and run around the pumpkin patch and get lost in the maize maze. It takes me to apple cider doughnuts and apple cider mulling on the stovetop. It takes me to adventures in cars to farms I never knew existed. Autumn takes me to my grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving and gives me pumpkin pie spiced with exuberant amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg.

What fall does to me is makes me happy and warm.

Continue reading

Back to Reality. Back to Korea?

On my way back from Taiwan – while the flight attendant on the plane was saying something about “we won’t be landing at the time displayed due to technical difficulties…” – I was thinking about how nice it was going to be when I got home. I kept thinking that all I wanted was food from home, and to see people I recognized. Then it kind of overwhelmed me that I was thinking about Korea. I was going home. I was going to Korea.

Ever since that little moment I shared with the personal TV in the seat in front of me on the plane, I have been reevaluating life here in Korea.  What does it mean to live somewhere versus just visit that place. When does the transition occur? Is it after the two and half months I’ve been here or is it after eight months or do I have to live here for more than two years before I am a true Seoulite?

Continue reading

The Fat Lady Sings “Like Day and Night, But The Same”

Have you noticed that my titles generally don’t make sense until you read the post? I don’t know, yet, if that’s a good thing or not. Either way, I’m going to keep it going.

Taiwan is something like three weeks ago, but I’m still finding things lodged in my journal or new photos that are worth writing about. Nay, fine folks, it needs to be written about. People needed to know about those street buns – at least my best friend did because she keeps talking about them. And people needed to know the kindness the monks in Taroko Gorge bestowed upon me and my traveling companion. And now people need to know about the crazy strange weird delicious unidentifiable alive (possibly) foods that crawl, skate, or swim around the streets of Taiwan.

Continue reading

Strolls and Food Fights (An Obvious Pairing)

Some people walk to from point A to point B. Some people walk out of necessity, some for fun, some people walk fast for exercise, some don’t walk at all, and some simply stroll to enjoy the day.  I walk to find new things.

And I walk a lot. I’ll walk fast or slow; the pace doesn’t matter. I just want to see everything in between here and there. I want to bring myself there, and walking seems to be about the simplest (and cheapest, mind you) way to get from A to Z.

Continue reading

Success! And It Smells So Good.

This is going to be quick. Quicker than an intermission during a really long opera that you were invited to by your boss so you had to go but really, you just don’t know what they’re singing about so you just want to reach that intermission and now that you got to that break from culture can they please stop flickering the lights because intermission just started and you simply can’t handle any more singing in falsettos.

This is going to be quick.

Continue reading