“Do you want to grab some breakfast?” Thing One.
“I think it’s a little late for that –“ Thing Two.
“What time is it?” Thing Three.
“I think its – its like eleven.” Thing Two.
“Okay, how about lunch?” Thing One.
“Do I have to get up now?” “Thing Four.
This is about how Sunday in Andong started off. The night before was filled with late wanderings, midnight naps in singing rooms, and cake in bars. You know, the typical Saturday in Andong, right?
We rolled out of the motel by noon and were determined to be on the same visitor’s list as Queen Elizabeth at the traditional town of Hahoe. Graciously given the UNESCO World Heritage tag, Hahoe is a small functioning town about thirty minutes outside of town by bus – which had a dried fish twined to a pole by the driver’s seat for luck. The town was a labyrinth situated in a valley surrounded by mountains and a twisting river, which gave it that “I’m not in the same century as I was an hour ago” feel. Quiet. Peaceful. Exposed to the elements. Short. All of these qualities emphasized the natural surroundings and the intricacies of the left-right-left turns and hand-made roofs.
Shortly after we made out way down the main road-entrance, the fantastic four turned into a pair of dynamic duos. That is, we split up some how and seeing as the town was filled will people-tall walls, we were divided for about two hours. My partner in crime and I found our way into a run down house that we decided would be a nice fixer-upper, and then past a few trees that needed poles to support their curve-laden branches.
We all came back together near the most dilapidated and unappealing ferry I have seen thus far: a rope that trailed one-fifth of the way into a slush festering river to a raft composed of a couple two-by-fours that somehow was to ford across. To our left, the ferry. To our right, a frozen lake where small children were hauling their bodies onto the ice, sliding, and forgetting about the possibility of thin ice. In front of us, a bus calling our names, destined for Seoul.
But before all of this silliness happened, and before pictures were taken, and hands were stuffed into the depths of coat pockets searching for the last remaining heat, we dined with ancestors.
Like I mentioned before, Andong is known for a few foods. We checked off and savored the fusion flavors of jjimdak and the clean finish of Andong soju, and as we stepped of the fish-bus, we were destined for ceremonial rice.
You know how sometimes translations between languages lose a lot of their cultural and literal meaning? This is a prime example. In English, the dish we lusted for is called “Fake Ceremony Rice,” or as this particular restaurant boasted so proudly “Phantom Ceremonial Rice.” See, this meal was one that used to be used to serve at special ceremonies in reverence for ancestors and sustenance for passers-by. Now, it’s just a specialty to be enjoyed by those with stomachs as big as their eyes.
Despite the linguistial warnings of there being no actual rice, and all ceremony, we ordered four servings. In hind-sight, we should have ordered one. Why?
That’s why. I would describe the food, but as the photos show, this meal was stimulating both for the eyes and the taste buds. Salted Mackerel good enough to be a meal on its own, mountain vegetable bibimbap, small jeons atop a pedestal accompanied by a quarter egg, kimchis, seaweed, bowls of rice, whole fish sitting supply ready for enjoying, and a meat and noodle dish reminiscent of a less boisterous jjimdak. There was nothing phantom about this meal – it stayed with us for our sight seeing, our trip back to Andong and carried us all the way back on the bus to the pulsing city of Seoul.