It seems like a simple concept. You come home after a long day at work and you are hungry. You have several options in front of you. Number one, you can cook something from the refrigerator. Number two, you can order something over the phone to be delivered. Number three, you can go out to a restaurant. Over the last four weeks, we have quickly learned that none of these three options is as easy as we would like them to be.
Cooking. If you kept up with our blog in Taiwan, you know that I very happily feel into the routine of going out to eat since it was the most cost-efficient of the three options listed above. If I did cook, it was usually limited to the occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies. Now that we are in Seoul and it costs more than $3 to go out, I have to reorient myself in the kitchen. I thought that this would be a relatively easy thing to do. Turns out, I am quite lost without my cookbooks and my American grocery stores. How does one cook dinner without the trusty staples such as Pillsbury roll and bake croissants or Old El Paso taco seasoning? Not even that, I haven’t been able to find a simple chicken breast. Tiny chicken chunks yes, chicken breasts, no… though we think that at least half of the time I’ve accidentally picked up packs of tiny chunks of pork instead. Herbs are questionable since I have to smell them to try to figure out what I’m getting. In case you were wondering, flat leaf parsley is not a suitable substitute for basil. Slowly but surely I am putting on my oven mitts and listing my experiments in the “palatable” or “poisonous” categories. So far, I believe I have three or four in the palatable category. Hopefully this list will grow. I won’t say how many I have in the “poisonous” category. Hopefully, this list will not grow. Otherwise, I may be asking Publix if they ship internationally.
Ordering. This was a unique experience. During our orientation, we were given a list of numbers of possible delivery restaurants who often serve teachers at our school. The other night, we thought we would give some of the local Korean fare a go. We knew that their English would probably be limited so we armed ourselves with the name of the school in Korean as well as a couple of traditional dishes that we would like to try. Pretty much the best thing about Korea so far is that their language is not tonal. We have found that we are understood the first time we say something almost every time. So, we were feeling confident as we dialed the first number. We were pretty hungry so we decided to order two dishes of bulgogi (marinated pork or beef) and one dish of bi bim bap (a rice dish) – the latter mostly because we like to say it. When we called, we managed to communicate our address and that we would like to order food for delivery. Done. Then, we tried to place our order. For some reason, our order was ridiculous. We are still not sure why. However, in the process of trying to figure out the problem, the restaurant decided they had more important things to do and hung up. This exact same pattern was followed for the next two Korean restaurants that we called. Fed up and still hungry, we ordered pizza. It was greasy and overpriced, but we didn’t get yelled at for ordering it and it was delicious.
Restaurants. Going out has been an interesting experience. We have had some great meals such as an Indian place that we found near our apartment and a Chinese dumpling place that now feels like comfort food for us. Then we have also had some meals that have turned out to be a bit more blog-worthy in their humor. Most recently, Chris and I went to a restaurant near our school that Chris had been to with the history department. Once again, we tried to order what we thought we wanted and were abruptly told that our option was impossible. Again, we still have no idea why. We’ve tossed around some theories but are still at quite a loss. We settled on what they finally agreed was acceptable for us to order and swallowed our second choice meal in puzzled silence. Now here is the kicker. On our way out of the restaurant, we said hello to two friends from our school who happened to be eating the exact meal we wanted in the first place. Go figure. We vowed to return with someone with more knowledge of the language than we have (which won’t take much) and actually figure out what seems to be our problem when ordering food.