Yesterday I was ferociously productive, accomplished everything I set out to, made a Korean dinner (more on this later), watched the penultimate episode of Stranger Things, finished reading Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm, and was exhausted and contented when I turned out the light. As the CrossFit people say, I left it all on the floor.
Today, well, I didn’t.
Today, I woke up and decided to read a few pages of Janet Malcolm’s Journalist and the Murderer with my coffee since I seem to be on a Malcolm kick. This was a mistake. In case you’re not familiar with Janet Malcolm, she is the author of precise, chilly, and absolutely riveting dissections of topics that have included a murder trial in Queens and the challenges of writing the biography of Sylvia Plath. I have read most of her books at least once, and yet when I pick one up again, I can not put it down. I must know what happens next, even though I vaguely remember what happens next. I must know what happens next even though mostly what happens next is that Janet Malcolm sees some tiny detail in the subject she is reporting on that changes everything.
Really, you just need to go read one of her books. I’d start with The Journalist and the Murderer. It was my first and I remember exactly where I was when I read it, the slant of light, the time of day. I think I was 23.
So, this morning I was having trouble putting the book down. What the hell, I thought, it’s not like the fate of the free world rests on my shoulders or any fate at all except my own and possibly (though probably not) my younger child’s. So I stretched out on the sofa and read. It was wonderful wonderful wonderful until it was terrible. When I stood up at 3 p.m. I was enervated and exhausted. Where did my day go? Why am I not wearing mascara? Why is the coffee pot still full of coffee grounds? Why are there mangled cantaloupe rinds on the counter? What about my goals? What if people knew what an idle, lazy, and useless woman I have become?
Well, now a few people do. And I’m pretty sure none of them care.
So back to last night’s dinner. It was my first attempt at bulgogi, the delicious marinated Korean beef that is often eaten with a jammy, soy-based sauce and wrapped in lettuce leaves. The recipe looked very straightforward, but my bulgogi was a TOTAL DISASTER.
I have no idea what went wrong, though I think it had to do with the meat. I had gone to the Korean grocery the day before in search of beef that had been cut specifically for bulgogi, but there was nothing in the freezer so labeled. They did have some very thinly sliced beef labeled “shabu shabu” and I asked the woman who was back there if this was appropriate for bulgogi. I thought she said yes.
I bought the meat. Last night I made a marinade of pureed Asian pear, onion, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and a few other ingredients and took the meat out of its packet. It was tissue thin. Truly, tissue thin. I put the meat in the marinade and it was as if I had put tissue in that bowl. It fell apart. I would lift a soggy piece out of the marinade and it would stretch and disintegrate. I cooked these little meat scraps anyway and they didn’t taste bad, but they were ugly, gray, flimsy, and damp.
Mark said after dinner, “Looking back over this Korean phase, what are your conclusions?”
I said, “This is just the beginning of the Korean phase.”