Thursday, September 08, 2016

A lazy bum and some bulgogi


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.”

38 comments:

  1. Oh, yes, that tissue thin stuff, as I am sure you have realized by now and don't need your readers to tell you, is what you put in broth. Bulgogi meat is about a quarter of an inch thick.

    I have to tell you that I mentioned to a client that I had really enjoyed Eligible and she sent me a link to a SCATHING lengthy screed she had posted on Amazon about how thoroughly she had despised every word of it, including "and" and "the".

    Oh well, I work with children, I'm not expected to have literary pretensions.

    So delighted you enjoyed British Bakeoff! As Mary Berry would say, you've been a very clever girl.

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    1. I don't understand why people see the need to be dismissive of other people's reading choices. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things, yes?

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    2. Did you read Curtis S's short story about a woman's tryst with a Trump supporter? In the NYer a week or so ago and very funny. I used to recommend Eat, Pray, Love until I got a few scathing responses.

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    3. I haven't, I confess I let my subscription lapse a couple of years ago, but I'll go find a copy. I loved Eat, Pray, Love so much that I actually made a pilgrimage to Frenchtown New Jersey to visit their import store, Two Buttons, and I got to gawk at Felipe, who was there that day. And I can heartily recommend her novel, The Significance of All Things.

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    4. You can find it online, and yes, it is good.

      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/29/gender-studies-by-curtis-sittenfeld

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    5. Thanks for the link, beckster! I enjoyed that story. OTOH, I absolutely did not enjoy Sitenfeld's latest book review in the NYT of Ann Patchett's newest novel, Commonwealth. Too many spoilers!

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  2. Well, YOU told him. You go.

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  3. I also have the reading problem, and since I am working full time and tediously commuting etc an entire lost Saturday- most recently with Betty Fussell's My Kitchen Wars- can lead to some self criticism. Thanks for the story and I look forward to reading Janet Malcolm. I may have been better off with goals than with My Kitchen Wars!

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    1. But that's what Saturdays are for!

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  4. I think I commented on another entry that I was having bibimbap at the home of friends recently. Anyway, one of them had bought shabu shabu meat instead of whatever you use for bibimbap. I guess shabu shabu cuts can only be cooked in the hot pot because of their tendency to fall completely apart when cooked any other way. We had rather tasty shreds once all was said and done. Since I like bibimbap just for the wondrous pickled sides (and am excited for "Cook Korean" because it makes it look easy to prepare banchan), I didn't mind. But I can see that those paper thin slices would not work at all for bulgogi.

    Losing a day to a compulsive read doesn't really count as losing, I think. It's not like you lost it to Angry Birds or Pokemon Go.

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    1. I have to try bibimbap. What do you think of the porridges in Cook Korean?
      I once lost an entire weekend day to Tetris and at the end of it I disassembled the little machine -- I can't even remember what it was called, Game Boy? -- so I couldn't play anymore.

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    2. Once a kid left a GameBoy at my office and never came back to collect it. I picked it up one day and got sucked so far down the rabbit hole of Pokemon Yellow that I played it and played it and played it until I had played through the entire game, {it took about three weeks/100 hours of obsessive play on subway rides, plus nights and weekends} developing a close personal relationship with my friend's ten year old son along the way so he could talk me through the tricky parts,
      and required three trips to the massage therapist to repair the damage in my shoulders, elbows, and thumbs. I gave it away before I could buy any more software but I still kind of regret it.

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  5. I agree with Lee. A day lost to reading is not really lost, even though I feel guilty when I do it! I don't indulge often, but it is wonderful to go down the rabbit hole of a book. I am totally ignorant of Korean food, so I am really enjoying your latest "phase".

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    1. You feel so good and so bad, spending a day reading. Not like in childhood.

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  6. OH, and I forgot to give you my book recommendation - Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I didn't expect to like this book, but I learned a lot and was thoroughly charmed by the story.

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    1. Didn't Jennifer mention Lab Girl on here several months ago? I got it from the library, and I liked it a lot, too.

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    2. Yes, I went back and Jennifer had mentioned this book already. I read it a while back myself. I am currently reading the latest Louise Penny book, and it is fabulous as usual.

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    3. Lab Girl was really good. I have tried Louise Penney, but she hasn't "taken" yet. I haven't given up.

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  7. Have you read "The Postmistress" by Sarah Blake? Compelling. I think you would like it. It's set in World War 2. I've been reading several books set around that time: "All the Light We Cannot See", "The Book Thief", for example. My uncle was John May, butler of the British Ambassador to the Vatican during WW2, who helped Monsignor Flaherty rescue over 6,700 people through the Vatican, which was a safe zone where the Nazis had no authority. I'm a refugee immigrant, came to America at age eight, so that might explain my recent reading matter. Anyway, I highly recommend "The Postmistress".

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    1. I very much enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an epistolary novel set in WWII, if you're on a WWII binge.

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    2. I'll check out The Postmistress. I have not even heard of it. All the Light We Cannot See is on the list. Everyone loves it.

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    3. All the Light We Cannot See is one of my all-time favorite novels. I think it is much in the class of novels like Cutting for Stone. Epic, real affection for some of the very well-drawn characters, tragedy, poignancy, and it stuck with me for days and days after I read it. I think it is the best novel I have ever read about every day living through a war. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I am a fan, as you can see! I tried and could not get into Elena Ferrante's books. I think I don't appreciate her style as other folks do.

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    4. Me neither with Elena Ferrante. But I haven't given up! I will give her another go one of these months. I loved Cutting for Stone.

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    1. I have tried and failed but am going to try again! I can't get more than 30 pages in to that first book in the series.

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  9. I laughed so hard at the conclusion of this post. And I think you should try again with bulgogi. I had it recently at a friend's house and it was spectacular.

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    1. Definitely trying again. I'm going to get meat from the supermarket, freeze it a little, and cut it myself.

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    2. If you get RIB EYE ROAST at the American supermarket, freeze it for an hour, and slice 1/8-1/4" thick, you will have bulgogi. Incidentally, I have also grilled this cut, stuck it in a hero roll with onions, peppers, and American cheese, and called it Cheesesteak.

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  10. Jennifer, I had clicked on the link you posted to the fire chicken recipe a few posts ago, and I, too, shivered with delight at the thought of making it and eating it. Is it possible to eat something with that much chili flakes? Obviously you and your family loved it, but Harman and the kids tend to complain if I put even a normal amount of chili flakes in a pasta dish. I will try it though.

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    1. I worried, Kristin, that it would be too spicy, but it wasn't. I'm not sure if Korean chili flakes are more mild or what, but it was fine.

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  11. Kristin--thank you for the recommendation. Read it awhile back and loved it!

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  12. :: “Looking back over this Korean phase, what are your conclusions?”

    I said, “This is just the beginning of the Korean phase.” ::

    I needed the LOL this provoked; re-reading it makes me laugh all over again. Looking forward to the full unfolding of the Korean phase!

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  13. افضل شركة نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة تساعدك على نقل اثاثك بامان فلا داعى للقلق مع افضل شركة نقل اثاث بجدة

    عزيزى العميل انت من محبى التنقل باستمرار بالتالى انت بحاجة ماسة وضروية الى الاستعانة بالمختصين في نقل العفش خاصة ارخص شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض لان الاستعانة باى من عمالة الشوارع الغير مدربة والتي لا تمتلك خبرة كافية في نقل العفش او الحفاظ علية وليس هذا فقط فقد يؤدى الاستعانة بعمالة الشوارع الى حدوث حالة فقدان وتكسير للاثاث بالتالى التاثير الضار عليك عزيزى العميل

    لا تقلق مطلقاً الان بشأن نقل اي منقولات خاصة بك طالما استعنت بشركة الاول لـ نقل الأثاث في الرياض وخارج الرياض فنحن ليس الوحيدون ولكننا متميزون عن اى مؤسسة أخرى داخل وخارج الدمام وشهرتنا كافضل شركة نقل عفش بينبع
    نقل اثاث بجدة

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