Monday, October 17, 2016

"I'm not going to be nice to you until you stop cooking Korean food"


those noodles
Fifteen minutes ago, as I was finishing this post, Owen wandered by and asked what we were having for dinner. When I said “spicy Korean rice cakes,” he kindly shared his thoughts on Korean food with me. Verbatim: 

“Seriously when are you going to stop making Korean food? I just want to know when you’re going to be done with this stupid project. Fine! I just won’t eat dinner. I hate having Korean food EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I don’t know why you don’t get bored by it especially because you’re the one cooking it. Can you make good food for once? You never do, except for that one thing, those noodles, and the dumplings were pretty good too. Maybe I’ll just hide all your Korean cookbooks. Tomorrow you won’t be able to find your Korean cookbooks.” 

making a costume and trashing his sister's bedroom
Here are my thoughts on Korean cooking and cookbooks:

-On Saturday, I made the easy seaweed soup from Robin Ha’s Cook Korean! with plans to eat it on Sunday for lunch. On Sunday at lunchtime I took the pot out of the fridge, opened the lid, gazed down at the shiny seaweed undulating gently in murky liquid, and decided I wasn’t hungry for lunch after all. I put it back in the fridge. At dinner time, I took the pot out again, steeled myself, heated it up, and served the soup with rice. To my surprise, no one complained, not even Owen. Once you get past the fact that it looks like seawater, seaweed soup is tasty. Brothy and full of beef and slippery, yummy, slightly disconcerting seaweed. This isn’t the recipe I used, but it’s similar. 

-Korean cuisine abounds in porridges, sweet and savory. I haven’t made any Korean porridge yet, but have my eye on the pine nut porridge, sesame porridge, and, above all, the sweet pumpkin porridge. This is the perfect season to make sweet pumpkin porridge and I even have a pumpkin sitting on the counter for just this purpose. I think I’ve been putting off making sweet pumpkin porridge because once I taste it I will no longer be able to imagine what sweet pumpkin porridge tastes like. I imagine it will taste like the rich, mellow essence of autumn. It can’t possibly be that good.

-Korean cuisine also abounds in pancakes — seafood, scallion, chili pepper, zucchini, pollock, sweet. So far I’ve only tried the ultra-easy kimchi pancake from Cook Korean! Mark and I liked it a lot. I thought Owen liked it too but he says no. Owen: “I only ate it because I was really really hungry and hadn’t eaten anything the whole day.” To make this pancake, you chop 1 1/2 cups kimchi, mix with 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup kimchi brine, and 1/4 cup ground pork. Dollop into a hot, oiled skillet, spreading into a pancake shape. Fry until crisp on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip. Fry another minute to crisp on the other side.  Salt lightly. Cut with a pizza cutter into wedges. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice — or no dipping sauce at all. Robin Ha notes that you can replace the pork with any meat you like, including canned tuna. In future I would choose something with more flavor than plain ground pork. 

-In my books I have several recipes for a sweet Korean rice cake that you steam on a bed of pine needles. 

-As I mentioned in a previous post, I made Maangchi’s japchae (glass noodles with vegetables and meat) a few weeks ago and it was superb. I made the japchae from Cook Korean! last week and it was only ok. The ingredients are almost exactly the same, so what was the difference? Maangchi calls for three times the sugar, double the sesame oil, and almost double the soy sauce. She also calls for 3 dried shiitake mushrooms in addition to fresh. In other words: dried mushroom umami + extra sugar + extra fat + extra sodium = better japchae. Quelle surprise.

-Rice cake soup (tteokguk), is a lovely dish that, according to Robin Ha, Koreans eat on New Year’s Day for the same reasons we eat hoppin’ john.  Ha: “The clean white color of the soup signals a fresh new start and the coin shape of the rice cakes is believed to bring good fortune and good luck.” You cook some beef in water to make a stock, then add rice cakes which become meltingly tender as they simmer. They also throw off enough starch to turn the broth thick and white. Friday night I felt sick and was deciding whether to skip dinner or heat up the leftover rice cake soup. I heated up the rice cake soup and my stamina was completely and instantly restored.

Stamina. That’s one of the many words it will be hard to use with a straight face after this election. I realized as I was writing this post that I’m no longer comfortable ending a paragraph with a short exclamatory comment because I sound like a Donald Trump tweet. Sad!

And what I just did (sad!) is already a cliche. 

On another subject, I reviewed the first-ever biography of the great Betty MacDonald, a book I’ve been waiting years for someone to write. You can read my review here


46 comments:

  1. Thank you for reviewing this! My mother knew Vashon Island well, and I expect to get her this for Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marvelous! The writing about Korean food is of course interesting and amusing (especially thanks to Owen), but the closing bit about Betty MacDonald was an unexpected delight. Thanks to you I am now intrigued, particularly given how incongruous her own life seems when considering Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a beloved figure from my childhood. I read all of those books many, many times. Thanks for putting Betty MacDonald on my radar again; I will definitely track down both books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should read Egg and I and Plague and I first -- then follow up with the biography.

      Delete
  3. Sorry Owen is being a pain. He is wrong and it is none of his business what you cook. He should just be thankful you have been feeding him on amazing and varied things all his life. ! Is he OK? Sounds like one of those teenaged outbursts that are really about something else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think he was in a bad mood that day. He's fine, or seems to be!

      Delete
    2. It has always been my experience that teenagers are marvelous about being grateful for any food served to them, because of course they have been starved for decades, and really, it is all about respecting parents during those years. Right? And just as we as adults are so happy to eat what our parents serve us on special occasions, like the very strange and yet weirdly fascinating red jelly stuff at thanksgiving that HAS NO TASTE... I can't believe your son is as gracious as he is, my two would have left home and foraged at a fast food dumpster, along with their father. In families, it is all about compromise, what you like, what your kids like and what you want to share. And not just food, everything.

      Delete
  4. Oh, Owen. At least he's honest? I admire your patience and the way you just keep on cooking the food you want to make.

    I tried reading "The Egg and I" once, but it was so grim I couldn't keep on with it. I had to do a readerly cleanse by seeking out the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books and rereading those instead. Your review is very perceptive both about MacDonald and Becker's biography of her. Touching!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Touching! Ha ha. Egg and I was kind of grim, I guess. I should reread.
      Owen eats almost everything. He just goes on tears.

      Delete
  5. I would LOVE to have someone make me Korean dinners every night!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I, too, would love to have someone cook me dinner every night.

    Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was more influential in my life than most other children's books. I think it's because it was the first book that helped me to escape through reading. Books like this are the reason why I spent my birthday in bed reading the final book in the Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle until I was an adult. Owen (in more innocent years) and I listened in the car to one of the audiobooks and some of the names of the kids became laugh lines between the two of us.

      Delete
  7. I fed my family japchae and kimchi pancakes last night. My 12 year old son claimed to like the pancake, but I think he was just trying to impress me as he only ate a small portion. I love Betty MacDonald's non-fiction and can't wait to read this book. Thank you for the link!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm impressed that your son wants to impress you!

      Delete
    2. I expect that those days are waning.

      Delete
  8. When I was a freshman in college, and my brother was about Owen's age, my wonderful mother took fairly extensive Chinese cooking classes. John's reaction was nearly identical to Owen's - with the not at all pc addition, "why do you think Chinese people are small? It's because their food is no good!" It made my mom laugh until she cried. It's memorable to me - nearly 40 years later! Boys like things the way they like them, no telling what that will be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a very funny story. I want to print out all my blog posts one of these days and put them in a binder for my kids to read when they're adults.

      Delete
  9. Have you ever thought of asking Owen if he'd like to make dinner once a week? (It can't be cereal and milk!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have! I know other families that do this and it seems to work great. Maybe I'll revisit today.

      Delete
  10. Yes, well, it sounds as though Owen was having a "moment". I've had a few of those in my life as well. My stepson never appreciated my cooking until he moved out, then he suddenly would call to see if he could come over for dinner. His constant diet of Taco Bell and pizza was not fun for long. And, I admit, it is nice to be appreciated. Pumpkin porridge sounds divine! I want a full report if you make it, please. I make a pumpkin pudding, which is essentially pumpkin pie without the crust in a ramekin, and I love it for breakfast. I am not familiar with Betty MacDonald's work at all. I have heard of the book, but never read it. Sad! Should I put it on my list?

    ReplyDelete
  11. I loved your review! I may just have to give Betty MacDonald's work a look-see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I'm making pumpkin porridge today. Check out Egg and I and Plague and I first. I loved them both.

      Delete
  12. Just got home from the Korean market, with all the ingredients for japchae and kimchi pancakes! I think my family will be pleased, for which I am lucky. Thanks for all the inspiration, Jennifer. Hang in there with Owen!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope it all works out for you!

      Delete
  13. I adore Betty MacDonald! I remember my excitement at finding "The Plague and I" in a dusty shop on Charing Cross Road for 25p. I've moved a dozen times or more since then and I don't know what happened to it. I can't wait to read that biography, although I am sure it will make me sad.

    I've been to my favorite Korean place three or four times since you started writing about Korean food and have gotten japchae every time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is your favorite Korean place?

      Delete
    2. It's called Woorijip, which my friend who is married to a Korean man translated for me as "our house." I've been going there for 20 years. It's a self serve buffet in Ktown. The food is always beautifully prepared, spicy, healthy and delicious. I can take you there if you like.

      Delete
  14. I loved Betty MacDonald for "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" and only recently read "The Egg and I" which was terrific. Thanks for the wonderful review, I look forward to reading the book. Love the Korean posts, and love that Owen will eat the food even if he doesn't like it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eating the food even though he doesn't like it -- that's one of the great things about 16 vs. 10.

      Delete
  15. I have a 14-year-old son. I laughed and laughed. And laughed. I read the entire Piggle-Wiggle oeuvre as a child (I still want to grow radishes on someone's neck); I guess I need to read The Egg & I, and this bio. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Egg and I first! Bio to fill in the details.

      Delete
  16. I can understand where Owen is coming from. It's one of the problems with cookbook experimentation, as you very well know. Right now I'm cooking from Persian cookbooks and even though I grew up eating 95% Persian food, I am a little bored and want some variety. It's because I know and have had the variety that I think I have had enough of just one cuisine. I suspect that's partly what's going on with Owen. We're children of variety.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Honestly, Sara, I think I'm ready for some variety.
      Do you have the new Naomi Duguid book on Persian cooking?

      Delete
    2. I just bought it but haven't had a chance to look through it yet.

      Delete
  17. Its really good information, i like your blog post. Thanks for sharing

    cat mario 4retrica | launcherfive nights at freddy's 5

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something

    yahtzee with buddies | mahjong | cat mario 3cooking fevertraffic rider

    ReplyDelete
  19. Wow, that outburst from Owen must be tough. Just tell him his ordeal is one month of Korean food, other people (me) had to endure eighteen years of Korean food. Without the help of cookbooks and recipes!

    I love reading your blog. I haven't read it in years, because, you know, life... and I have so much to catch up on. Oh my, how Owen has grown. I remember when he was just a boy in your earlier posts... then I remember... damn, that was six years ago!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Whew! Somehow I missed this post and am just catching up. I think Owen is wonderful. Can't believe someone asked if he was "ok." Also, your review is great, so now I have to seek out those books. I'm hoping you will post soon...immediately. I need a lift after this election.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for sharing the information. It is very useful for my future. keep sharing
    barney | abcya | minecraft games

    ReplyDelete