gra-dult-hood n.

1. A stage in life between graduation and adulthood.
2. Gradulthood often involves jobs that don't fulfil a graduate's expectations.
3. A term coined during the recession.

A Gradult in (South) Korea: Pt. 3

So I have to go out for dinner again tonight. As I was sitting there waiting for the time to pass with only Facebook for company, my co-teacher sauntered towards me grinning. I knew what was coming. So did she. She was to tell me that in little over an hour the teachers would be going out for dinner, and that I was to drop all plans and join them. I was to look back at her with dejected acceptance and utter sure in her general direction in a tone which made her understand my continued annoyance at the near-weekly last-minute encroachment into my social life.

Its not that I hate Korean food, dont get me wrong. I love trying new foods from new cultures as much as possible, getting to taste an insight into someone else's way of life. With Korean food, some of it I actually really love. Some of it. And the food I do like to eat is, unsurprisingly the food I choose to eat. Unfortunately, when it comes to food and school, I have no choice. I am but a humble receptacle for anything thats put in front of me.

Its just that Korean school food really doesnt appeal to me. As the mornings pass at, I can be getting pangs of hunger from about 10.30 onwards (when will I learn that Nutella on toast is not a fulfilling breakfast after youve left secondary school?), and yet, when I enter the cafeteria, the all consuming hunger disappears with a whimper at the sight of more limp tofu swilling around a soup which looks like it was dredged from a Birmingham canal. And those are the good days. Some days the highlight constitutes little more than an indiscernible lump of cow bone which Im supposed to autopsy with a pair of chopsticks.

Anyways, tonight itll be some Korean restaurant. I say restaurant, but in actual fact itll be some soulless shell of place seemingly furnished by some errant Borrowers with all the ambience of a copy room. The harsh strip light will shimmer off cheap vinyl, which at least offers me some sense of diversion as I slide across if in my socks. Ambience is clearly not a word with which Koreans are well acquainted. In fact, my last stint in the dentists waiting room offered a more appealing dining ambience than most of the eateries in my town.

And then there will be the actual food. All around the table, a plethora of little white dishes will fight for space, most of them filled with something pickled into oblivion back in 2008 that will corrode down my throat as my hunger grows. In amongst the dishes will be a pot or a grill. The pot will contain a stew of some description. What is in it will be lost in translation and will either be fish intestines or minced spam. Whatever it is, it will be one of the only two flavours Korean cuisine knows - spicy or sweet. (Sickly sweet garlic bread? Sure, why the hell not.) The grill will be some sort of meat. No matter what it tastes like or looks like, Ill be assured it's pork. It will be complemented with a thick rind of fat that I will either have to swallow down whilst gagging or, if no-one is watching my one-man-show of the foreign teacher eats out, attempt to hide in my rice.

And I will be sat there whilst the Koreans around me devour more food that would be considered acceptable back home, whilst I mill my chopsticks around the bowl of rice in front of me. Will I really want to boost my rice intake up to an even kilo for the day? Probably not. But I will need to eat some of it; else Ill be met with concerned stares as to why Im not eating. At least Ill have the copious amounts of alcohol on the table to get me through.

No comments:

Post a Comment