My school had a Market Day recently as our celebration for Children’s Day. All the kindergarten kids were given some fake U.S. money and let loose in the gym with shopping bags and unlimited popcorn. All the teachers had their own booth and the freedom to set their own prices. I was selling books, but because they were all donated by parents they were mostly in Korean. The food table has lots of junk food, but also potatoes, onions and cucumbers, which sold surprisingly well to 6-year-olds. Nathan found an interesting item in his toy box, and I did a pretty terrible job at face painting, but you can see this all for yourself below.
All photos by Andre Francisco

David selling school supplies David at the school supply table.

Nathan finds a strange toy
In the giant donated toy box, Nathan found a realistic pistol that cocked, had a working trigger and had a clip that looked like it held pellets. He didn’t sell it, but needless to say, this would be cause for immediate expulsion in any U.S. school.

Fun at the market

How adorable is that?

Andrew Three days later, he fell while running and got some pretty bad cuts on his face and four stitches on his lip. The bandages are still on, but I’m sure he will be fine.

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Sometimes it’s the simplest things that bring me home. On a Monday night it was peanut butter and chocolate that pulled me from Seoul across the world to the other home that all Minnesotans seems to have – a cabin in Northern Wisconsin. My family’s cabin is in Minong, a small town owned by the Link family whose endeavors range from operating all the major businesses in town to owning the national Jack Link’s beef jerky brand to the brother who bought his old high school and filled it with used furniture.

These weekend trips in the summer, usually for a big gathering with my whole step family, were full of rituals. The stop at Tobies, as much a landmark in Minnesota as anything, and the song to mark the the crossing of the St. Croix into Wisconsin were out of my control. My favorite tradition was the pre-drive shopping trip to Lund’s. The usual shopping cart rules were off. It was vacation and it was important it be treated as such. Yes, you can buy your favorite candy. Yes, you can have pop at night. It’s vacation. All sorts of rules bend at the cabin from alocohol to driving the car down the long, wooded driveway.

One of my favorite food discoveries was made while preparing supplies for s’mores at the cabin. I decided to throw in a jar of creamy peanut butter to add to the graham crackers. I wanted to mix the chocolate and peanut butter flavors together, but then I got past the normal food conventions and started thinking with cabin logic. Why not just combine them now? I broke off a rectangle of Hershey’s and dipped it straight into a fresh jar of peanut butter. It made a peanut butter spoon look conservative and was a big smack of beautiful calories, creamy with a chocolate crunch that gave in as soon as you wanted it to. From then on I’d steal away from the adult card games, being the oldest cousin got me early admission, to break off some bars and dip them in peanut butter on the green couch next to the fireplace.

So last week as I opened a fresh jar of seven-dollar Skippy for a pastry experiment Anna was making, I had an urge for plain chocolate to dip into it. Red ginsing extract, hot chocolate and canned cranberry sauce took up the top shelf, but there in the back was one bar of melted and re-formed Crunky. It gouged the smooth brown surface and came up delicious. I was back on the couch next to the fire in Minong.

Rockin' Out Photo by Andre Francisco

Seoul’s new young, hip generation has a billowing new underground music scene popping out in pockets around the city. One of the greatest examples of this we have seen (and become slightly obsessed with) is The Rock Tigers. The group looks like a bunch of Korean punk rockers, but they wail like a fresh, up-beat Elvis Presley.

Rock Tigers Photo by Anna Waigand

The style is called “Kimchibilly,” a Korean version of the age-old American Rockabilly. Why and how this 1950s version of rock has become popular in Korean and even earned its own nickname is beyond me, but for the amazing nights I’ve had rocking out to it, I’m glad it has. We’ve seen them twice in concert and each time the audience has been kept rocking and moving to the beats.

Check them out if out if you ever get the chance. You will surely have a hip-swaying good time.

Rock Tigers, the whole group Photo by Anna Waigand

For upcoming performance dates, check out their website at http://rocktigers.com/.

For more information about the band, check out our friends’ blogpost at http://harmsboone.org/what-world-kimchibilly.

DSC_0020-11Photo by Anna Waigand

Inspired by a sunny street-side market and the serving style of galbi and samgyeopsal, I decided to make a salad eaten as a lettuce wrap. For those of you who haven’t had galbi in Korea, you grill meat at your table. The most common way to eat it is to make a sort of mini-taco with lettuce like a tortilla and adding any number of toppings from the side dishes around the grill.

This salad has lots of big pieces, which makes it hard to cut up with a fork and eat. If you’re really opposed to eating a salad with your hands I guess you could dice all the ingredients and eat it with a fork, but that would be much less messy and so much less enjoyable, in my opinion.

DSC_0013-9Photo by Anna Waigand

Serves 2

1 medium mackerel or one can mackerel
A dozen leaves of interesting looking lettuce
1 tomato
1 green onion
2 in. ginger, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil

1. We made this salad by cooking up a whole fish, which turned out to be a big hassle. It was only beheaded for us, not gutted, and the bones were as thin and plentiful as hairs. Not sure what fish we got, but we’d recommend mackerel instead. Or, for a much easier route, just get a can of mackerel. Either way, put the fish in a hot, oiled pan with half the ginger. Saute until cooked or hot.
2. Mix half the ginger with the lemon juice, olive oil, and green onion. Salt and pepper to taste. These are guessed proportions and mine took a lot of finagling, but this should get you started.
3. Slice the tomato into large circles.
4. Arrange the lettuce in a circle on each plate. Place a slice of tomato on top of each piece of lettuce. Put a small squirt of olive oil, a pinch of coarse salt, and a dash of pepper on each tomato.
5. Shred the fish if it’s whole, otherwise pile it in the center of the lettuce. Drizzle the dressing over everything. To eat, pick up a piece of lettuce and fold it into a U. Pile some fish on top of the tomato. You can eat it in two bites if you feel you aren’t up to the challenge, but the juicy, salty flavor is best enjoyed with a full mouth.

Taking the subway every morning in Seoul can garner some widely varying results. Andre’s trek to work is like pressing the snooze button on the alarm: he is guaranteed a seat to relax in and free space to lounge. My trek on the other hand is a whole different kit and caboodle.

The first leg of my trek is packed to the brim. I am consistently squished up against the door with people propped up against me like Barbie dolls in storage, unable to move our legs, hoping that the train doesn’t stop too abruptly. Invariably though, it does and we all tumble over each other creating a live Korean version of dominoes. Eventually we all get our bearings and brace ourselves for the next stop hoping we, and the person next to us, has learned a lesson and fixes the issues at hand before the next stop.

After my transfer which consists of a hike up two flights of stairs, usually spent jogging since the Koreans love to jog to the escalator just to passively let it push them upstairs and I always get swept up in the fast-paced excitement, I have another packed train. Don’t worry, though, it is no where near as filled as the first. Instead, I actually have room to move my arms and even write this little informative piece on my way to work.

So, when taking the subway, beware. Each leg of the subway is different from the next, but here are some quick tips for when the going gets tough:

  • Koreans love to push. Never apologize for a nudge or a jab. Unless you have truly injured someone, apologies will fall on the footsteps of the ajumma that has already taken that seat you were rushing to grab.
  • When the train is packed and you’re in a rush, stay by the door. It’s the easiest to get out when you get to your destination. If you don’t, you risk being pushed further and further back each time new passengers jam in. And even worse, you risk missing your stop all together because you are just too packed in and the people around you are just too oblivious to your futile attempts to squirm out. The easiest way to stay in the front is to immediately go to the left or right upon entering and rest against the railing of the seats. No one can push you away from here. Stand your ground.
  • On at least one of the doors for each train there is a guide that tells you the best door to stand at for the quickest transfer route, depending on where you are going. This is really helpful, especially when there are those hellish, 15-minute, practically-walk-across-the-city transfers (and yes, they do exist). Also, each train car has a number and each door has a number. This is very useful if you are meeting someone on the subway.

Happy travels and may your trek be easier than mine.

Sunday afternoon sun was coming through our window and our mountain-calibrated weather report said visibility was average. A morning of clicking keyboards and reviewing photos to classic rock had stirred our hunger. We have been trying to reform our weekend eating habits, which usually involve minimal snacking until late afternoon and then either a dinner out or a cooking extravaganza. Feeling like we had slighted lunch for a couple weeks, we thought it deserved some attention.

Much of my cooking style comes from the time I spent beside my dad in the back-hall like kitchen at his house. Outside of chicken on the Weber and tacos, our favorite meal was stir fry. With two guys living in the house this often turned into back-of-the-fridge stir fry – dicing whatever vegetables were around and tossing them with a sauce made from a well stocked fridge door. Though both my dad and mom owned The Joy of Cooking, it was spread open on the counter more often at my mom’s house. I seemed to pick up a style of improv, frequent tasting, and cooking by color from my Dad. A meal that got too white with potatoes or pasta had to be broken up with a green ball of broccoli or a yellow pile of corn. Now, Anna is the recipe cooker while I like to think up dinner after a good stare at the open refrigerator, which will often lead to me exclaiming an hour later that I have no idea what I’m doing, but that I think it will be good.

Photo by Anna Waigand

So, today’s lunch was a back-of-the-fridge grilled sandwich served on the latest example of the ever-present image of skating star Yu-Na Kim. Anna picked up a bagel this morning with Yuna and a bagel symbol seared into the top. I decided to try to make a sandwich to live up to Yu-Na’s talent.

The ingredients I had to work with were a grapefruit, cherry tomatoes, a bell pepper, stumpy mushrooms, pickled radishes, salsa, homemade bacon, two bags of garlic, some cheese, mackerel poaching liquid and half a dozen sauces. Fruit, spicy liquids and typical Korean ingredients were out so I decided to take the veggies and garlic. I roasted the garlic and mashed it into a spread with rosemary and then used our hand-held grilling grate to grill the pepper and mushrooms over our stove burner. The tomatoes and an onion were sauteed and the last of the cinnamon-cured bacon, which gives off a smell that can put anyone into an eating mood, topped off the sandwich.

Photo by Anna Waigand

The meaty mushrooms, juicy tomatoes and fresh taste of the grilled peppers were seasoned by the salty bacon and warmed by the garlic. It all came together into a big, juicy bite best enjoyed in the sun with a warm breeze. The grilling made some blacks and browns to balance the red and white of the veggies into a good color scheme. Anna preferred hers without the bacon, but I thought the salt and change in texture really helped the sandwich. Up to you whether to include it, unless you are a vegetarian. Then I guess you don’t have a choice.

There are a lot of steps, but the ingredients and techniques aren’t too complicated. Though this veggie combo worked out, I encourage you to make it up as the back of your fridge dictates.
Recipe after the jump

I forgot last year. I figured I should try to make up for it.
Here you go, Maman.

I didn’t forget this time.
Happy Birthday. I love you.