I wouldn’t say I was a fussy eater but I am by no means the world’s most adventurous eater either. When we decided to move to Korea, getting along with the food was genuinely my biggest concern. My love for pasta, potatoes and bread and total avoidance of rice had to be reevaluated. Now, I eat rice everyday for lunch and my ability to consume it has improved greatly, my portion size is increasing day by day. I wouldn’t say I am enjoying it necessarily, it is more of a tactical decision taken to avoid deafening, stomach rumbling by 2pm. Otherwise Korean food has its ups and downs, like anywhere else in the world. Naturally, there will always be preferred tastes.
My school is fantastic. I really mean this. But they do take great delight in choosing dinner spots that serve the weird and wonderful. There was raw beef night and some eel delights and a risky blowfish treat coming up next week. The toughest challenge turned out to be the octopus extravangansa. As we left the school gates, the three other teachers in the car turned to me and took great delight in watching my face as they said,
We will eat baby octopus tonight. It lives.
It lives? This had me thinking of some sort of impossible to defeat evil character in an action film. I had been quite hungry. The feeling passed. We piled into the restaurant. Thousands of side dishes emerged and stoves were turned on, topped with enormous metal pots of vegetable broth. The octopus elders were swiftly delivered and put to death in the boiling hot, broth. I couldn’t help thinking about public executions as my co workers were tossing the creatures’ legs back into the water as they made fruitless bids for their survival.
Aside from taking a good five minutes to chew, it tasted fine.
Just when I thought it was all over the young octopus was wheeled out. It was moving. Squirming. Picking a piece up with chopsticks was a battle. Under pressure from the principal, I took a deep breath and clutched at my chopsticks. I took the smallest piece I could and in it went. My jaw went into auto pilot and chewed at an unfathomable speed and swallowed.
I’m not saying I would eat it again. In fact, I know I wouldn’t unless I had to but it is on my mental list of achievements. For someone who’s favourite meal consists of mashed potato and various meat accomplishments, it was a huge feat. When in Korea…