Monthly Archives: February 2012

(Cue creeper) “Are you Russian..?”

The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem.  I think we might have a situation. 

Somewhere between the attempts of Marlboro to capitalize on the inner cowboy of teenage boys and Abercrombie’s convincing “If you buy our clothes, you WILL end up with a sexy hunk” campaigns, I fell for Starbucks.  They’re pretty much equivalent to Big Brother in their grasp of our society, and their [corporate] sins rival those of Charlie Sheen. I don’t even recognize myself anymore! What am I doing amongst their converts? 

We’re in trouble.

Everyone has their vices, right?  It could be SO much worse.  I could be ducking into the clothing racks of Neiman Marcus  to dodge the debt collectors.  I could be living in an apartment filled with cats! Or even worse, filled with a lot of nothing in particular! I could be a hoarder. No no, I’ve chosen my poison.  I prefer a nice deep roast finished with a bit of soy milk. Starbucks’ just happens to be fresher (on this side of the world).  And bolder. Crap.

Regardless, the guilty culprit in all this, and thus the one who shall endure the fury, is our friend caffeine.  The track of life just doesn’t play the same without a mild case of the shakes and a cupful at hand. I find myself today between a rock and a hard place.  And so it is. 

I’m not quite sure at what point the addiction began.  Maybe it was when I first acknowledged the cool factor of  “Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my coffee (sneer).” How very emo.  Perhaps it was in attempts to get the attention of that dark-haired guy from Philosophy? (Aside: HE most certainly wouldn’t have chosen Starbucks! What is WRONG with me!!??)  How have I ended up here!?  

In all honesty, I think most likely my 6am job in the river rafting industry is to blame.  I mean, really I was just being safety cautious.  Nobody’s aware enough to heed all stop signs and mind the yellow line at that hour unless caffeine snaps them into action.  And the drive to work was AT LEAST 10 minutes.   It’s not my fault.

While I’m coming to terms with my existing situation, let’s shift the blame a little and start pointing the finger.  Shall we start with sexual predators?  Or maybe you’d rather look first to alcoholics? Let’s start with alcohol and save the best for last!

As I’ve mentioned before, this country has quite the drinking habit.  There’s nothing  like watching your superiors belt out their rendition of “Material Girl” then hang their heads in a drunken stupor.  As a friend warned me before embarking on this journey, if you choose to drink with them, be prepared.  And after you do, be ready to acknowledge the badge of honor you’ve earned in everyone’s hearts when you stumble into the office the next morning. 

Bottles of the spirit of choice, soju, are available on every corner for about $1.  With a flavor profile similar to jet fuel, it’s a steal of a good deal.  At this point, you may be beginning to understand  why I’ve pretty much sworn off the stuff.  Seeing as I’ve just signed another year of my life away, however, I’m feeling like I need to give it another chance. 

With coffee and addiction drifting through my head, an idea occured to me. A genius idea. I have an old roommate whose mother once sent her a batch of homemade Kahlua.  At the time, my roommates and I were battling the post-college blues, and this bottle was something of a savior.  It added little drops of happiness to our Sunday cups of coffee  and was even better in White Russians.  Who knew you could make Kahlua on your own? Reflecting fondly, I thought of it. Kahlua SOJU. 

Here’s what I came up with.  This recipe is incredibly easy, most ingredients are either on hand or may be grabbed from the corner shop, and it WILL change your life.  Nothing like pooling your resources and making lemonade out of lemons. Don’t be shy, you’re welcome to kiss my feet.

Pantry staples

Kahlua Soju

 3 Cups Freshly Brewed [Starbucks] Coffee

3 Cups Light Brown Sugar

3 Cups Soju (About 1.5 small green bottles.  If you’re feeling frisky, go ahead, pour in that extra  half-bottle!)

3 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract or 3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Powder (I had extract at my disposal, but you can find the powder at pretty much any Korean grocery store)

Brew coffee, then pour into a pan on the stove top.  Add sugar and heat over low-medium heat just until dissolved.  Allow to cool, then stir in soju and vanilla.  Enjoy. 

Next, I was faced with the task of determining just how best to enjoy my creation.  I could drink it straight (I did.).  But that’s kind of boring.  I could put it in my coffee. That just sets me up for a double dose of dependency, so let’s evade that one.  At this point, my mind drifted to Russians.

As with any country (except for perhaps Thailand, which harbors HOARDS), you can find a few bad eggs here. That’s right, it’s time to discuss sexual predators!  Usually they’re found, or rather they find you, at only the most inopportune times.  Thanks to a weekly boat from Vladivostok and a shaky economy, Korea has been graced with the presence of a few economic migrants who don’t have English as a native tongue.  These migrants count on their curves for job security and apparently are in high demand.  It takes only a few days before any light-haired girl receives her first proposition from aforementioned predators.  And what a cautious, delicate proposition it is. “Are you Russian..?” Yes, and I’ve been waiting all day to go home with you.  Bug off.

Either way, I decided I was onto something with the Russian thing.  I stirred  in some milk and enjoyed.  It was dangerously delicious.  It needed a name.  As obvious as it might be, what with WHITE Russians and BLACK Russians, I decided to side-step the racial slur.  It took a minute, and then I had it.  The Russian Hunter.

They “creep” up on you.


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Pretty Pretty Pancakes

As part of the acculturation process with my English friends, I have fully embraced the holiday Pancake Day.  Known more prominently as Fat Tuesday in the States, this is the last day before Ash Wednesday – signifying the start of Lenten.  According to my tea-guzzling, history buff source, the holiday came about with Brits needing to use up leftovers in their pantry before the start of fasting.  Before I go any further, let me point out a few things that I have learned in my compulsory cake revision (from English revise, meaning “to study”).

1.  All pancakes are not created equal.

American pancakes tend to be light and fluffy and English pancakes are denser, flatter,  and more similar to a crepe.  Both have a  “doughy” quality, but the English version is much more chewy and dense.  

2. Pancakes aren’t just for breakfast (and midnight runs to Denny’s) anymore.

Smothered in butter and syrup, American pancakes bridge the gap between savory and sweet.  Generally, their presence  is reserved for morning time, with the exceptions of “breakfast for dinner” concept  meals and liquor-fogged trips to the diner.   English pancakes are generally thought of as a dessert item, or an extra-special sweet start to your day.

3.  Pancakes are best paired with a cuppa. 

Americans: forget Joe and befriend Elizabeth.  Cuppa – English for a cup of tea.  Preferably unflavored, black tea, served with a bit of COLD milk and sugar if so desired.

4.  There’s not just one way to flip a pancake.

In my experience, pancakes were always accompanied by the flicking of wrists and the swift movements of a spatula.  On my first Pancake Day, however, I was introduced to the idea of pancake accountability.  In order to enjoy the calorie dense delight, each person must in fact flip their own pancake.  The spatula plays only a supporting role – – it’s in the wrists and a carefully orchestrated  airborne technique.   Like, the one I thought only profession chefs could master. 

In my case, this brought back  flashbacks of that time on a friend’s  boat in Missouri when I was forced to abide by the Bagby Family  “You’re not coming back on this boat until you stand up on those water skis!” Policy.  It ended about 3 hours later in disgust with a  lot of water up my nose.  With this springing to mind, I was immediately overcome with anxiousness.  I think Jeanette’s face about sums up the sentiment. It’s not as easy as it looks!

A little bit frustrated

5.  When living in Korea, disregard everything you thought you knew.

One of the peaks of my schedule last year came Thursday afternoons at one of my elementary schools.  As part of their after school program, the mothers of a couple  students would come in to teach grades 3-6 cooking lessons.  After lurking around, I managed to wriggle my way into one of the assigned cooking groups.  I enjoyed learning the Korean recipes as much as my 8-year-old counterparts, but let me tell you, this was not smooth sailing.  5th graders are much more critical of  technique than any Le Cordon Bleu trained chef.  They made me prove my worth on more than one occasion to avoid dishwashing duty.

In class, we learned to make an assortment of items, ranging from sweet and sour pork to kimchi.  For our last class, I was told excitedly by my students that we would be making “American hot cakes.”  I thought this was a little bizarre but didn’t really think much of it until class time.  Until now, I hadn’t really been aware of a Korean familiarity with “hot cakes” but who knew?  

To begin, we mixed up our packaged batter and slowly drizzled it into a greased up frying pan. Innocent enough.  With the first pancake hot off the griddle, my group moved along to start frying up another.  One from our group scurried off to fetch an allotment of jam and various fresh fruits. This wasn’t really standard, but I figured it all still fit loosely into the category of “breakfast foods.”  It was when the Cool Whip became involved that I grew suspicious.  

Nervously spreading among hawking group members

I watched my group evenly spread the jam between layers of stacked pancakes.  When all the pancakes were layered, I observed (a bit horrified) as they slopped on the Cool Whip.  Suddenly,  it clicked.  We were  making a pan-CAKE.  DUH! Why hadn’t we thought of this!?  It just seemed so OBVIOUS! So THIS is how they make cakes in the land without ovens!!

It's Cool Whip time!

When fully frosted, my group took their time delicately arranging each wedge of fruit in careful symmetry.  Upon completion, they summoned over the teacher. Our creation was unlike any hot cake I had ever encountered.  I was silently praising my ability to take it all in stride and commend my group members on their grasp of an American stand-by. When the garnish came along, however,  it all fell to pieces.  With pride, the teacher scurried over with the finishing touch.  Digging in her apron pocket, she pulled out a  sprig of fresh rosemary and stuck it right in the middle.  Glory be! 

Our glorious panCAKE

When it came time to devour our creation, my reluctance quickly turned a bit ravenous.  It worked.  It was truly delicious.  In the land of sugar sprinkled garlic bread and sweet potato lattes, there is a lesson to be learned.  While it generally is not in your best interest to disregard all rules of food pairing, when done correctly,  it works. I’m still a bit skeptical of chocolate-covered bacon, but I guess now I must give it a try.  We’ll save that for next time. 

This Pancake Day, our celebration converged with the birthdays of two friends.  In the spirit of things, we broke out the chocolate hot cake mix, jam, and added a special twist with Nutella and candles.  It was spectacular. Here’s to a new tradition.

PanCAKE heaven

I think he liked it.

English Style Pancakes

8 Heaping Tbsp Flour

1 Pint Milk

2 Eggs

1 Tbsp Oil

Combine first three ingredients in mixer until blended.  Melt oil in pan on medium to high heat.  When pan is hot, pour in only enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of pan.  Cook about 1-2 minutes or until browned, then flip (to each his own!) and repeat.  To serve, place chocolate squares, jam, fresh lemon juice and sugar, or filling of your choice in center and roll.

English style-large and flat

Special thanks to Sally for this recipe, my first cup of proper tea,  the addition of twat to my everyday vocabulary, and for her patience and encouragement throughout the learning process.


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A Shameful Confession

A travesty has occured, and I’m scorned to admit I’ve played a role. 

I forgot to get Ranch dressing.  As in, I consumed my share (my arteries will concur)…but….the cupboard…stock…

Words cannot express my sorrow.  

…volunteers? Assignment, anyone?

Debriefing Before the Final Hour

Alas, I write again.  Responding to the urge to explain my long absence, I’ll just give it to you straight. Duty rang. Spice duty.  After a trip to India, the arsenals are stocked and I’m ready to season.  The report is pending and will become available subsequently.

I write to you only in a short lull before the most serious assignment of them all.  One part reconnaissance and one part active duty, I am plotting my plan of  attack.  I’m venturing into the motherland.  Indeed, the home of buffalo sauce, potato skins, “bottomless” mimosas, and BIG GULPS.  Not to mention the brave.

An opportunity has presented itself and I’ll be jet-setting to Hawaii for a quick trip.  I’m taking it by storm. Anticipating a greedy frenzy, my moves may not be calculated, but, a heavy looting WILL take place.  Scoff and call me Gaddafi, but this tyrant’s making it out alive.  And with gummy worms.

As I sit here, the adrenaline surges at the thought of the bountiful supermarkets, and my tongue sweats at what I’ll soon devour. I make a vow to you, readers, and with you as my witnesses, I hold myself responsible to:

-Savor the statewide delights at every presentable opportunity

-Embrace the addition of a fourth  “flex meal” to my daily consumption regimen

-Moan and groan only in earnest appreciation of the joy my mouth is experiencing rather than in detest of my stomach’s discomfort

Upon my return, the tactics will be analyzed, the gains will be archived, and I will be ready to file a synopsis.  Commander of curry here, over and out.

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