Friday 5: Korea Guidance

I see your pun, Friday 5. Well played.

What would be a better name for the color of goldenrod-colored paper?

What’s wrong with “goldenrod”?

Where did you get your silverware?

Either IKEA or the grocery store downstairs.

It is a weird tradition in America (and possibly elsewhere) for parents to have their children’s baby shoes bronzed. What artifact from this past week would you have bronzed as a keepsake and heirloom?

Last week was pretty unremarkable. If I had to pick anything, it might be the toy dinosaur that lives with Chuck, one of my snake plants.

I have no sentimental attachment to the dinosaur or anything. (I bought as part of a Jurassic Park costume a few years ago.) I just think it would be funny to have it bronzed. Maybe I’ll just spray paint instead?

What was the most recent ceremony you attended?

The wedding I went to in August.

What east Asian cuisine is good for your Seoul?

I lived and taught in South Korea for over two years, as I’ve probably mentioned before, and one of the (many) things I miss big time is the food. The Korean diaspora means that Korean barbecue is familiar to most non-Koreans who live in any metropolitan area that approaches international; it seems that bibimbap is also gaining traction thanks to the recent health food obsession with “Buddha bowls.”

But that is only the tip of the iceberg, my friend.

Korean street food is the best, hands down. (Apologies to all of the gatuköks and Philly pretzel carts out there, but it’s true.) My favorite in this genre is tteokbokki: dense rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce. It wasn’t uncommon for teachers at my first school to spring for a whole tray of these for a “snack party” after a particular class finished a level test, since they were cheap, tasty, and filling. It helped that we had a little snack shack in the first floor of our building.

A step up from street food are the ubiquitous gimbap restaurants. I don’t know enough about Korean food history to know whether or not these restaurants predate the appearance of American-style fast food chains in the peninsula, but I would guess that they did. These places specialize in cheap, easy-to-make meals and are popular with broke students and people with criminally short lunch breaks. (This is also the kind of restaurant built into Korean spas.) The backbone dish of these restaurants is gimbap (rice, veggies, and sometimes meat rolled in a sheet of dried black seaweed) and all of its varieties, but the menus always include a wide assortment of variations on jjigaes, larger portions of popular street food, and a few odds and ends. Anything off the menu here will be fantastic, though my personal favorites are dolsot bibimbap, rabokki (a combination of the aforementioned tteokbokki and ramen), and cheesy ramen. I actually don’t care that much for gimbap, ironically enough, because I’m not a huge fan of black seaweed.

When it comes to “real” restaurants, places start to narrow down their menus to a handful of specialty dishes (or a handful of variations on one particular dish). Now you have your Korean barbecue restaurants, with various cuts of pork or beef to grill at your table. I preferred the chicken stir-fry equivalent, the marinated version known as  dak galbi; sometimes my coworkers and I even went out for duck. You have seafood restaurants, with raw fish, squid, and octopus. You have, borrowed from Japan, shabu-shabu. On a slightly lesser tier, you have chicken-and-beer joints. You have what are theoretically restaurants but are really bars with obligatory anju (bar snacks, or bar more-than-a-snack-less-than-a-meal), like stir-fried rice or seafood or kimchi pancake-fritters. (These bars are usually famous for the quality of their anju, though, so having to order to be allowed to drink isn’t a problem at all.)

But for me, the crown jewel of Korean cuisine is something else entirely. The city where I lived, Uijeongbu, is famous for budae jjigae, a relatively modern invention that takes a traditional jjigae and incorporates the kind of meat found in American military MREs: sausages, hot dogs and (of course) SPAM. Unlike other jjigaes, it’s usually served with ramen and glass noodles right in the dish.

A bowl of budae jjigae.
By LWY at flickr –, CC BY 2.0,

As far as I can tell, Korean entrepreneurs haven’t brought budae jjigae abroad yet. I guess the immediate connection with scraps and cast-offs from American military bases doesn’t really jibe with the image Korea wants to present to the rest of the world? But that’s a tragedy, because budae jjigae is so damn good. I’ve learned to make a lot of Korean food myself, to scratch my Koreastalgia itch, but the one thing that you can never just make yourself is budae jjigae. It’s a dish best cooked in huge heaping batches, tended by a watchful restaurant employee, and enjoyed in the company of others. Like, if I were fabulously, obscenely wealthy, I would open a budae jjigae restaurant in Stockholm. That is how much I love this dish. One day…!

Friday 5: Dog

Happy year of the dog!

What doglike traits do you possess?

I’d like to think that I’m an unflaggingly loyal ride-or-die friend. I’m also usually pretty optimistic (or as optimistic as being a realist gets you) and bounce out of bad moods easily, though I wouldn’t call myself full-on “cheerful.”

What’s your favorite dog movie?

I’m going to go ahead and count Babe in this one. It’s about a pig who acts like a dog and does a dog’s job in a dog’s world, so I say it’s close enough.

When did you last have a hot dog?

Probably when I had a tunnbrödsrulle from a random gatukök (literally “street kitchen”) back in the fall. For the uninitiated:

Two tunnbrödsrullar sitting next to each other on a wooden cutting board, one wrapped up and one open to display the contents (two grilled hotdogs, mayo, and salad).
Image from

I don’t really like hot dogs at all, but in the interest of Drunk Swedish Tradition opted to try one. The standard recipe calls for two but I could have sworn that mine only had one. It’s some of the heaviest drinking food I’ve ever had; it’s not a snack, it’s a full-on meal. (These days I opt for the sit-down kebab places and go for a plate. No less filling, but more manageable. And no hotdogs.)

Who is (or was) a good celebrity dog?

I always felt sorry for the chihuahuas that got toted along in celebrity purses. Has that stopped being a thing? I hope so.

What are you doing for chow this weekend?

Friday nights are pizza nights. Saturdays I usually have tea or coffee and some sweets at my morning tutoring appointment, then a small lunch at home,  then either dinner with one of my tutoring families (usually homemade pizza or a Persian dish of some variety) or at home. Sunday will be a morning tea and snack with another tutoring appointment, and then either food at home (sandwiches, pyttipanna) or take-out at a friend’s.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Day 17, Part I: Road Trip to Maine

It’s showtime!

This day ends up being long, to the tune of 20 hours long: I got up at 4 am and I finally crashed at around midnight. It was basically two days crammed into one, so I’ll split it into two parts.

A insisted at the close of last night that she’d be up to say goodbye, but of course she wasn’t and I knew she wouldn’t because she’s an exhausted mother of two children, so I wasn’t surprised. I managed to make it out the door without leaving anything behind, except Her Smoke Rises Up Forever. I didn’t realize that for a while, and when I finally did I was a little sad because I get sentimental about books from friends, but I already have other books from Noah in my library (The Fifth Season, Harpo Speaks!, Name of the Rose) so I wasn’t as heartbroken as I might have otherwise been when I finally realized what had happened.

“I absolutely do not trust myself to drive on any leg of this trip,” I told L as we get ready. “Driving myself? Fine. If I eat it, whatever. But you’re a dad now. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened. I’ll stay up and keep you company, though.” Which is a bigger deal promise than maybe it sounds because I can fall asleep in cars at the drop of a hat.

“That’s fair.”

It was still dark when we took off. The only other cars we saw were trucks and tractor trailers. Every time we passed one, I held my breath and tensed up. I trusted L; I did’t trust truckers on the road at 4 am.

“The one thing I really wanna do on this trip is get breakfast at a proper greasy spoon truck stop diner,” L said early on in the drive. “A place where you can sit on stools at the counter. I can’t do that with the boys. I was thinking we could find one once we get to Massachusetts.”

“Omigod, yes. Sweden doesn’t do diners. That sounds perfect. My treat.”

We hit Mass at around 6 in the morning, and after a little futzing with the GPS we decided to try a coffee shop in a strip mall. I was wary, because it’s hard to have a proper diner in a strip mall, but coffee is coffee and you want the driver on your road trip to be as awake and alert as possible, so I took the compromise.

Except it wasn’t a compromise, and inside it was a proper full-on greasy spoon, including the low-budget Americana decor.

A diner in Massachusetts in the early morning hours. The view is across a counter, under which you can see some basic food prep supplies, to the far wall with a fridge full of sodas, a shelf of tea selections, and plants and wall art.
A beloved American tradition.

Yes, we got to sit on stools at the counter. L was pleased as punch and so was I.

American-style waffles with creamy butter and some fruit, on a white plate.
Big fluffy American waffles!

“If this isn’t nice, what is?” I thought to myself, and for the half-hour or so that we were relaxing and having a proper roadtrip breakfast, I could forget about all of the stress and awfulness going on around us.

The glass display counter by the register had some baked goods, because of course, and so we each picked out a donut to have as a snack later as I paid up. The shelf behind the register also boasted a number of teas; in addition to the usual English Breakfast and Earl Grey, I spotted THIN MINTS TEA.

A box of Bigelow Thin Mints tea.

“Holy crap, they make thin mints tea now?!”

The waitress gushed. “Oh yeah, it’s great. Here, take a bag. Free sample.”

“Aw, nice. Thanks!”

Spoiler alert: it’s a pretty tasty tea.

The sun was up now. It was weird to think that it was 7 am and we’d been up for hours. Bolstered by our food (diner food is magic, I’m pretty sure), we continue northwards. There were other cars on the road now; it felt more normal and less lonely and apocalyptic. Once we hit Maine, we pulled over in a rest stop to have our donuts and change out of lazy driving clothes into proper wedding clothes.

This was when L realized that the pants he meant to wear, with the cigars he bought for the occasion, were at home, but the good news is he had everything else, including another pair of dress-y pants in the car already, so it wasn’t a sartorial emergency. We also realized that we didn’t have the address for the church and since neither of us had data on our phones, I put in a call to A to do some Internet sleuthing for us.

“Hi sweetie!” A chirped. I was calling from L’s phone.

“Hi sweetie yourself,” I joked back. She laughed.

“Oh, hi Koba. Everything going okay?”

“Yeah, peachy keen. But can you do us a favor and look up an address for us? The invitation only has the address for the reception, not where the ceremony’s going to be.”

“Sure, just a second.” I could hear her negotiate with the oldest over use of the tablet, and some wondering aloud about if the place she found Googling was where we were going, but eventually she found it.

“Sorry I wasn’t up to see you guys off. I totally meant to, but…”

“Nah, it’s fine. We left super early.”

“Well, have a good time! It was good to see you. That was a good talk we had. It’s a lot to think about.”

“Anytime. It was good to see you, too. I’m sure I’ll be around again at some point. People can’t stop getting married.” Four more friends from this college crowd aren’t married yet and I can safely assume I’ll be invited to those weddings, plus Noah’s if they decide to take that leap. Plus the odd assortment of friends I have outside of Hamilton. “Have fun with the boys.”

“I will. Bye Koba!”


L had estimated the time for the wedding ceremony wrong, but in our favor: he was planning for 10:00 am, not 10:30. “Oh, sweet. Then we have time to get some Moxie!”

I laughed. “Yes, definitely.”

We found the nearest grocery store according to the GPS and L helped himself to the remaining cases of diet Moxie left on the shelf, four in all. He knew that an anniversary present from A arrived in the mail the other day, but I had no idea if he knew that it was Moxie. Well, it’s not like it’ll sit around unappreciated, I thought.

“Someone likes Moxie,” an older woman remarked quizzically, confused over why someone would stock up on so much regional soft drink. Diet, at that.

“We don’t have it in Albany,” L explained, and the woman maybe nodded or said something, I forget, but we made a beeline for the checkout, loaded up the car, and returned to the church-adjacent neighborhood to find some parking.

Friday 5: Just Desserts

What’s your favorite breath mint?

I don’t have one. I don’t use breath mints. I drink copious amounts of tea in the mornings, before I go anywhere or meet anyone, and hope that covers up anything objectionable.

What’s your favorite chewing gum?

I was partial to Wrigley’s when I was a kid. I tended to chew at least two sticks at once, and had a habit of just popping in another stick once the flavor ran out. Inspired by Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (not intended as a role model, I’m sure), one time I actually stuck one of those two- or three-stick wads behind my ear. It’s not as convenient as Roald Dahl makes it sound.

What do you like on an ice cream sundae?

Jimmies and crumbled cookies! I don’t really care for whipped cream, chocolate syrup, or cherries.

What do you put honey on?

I save honey for my tea when I have a cold.

Where do you go for a good muffin?

I’m rather fond of Espresso House’s Choco Fours, even though I am ambivalent at best about Espresso House.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Days 15 and 16: Albany, NY

Day 15

We’re up early to see L  out the door to work. A makes some eggs and toast for breakfast, and we have some of the Söder to go with it and wake up from the late night. After some art and doodles, the oldest wants to have a puppet show, and I keep both boys distracted for long enough with Monkey the Dentist and Giraffe the Doctor that A  has time to jump in the shower and have a few minutes to herself (until the youngest gets some serious separation anxiety and I drop him off to be in the bathroom with Mom).

I also have a fun time reading to the oldest, because I love reading anything, even if it’s kiddie picture books for the five thousandth time. I chat with A  over the boy’s head when he’s deeply involved with a book himself, though we never get back to the topic of friendship and time. Once in a while he wants some quiet, or he wants attention, and he yells at us: “Stop talking!” After numerous incidents, A lectures him a little about having patience and waiting, and that’s the last “Stop talking!” for the rest of my stay.

We also read through a book about dragons, and at the end it mentions Komodo dragons. One of my students has family in Sri Lanka and has visited on and off, and told me once about seeing a Komodo dragon on temple grounds, where it was allowed to just hang out and be a Komodo dragon because you aren’t allowed to kill anything near the temple. I bring up the story with A,  and she mentions that oh yeah, when she worked at the zoo she got to get up close and personal with a Komodo dragon, close enough to touch it.

Cue the meltdown from the oldest.


All the days I’m there, he doesn’t go down for a nap in the middle of the day, so as the afternoon drags on he gets a little overwhelmed and fussy (which makes dinners a little rough going, but we bribe him through with alternating reading pages and having bites of food).

While the youngest (still an infant) is down for a nap, I go out for a run in the park across the road.


I jump in the shower to wash off the sweat and grime when I get back and air out my workout clothes on the porch. A offers to wash them with the family clothes, but I figure they’ll be fine with some fresh air. A smart move, as it turns out: a stray crayon ended up in the wash and while nothing was ruined, it made the process a little more stressful than usual. It stressed A enough already; if a guest’s clothes had been involved, it would have freaked her out even more.


But the big event, in between books and arts and crafts and puppet shows, is the oldest’s favorite TV show: “the moon show.” “The Moon Show” is just his name for it, of course; can you guess why he calls it that? A hint:

“Do you know what Miss Koba’s favorite TV show is?”

“No, what?”

“The Moon Show!”

I don’t understand what about MST3K can possibly appeal to three-year-olds but there you have it. We don’t make it through the entire episode before L gets home and it’s time to start getting ready for dinner, but enough that I’m satisfied. After dinner and baths and bedtime books, the three of us sit down to a classic MST3K episode (a fond Hamilton favorite: Eeegah!), which ends up being background noise while and I (with input from A) break down how the new season compares with the series and give voice to our assorted little nitpicks (I think Jonah comes across as really nervous in the host segments; A misses how cheap the props used to look). We don’t make it through the entirety of Eegah!, either, and this time everyone heads to bed much earlier.

Day 16

L has taken a half day off work the next day so he can be home and hang out with us a bit, and also talk to the guy from the solar panel company who’s coming to evaluate the best place to put more solar panels. That means he’s also home in time for lunch, which is pierogi, one of my absolute favorites. I’m touched that A remembers—especially when she has absolutely no way of knowing that I haven’t had any in ages. What Sweden calls “pirogi” are really pirozhki and now if I want any I have to make them from scratch myself instead of getting an acceptably tasty ready-made version. I read a bit more from Her Smoke Rises Up Forever during the afternoon, while L plays with the oldest. We also putz around outside on the slightly crooked swing set.

Dinner is a bit of a hassle, again thanks to lack of an afternoon nap, but “eat, then read” bribes (tonight’s book is The Missing Piece Meets the Big O) get the job done. Everyone is a little rushed because we’re expecting my high school friend Fox, along with her boyfriend,  for company and board games, so it makes the oldest’s fussiness a little extra trying. But everyone gets shuttled off for a bath and bedtime stories successfully. Instead of helping with bedtime stories like I did the last couple nights, I set to work sweeping up veggie burger bits and washing dishes.

Fortunately, Fox and her boyfriend are running a little late themselves, so we have plenty of time for snacks and board games and adult company. This even though L and I have an early morning tomorrow: a four-hour drive to Maine the day off the wedding. We won’t have a lot of margin for error!

Friday 5: Seasons

Image courtesy Chris Lawton


What foods are most representative of each of the four seasons?

Summer for me is ice cream, strawberries, smoothies, and salads. Fall is apple EVERYTHING, and tea. Winter is chili and more tea, and also cookies. Spring is a trash fire of a season and I hate it.

What are good songs to represent each of the four seasons?

What would be good films to represent each of the four seasons?

I always watch The Big Lebowksi  on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know how or when or even why I picked up this habit, but there it is, so that’s my pick for winter. I also always watch Groundhog Day on, well, Groundhog Day, but I think that’s close enough to spring to count. (Again, spring is a garbage season and I hate it.) Alternatively, I always like to watch The Pirates of Penzance on Leap Day, which is that much closer to spring, so maybe that one? The Fourth of July is always a good time to watch something with explosions and punches and ridiculousness: “(Jason) Bourne on the Fourth of July,” for example. Or a Rambo marathon, or Independence Day. Any one of those will work. And with Halloween, fall is the perfect time for your favorite scary movie. I have a soft spot for mid-century horror movies, myself: spooky but not terrifying. The best of those isn’t even a horror movie, it’s a straight-up black comedy: The Comedy of Terrors. Vincent Price, u da reel MVP.

If you could divide the calendar year into four seasons some other way with some other theme besides weather or major professional sports, where would each seasons begin and end, and what would each be called?

If there were any rhyme or reason or pattern to my Etsy sales, that would probably be a way to do it: busy seasons and off seasons. The same goes for editing. But whether or not I’m busy with those seems pretty arbitrary, at least for now, so…meh.

What’s something in your area that’s extra fun in the winter?

I guess if you like skiing, there’s that. But I don’t. There’s nothing really extra fun about winter for me.

Friday 5: More Questions About Buildings and Food


What’s the best layered food?

Lasagna, for me, is basically the only layered food. I may be Swedish, but smörgåstårtar (pictured above) freak me out.

What’s the best rolled food?

There are so many options, aren’t there? Enchiladas (and I would say burritos count, too), cannoli, gimbap, California rolls, kanelbullar…the list goes on! But for nostalgia purposes, I’ll have to say it’s a tie between cannoli and gimbap.

Gimbap: commonly confused with sushi, but actually not.

What’s the most recent cuisine you’ve tried for the first time from an ethnicity not your own?

I had some Turkish pistachio candy at a student’s house on Monday.

What’s a food that scares you?

San-nakji: octopus arms. While the octopus is technically dead by the time it’s on your plate, octopus anatomy means that the nerves in the arms and tentacles are still doing their squirmy, moving thing by the time they’re on your plate. The Japanese puffer fish won’t kill you if it’s prepared correctly, but even if san-nakji is prepared correctly, the very nature of the dish makes it a potentially deadly choking hazard.

What’s something you eat solely because it’s good for you?

Even the healthy food I eat, I eat because it’s tasty. The only thing I consume purely for health reasons are vitamins.

Friday 5: Dear Old Golden Rule Days

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

when did you last raise your hand to be called upon, to get someone’s attention, or in response to a “how many of you…” question? or heck, for any reason at all?

I probably did it to get the moderator’s attention at the last English Debate Club meeting I attended a few weeks ago.

When did you last have to do anything akin to homework?

Around a year ago, for Academic Swedish. Unless lesson planning counts, in which case: all day, every day.

when did you and your friends last go outside to play?

Me and friends? I guess the last time I was at a picnic, which was probably sometime last year. Me by myself? On my run yesterday.

how’s your penmanship nowadays?

Pretty good. Teacher skills, etc.

among stuff you periodically eat, what reminds you most of your lunches in the school cafeteria?

I don’t remember school lunches much except chicken nuggets and “French bread pizza.” The laziest, easiest thing I eat is boiled pasta with a dollop of creme fraiche and some roasted onions. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Friday 5: Payday

From whom did you receive your first real paycheck?

When I worked at Gilman’s/Lost River Caverns, where I also learned to love rocks.

Among board games involving the exchange of money, which have you enjoyed most?

Do you exchange money in Life? I think you do. I didn’t have anything against Monopoly, but I think I actually finished more games of Life.


PayDay is the name of a candy bar consisting of salted peanuts rolled in caramel surrounding a firm, nougat-like center. How does it sound to you if you haven’t tried it, and how do you like it if you have? Is there a similar candy bar you like better?

I don’t like nuts in my chocolate, nor do I like peanuts or peanut butter mixed with chocolate. (Unpopular opinions!) Anything with caramel, nougat, and chocolate without nuts is just peachy keen.


When did you last do something nice for yourself just because it was pay day?

I went out and bought new bras. Ladies, I recommend making sure that you’re wearing the correct bra size. (In other words: if you’ve been fitted at Victoria’s Secret, or you’ve used that bizarre “add an arbitrary number to your band measurement,” measure yourself again.)


What person with the surname Day are you most familiar with?

I had a really hard time parsing this question at first; I took it to mean “Person With the Surname Day,” as if there were multiple holidays we observe in honor of people with specific surnames. Like, I had to read the question two or three times to understand what they meant.

And my first answer is, of course, Doris Day!

Friday 5: Consumption

What is your paper towel consumption like?

Not awful, but not ideal. I try to use sponges and tea towels as often as possible in the kitchen, but paper towels have also become our default paper product in the house. No napkins, no tissues: just paper towels.

What condiment do you use most often?

Hm, what counts as a condiment? Do the variety of sauces in squeeze bottles in our fridge count as condiments? Because if we’re talking about just ketchup and mustard, I don’t use either.

What is your sticky note consumption like?

Nonexistent. I never use them.

What’s your coin jar setup?

Sweden is much closer to going cashless than the US, and I go for long stretches without having any cash on me at all. Needless to say, spare change doesn’t really accumulate. When I have some, I usually give it away.

What’s something you’ve purchased recently that was lower in price than usual?

I don’t know about recently, but I picked up some home decor items from Myrorna’s for ultra cheap. I also visited a couple of vintage stores while I was in the US, but the keyword there is “vintage” (i.e. not “thrift”). They didn’t break the bank, but they weren’t a steal, either.