Well, I could write a tale or two about the journey back to the ROK, but I’m much more in the mood to write something cheerful and positive!
Instead, let me tell you about airline food. Airline food is not the stuff of traumatic nightmares that the majority of people seem to believe it to be. Or perhaps I am a freak of nature… but whichever is true, I do actually really enjoy meals on planes. I’ve yet to have an inedible one, or even one that wasn’t tasty enough for me to finish it all.
Korean Air, who brought me here the first time around, are the absolute champions of airline cuisine, in my experience thus far. Those meals were amazing, of the quality I’d expect from a pretty pricey restaurant. But Asiana Airlines, for all their flaws, also manage to provide food that has me scraping the plate clean.
We have chicken or we have Korean bibimbap, said the flight attendant with the cart, looking slightly dubious when I immediately said “Ohhhh, bibimbap, please!” with a rapturous expression on my face. Bibimbap is very, uh… spicy, she informed me gently, as if trying to nudge me towards the Westerner Meal Choice. “Yes,” I agreed, not sure what else to say. She shrugged and presented me with my tray.
Bibimbap is one of those ultra-satisfying, simple, hearty comfort foods that manage to radiate healthy, good-for-you vibes at the same time. It’s a bowl of steamed, sticky rice which you mix into a selection of banchan, from herby leaves to chopped mushrooms to beansprouts to ground beef. (Ideally, you’ll get the kind that’s served in a hot stone bowl, as your food will continue to cook while you mix and eat. If you’re having this kind, you’ll be given a raw egg to throw in there as well, and the egg scrambles into the rice as you mix. You’ll be left with a delicious, crunchy layer of rice that you get to scrape off the bottom at the end, too. Mmmm.) As a finishing touch, you stir in some oil and gochujang (the ubiquitous hot pepper paste), and eat with a lot of “Mmmmm” noises.
Obviously the airline version doesn’t come with a hot stone pot or a raw egg, but it was still a big dish of deliciousness. And the best part of all: a little tub of kimchi to accompany it!!! Oh, kimchi, how I have missed thee. I crunched it with great joy and half-considered asking for a refill.
I have to get back to a half sensible diet now that my holidays are over, which is very sad, as I do enjoy eating. It is a great comfort to me, at this difficult time, to know that I can eat kimchi till it’s coming out of my ears and know that it’s more beneficial to my diet than destructive. Mmmm… kimchi…