Yeah, I’m really not wild about octopus heads, guys, mused a friend of mine last Saturday afternoon as – still in Friday night’s clothes – we groaned our way through a somewhat hungover breakfast at her local Korean restaurant.
Such comments are perfectly commonplace in my life these days, and yet I still find them most amusing, if only as a reminder of how vastly different my life is now compared with how it once was. Once upon a time, my mum would help/look on disapprovingly as my friends and I got up late on a Saturday morning and feebly attempted to make coffee and scrambled eggs whilst inevitably destroying the kitchen. Or I’d go to a student bar in Glasgow and do some companionable dying over greasy burgers and chips and a hair-of-the-dog pint. The fact that, last weekend, this was my ‘morning after the night before’ breakfast…
…should demonstrate how much things have changed. Meanwhile, one friend was picking octopus heads off her plate while the other was providing amusing English dubbing for the Korean soap opera blaring from the TV in the corner.
And yet I must say that I continue to surprise myself with my changing tastes. I was amazed to find myself eating and vaguely enjoying plain old seaweed soup a few weeks ago at school, and have continued to eat it each time it’s been served since then – until now, it has been the only soup I have left generally untouched every time, aside from the polite few sips of broth at the start. I think that the only things remaining on my once extensive list of ‘things on the school lunch table that I absolutely will not touch’ are the tiny little dried fish that stare up at me in their hundreds from the side dish bowls. I have never even tried one. I can’t. I just can’t eat something that is looking at me. Everything else, however, is now perfectly acceptable, regardless of whether it did at one point make me retch.
Outside of work, I have been trying to branch out in terms of trying new foods, having fallen into a bit of a hopeless but ultimately delicious kimchi rut. To my great delight, a little takeaway place opened up right across the road from my apartment a few months ago, and I have made a promise to myself that I will not order the same thing twice until I have tried absolutely everything on the menu, bar intestines or horrible fishy things. These places serve good, hearty, generally healthy Korean food out of questionable but apparently safe kitchens, and are much cheaper than cooking the meal for yourself. To date, this is the only country in which I have found this to be true!
So anyway, I’ve been calling in once or twice a week on the way home from work after scrutinising the menu outside the steamed-up windows and taking an educated guess at what something may or may not turn out to be. I have been rewarded with a selection of tasty noodle dishes, stews, and stir-fries, all of which have hit the spot. Of course, this haphazard, devil-may-care attitude towards ordering one’s dinner is bound to end in disaster at some point, and that point was reached this evening when I ordered what I thought was a Chinese-Korean fusion dish involving mushrooms. I sat down on my usual rickety stool inside and idly decided to Google the dish on my phone as I waited for it to be brought to me. I gazed dismally at the screen when the Google image results showed me a little preview of what I would soon be throwing in the kitchen bin. Yes, it was a noodle soup, and yes, it certainly contained a lot of various kinds of mushrooms, but unfortunately all of this was overshadowed by the alarmingly overwhelming presence of seafood in all its glorious shapes and sizes. I really fecking hate seafood, by the way.
There was nothing I could do but reluctantly accept the food container when it was brought to me, hand over my money, and trudge home with a growling stomach, silently hating the meal in my hand. When I opened it up just to check, all my worst fears were confirmed.
Still, it didn’t smell overpoweringly fishy, and the broth actually looked quite nice, so I took a sip of it. It was fabulous, so I looked suspiciously at everything else and had a mouthful of noodles and a piece of mushroom. So far, so good. Well, what the hell. Clearly I was living on the edge. I picked up a curly and unidentifiable part of a sea creature and chewed tentatively on it. It wasn’t bad, actually. Then I had a prawn… and another chewy thing… and something out of a shell… damn it, I even ate a baby octopus or five…
…and good grief, if I didn’t finish that whole bowl and drink every last drop of the soup, hot spice-induced tears running down my cheeks. I do not know how this happened, readers, but somehow I have ordered, eaten, and enjoyed a seafood dish. Not only that, but I will most likely order it again.
Well… when I’ve tried everything else on that menu, of course. :)