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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tall clams and onomatopoeia

I really wish I had brought my camera with me to work today, because I happened to have a pretty good time with some of the adult students after finishing class. Lately we've been going for coffee after class on Thursday nights, but tonight one lady said she really wanted some fried chicken. I, however, had been a fairly successful vegetarian since Saturday - eating only a few bites of chicken and whatever fake meat is found in dumplings and kimbap - so I asked if we could get something else. We wound up going to a 조개구이 (jo-gay gooey, grilled clam) restaurant. I was kind of excited to try something new, and happy to continue my ovo-pescetarian streak, but I wasn't too sure what to expect.

We went to the restaurant - 4 of us, at first - and ordered a 40 dollar helping. They came out with a tray about 2 feet in diameter, covered with different kinds of clams, with one half of the shell torn off. There were some small ones that looked just like I expected, some small ones that were a little more on the odd side, and then some really big "tall clams," the likes of which I had never seen. You set them (in the half shell) on the grill, meat facing up, and let them roast/boil in their own juices. Then you use the tongs and scissors to cut them up, after which you can dip them in red pepper paste or soy sauce and wasabi or just eat them plain. To be honest, I didn't like it as much as I hoped, but I was happy to have a nice night out without eating vile bi/quadriped flesh.

The coolest thing was that one of the huge clams came with a mountain of red pepper bean paste and chives on top, which, when grilled, cooked down to a really awesome sauce, though maybe it was just awesome because it covered and obscured the little appendages and organs that were ligamentally attached to the clam meat. Anyway, I feel a little remiss for not having taken loads of awesome food pictures here - you know, squiggly octopus, chicken feet and anus, sea penis, chicken kalbi, samgyeopsal (korean bacon), etc - and this meal was visually pretty impressive, especially with all the clams sort of shriveling up in their own shell over the fire.

The onomatopoeia comes in because somehow someone mentioned some sound or something. Maybe clams sizzling in their own juice? Anyway, an odd confluence of events occurred over the previous 10 days or so: 1) a conversation with my Korean-speaking WU alum friend Chris about Korean onomatopoeia; 2) a borrowed book from my friend, called "have you ever seen your poop?" which had lots of onomatopoeia and mimetic words about poop sounds and shapes; 3) a section in my study book about such words, though not so foul; and 4) a long-standing interest in such words in Korean, since they almost invariably have the odd habit of repeating the same sound over and over again (whereas, in English, we have a tendency to alter just one vowel, e.g. clickity-clack or pitter-patter). Korean O and M almost always take up 4 syllables, as well. Quite weird. I'm working on a list now, which I may post to the blog in the coming days.

Anyhow, sensing a good segue opportunity, and having mostly finished eating (and having downed a bottle of soju each), I pulled out the poop book, illustrations and all, showed it to the Koreans, and then translated it for George. It starts like this: "I am the poop professor. There's nothing I don't know about poop. Have any of you ever taken a close look at your poop? If you look closely, you'll notice: several smells, several colors, several shapes." The book goes on to describe diarrhea, watery poo, healthy poo, and constipated poo, with lots of nice, colorful, childish illustrations.

Beware, no segue for the next part:

And something interesting about eating the clams: being small creatures, with the organs and the meat all attached, you couldn't really separate them into "clean parts" and "dirty parts." Whereas when eating (pig/cow/chicken) meat I usually can't help but think about farm conditions, animal pain, and environmental effects, while eating the clams, I experienced a much more natural, stress-free feeling. It was almost like awe, looking at the little dudes, seeing their whole little being bubbling away in the shell, how it all fit together, and how nutritious and painless and (hopefully) rather harmless on the environmental-impact scale it all was.

So, despite all the talking about poop, it actually turned out to be a pretty wholesome night. Hurrah!

Just over two weeks left? But I'm having such a good time! ㅠㅠ


David said...

Have you mentioned toying with vegetarianism in a previous post? It seems a bit out of left field--even for you--especially considering your father (aka my mentor).

Do you see your [blasphemous] vegetarian experiment becoming permanent?

Speaking of Don, he would love that poop book.

thesnowleopard said...

이 똥책은 어디서 찾았는데? 나도 읽고싶다! 채식주의자 되지말고! 마음 껏 고기 먹어라!

fwwwwwoooosh! i felt that one! said...

mike, methinks you much more masterful at masticating mystery meats and minus-meats than myself. my mind melts merely mirroring mentalisms of me munching mer mangina.

it's not onomatopoeia, but it's fun!

Mike said...

I don't think I've mentioned the vegetarian thing, probably because I fail at it quite a lot. Even sushi-style seaweed and rice rolls have spam in them here. Not to mention that having a social life in Korea means going to restaurants and grilling up some ribs or korean bacon or clams together. There's no way to handle soju without meat. Snowleopard can confirm this.

Jeff, never end a sentence with "mangina;" one immediately forgets all preceding words. No matter how many times I read your comment, I never get any closer to figuring out what you said.

beyond the sea said...

mer = sea (french)

mangina = man vagina = penis

mer mangina = sea penis

come on, language boy

Mike said...

sorry, I only think in italian (mare), spanish (mar), and korean (바다). my bad.