Each year in August the small city of Chuncheon, about an hour by express commuter rail from Seoul, hosts a week-long festival celebrating two specific Korean dishes: makguksu and dakgalbi. Apparently this year the town decided that late June was a more suitable time for the festival this year, and thank goodness because we’re really glad we got to go.
Dakgalbi, a casserole made from chicken ribs, rice cakes, red pepper paste, cabbage, and a few other things depending on where you’re eating it, was one of the first Korean dishes we ever had and easily among our top favorites. It’s prepared on a giant skillet in the middle of the table and shared among everyone present. We had been craving it since the moment we got off the airplane.
Makguksu was new, at least we’re pretty sure we had never had it before. It reminded us of bibimguksu, except with buckwheat noodles and possibly a different kind of broth. It’s a chilled noodle soup with a radish, anchovy, or beef broth. I think we had the radish variety. Apart from the noodles, the soup was a lot of different vegetables, some kimchi, and red pepper paste.
Picking a place to eat makguksu was not hard, though it definitely could have been. The festival took place in a large field directly outside the train station that we understand was once a military camp. The food tents formed a outer wall for the festival, with banners above them alternating blue and red, for the soup and the chicken, respectively. Despite what must have been two dozen possible choices, we were so hungry we sat down at the first one we came across.
After eating we walked around the festival, but eventually the heat became too much to bear, and with a surprising lack of shade, we reluctantly headed to a cafe for iced drinks to plan the rest of our day. We wanted to see some of the amazing lakes and streams that Chuncheon is famous for but didn’t have the will to jump in a cab, so we headed to Gongjicheon, a small stream running between the lakes nestled into Chuncheon’s mountains. It always struck us as amazing how well Koreans do the outdoors. Gongjicheon, like so many other parks and wilderness areas was beautiful, with well maintained walking, running, and biking paths (this park had at least 12k of track along its rivers and lakes). We ended up having a our dakgalbi not at the festival, but at a little shop along the stream. It might have been the best dakgalbi we’ve ever had. The chicken was excellent, and the vegetable combinations were perfect. I guess that’s what happens when you get it from the source.
Steve Jobs was a great man who invented some amazing devices that have changed the way we interact with technology. Today we’ve changed our look, (inspired by boingboing.net) to a retro mac theme in his memory. I never knew Jobs, and never thought I’d get the chance, but he was an inspiring public speaker, an innovator, and a businessman not afraid to make insanely great products. His genius, his commitment to greatness, near perfection and thinking different, left a mark on global technology and industrial design that will far outlast his mortality.
A couple weeks ago Danielle and I joined a couple of my new classmates on a ride out to Mount Vernon. The beautiful trail winds its way along the Potomac from the Washington estate past Alexandria, where it is briefly interrupted, DCA , the National Cemetery, and Fort Meyers, terminating finally in Rosslyn at the Key Bridge. Almost all of it is off-street trail much like what I was used to in Minneapolis. In general it is quite a nice trail; smooth pavement, except for some boardwalks here and there, beautiful scenery (can’t get much better than the monuments), even a place where you can get so close to landing aircrafts that you can almost touch them. With all that, though, the trail lacks some surprising features I’ve seen other places.
Most prominently in Lake Park, Korea, exist speed-segregated trails. All the way around the lake were walking paths, “fast walking” or running paths, and bike or really fast running paths. Even when the paths converged, they did so only in that there was no physical barrier between the three; occasionally the walking and running paths would join forces. In a park as busy as Lake Park was, it was hard to imagine not having these trails separated out. Even during the slow periods there were dozens of people sharing the path with you, after all it was the biggest, and only real outdoor recreation area for a city of a million. Sure there were other bike paths, but they almost all pass through the park at some point, and if you are terrified of the traffic on the streets (as I should have been) Lake Park is the longest stretch of uninterrupted trail. The segregated trails exist back home, too, in Minneapolis.
Though not so rigid as the Ilsanite park, the Minneapolitan Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is almost all split into “wheeled traffic” and “biped” traffic. There are signs around the lakeshore bike trails telling walkers, “If you don’t have wheels under your feet, you’re on the wrong trail.” It’s a friendly convenience both to bikers and pedestrians. The trails are supposed to be speed limited to 10mph, but even at that speed, crashing into a walker or runner who can’t hear you shout “left side!” is going to do some damage to someone. Thus the separation allows bikers to only worry about slow pokes weaving around the bikeway in a carelessly unpredictable manner with iPods loudly obstructing their hearing, and there is almost always an opportunity to safely pass such nuisance bikers.
On the Vernon trail there is no segregation, a perfect union where all ambulation is created equal, with no special treatment or exclusion. Want to walk very slowly down the middle of the path with headphones on so you can’t hear people telling you to get out of your way? Go for it! This is America, you have that right. And so, I make my first argument in favor of segregation, but only as it applies to speed and mode of travel. It is not as though there is no space for a second two-way trail for walkers. Throughout most of the Mt. Vernon Trail there is plenty of room for separate trails, and the congestion certainly merits it. As an example of the benefits, I present my experience riding this weekend.
For some reason Saturday was the day everyone decided to wander aimlessly down the trail without really paying attention to their surroundings. I was coming up quickly behind a runner who had headphones on and shouted “left side!” from a good distance. Her reaction was to stop in her tracks and say, “where, what side!?” I’m not sure how she could be confused by “left side.” A reasonable person should assume the person saying it is behind (answering the “where”), and coming up on the left side (answering the “what side”) and then get to the right, or at least not be spooked by the biker whizzing past. To her credit, at least she heard me, dozens of others think it is perfectly acceptable to throw in the headphones and tune everything out, as the old Atmosphere line goes, “put my headphones on for this world I ignore.”
Bikers can shout “left side” at these people all we want but they won’t hear us, and sometimes will get spooked, and if they do something dangerous (like stop, or move to the left instead of the right) someone could get hurt. The point is, with segregated trails this shouldn’t happen, or is at least limited to the few points where trails merge or biped traffic meandering onto the wrong trail.
Washington and Arlington are great places to bike, but especially during busy times and around tourist attractions (which are everywhere in this town) the trails can become overly congested and therefore inconvenient and dangerous. I suspect it will be a long time before it happens, but I hope there are plans for expanding the trails around here to separate the wheeled from the non-wheeled.
Andre Francisco and I could drone on for hours lamenting a common and serious problem with fine dining establishments: the beer list. It is all too common for restaurants to have extensive wine lists, and servers knowledgable about which wines will pair well with which dishes, but have only rancid, tasteless mass market brews like Heineken, Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft in bottles at ridiculous prices. Beer remains for many restaurants a cheaper, less sophisticated drink, when there are many beers crafted with just as much care and sophistication as a vinter puts into an expensive wine.
To illustrate, Danielle and I lunched at Ristorante Piccolo in Georgetown as part of DC’s Restaurant Week. The food was delicious, and all the beverages expensive. House Wine was $8, and while there were several pages of reds, whites, rosés and champagnes, there were eleven beers on the entire menu. Among them were two Italian lagers, Miller Lite, and a healthy offering from InBev and SABMiller, all between $6-8 for a bottle. This is absurd. It’s like selling boxed wine for $6 a glass, and Three Buck Chuck for $8; no wine drinker would tolerate that. At Piccolo they even misspell the name of their best beer, Sam Adams as “Sam Adam,” it may seem like a small detail, but it’s but one in a collection of double standards and gourmet oversights.
More than the selection of beer, the presentation at these restaurants is also upsetting. While wines at these restaurants are typically delivered in the correct glass, beers are delivered in a pint glass, the same one they serve in college bars and greasy spoons. Here again, a double standard. For wine it is important for the glass to facilitate the wine’s flavor, a glass acceptable for wine drinkers; for beer, just some glass.
That tweet from Andre above pretty much sums up this whole post. Imagine a server dumping wine from the bottle into a glass, aerating it all over the place, maybe even dribbling a little on the table cloth, and in the wrong glass to boot. They would be gone faster than you could say, “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!” Yet beer gets treated like Coca-Cola: something people drink when they don’t like, or can’t drink wine.
A tripel should be served in a goblet. They look fancy because they are fancy. As BeerAdvocate’s Alström Bros say, the Tripel is “a pretty damn fascinating style of beer to say the least. If crafted and served correctly, it is a beverage of great awe.” They are brewed in a specific kind of monastery in Belgium called a “Trappist,” and by law only Trappists may brew it. Typically are extraordinarily alcoholic—think 10%—because they are brewed with three times (get it, triple?) the amount of malt normally used in an ale.
For all the same reasons why its important to serve wine properly it is also important to serve beer properly. The average drinker might not tell the difference between an India Pale Ale and an Extra Pale Ale, but an informed palate will be able to distinguish not just between the different types, but what makes one brewery’s IPA better than others. Every part of the brew process influences the flavor of the beer, and not just the ingredients, but also how they are used. The shape of the glass, and the temperature it is served at can sometimes greatly alter a beer’s flavor, just like wine.
This is not to say there are not places to get a good brew. There are, in many cities around the world, excellent restaurants with gourmet food and beers to match. For DC Beer Week (the same week as Restaurant Week) Andre, Danielle and I ventured out to Big Hunt in Dupont Circle and enjoyed half price bombers. We also went to Churchkey where we all shared a pint of Heavy Seas’s Siren Noire, a stout that tastes like the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had and the best bourbon I’ve yet to have, folded gently into an amazingly heavy and smooth stout. A must try for anyone jumping into the specialty beer foray.
No, this is just to say, that with the explosion of craft brewing across this country there are more and more people going to restaurants these days who know the difference between good and bad beers. Given the price difference, there may actually be more of us than people who can tell from wines, and it’s time restaurants gave the beer drinkers a decent option. Brewers know this, beer drinkers know it, it’s time the chefs started to pay attention. So, bring on the good beer.
A few weeks ago I created a wiki for the CETP program in hopes that CETP participants would share experiences and words of wisdom about their homes and schools in Hungary. So far few have taken up the cause, and I suspect it has something to do with time. Updating a wiki about the place you’ve lived for nearly a year, not to mention working with an unfamiliar interface takes a certain amount of energy. In fact, I haven’t even had time to make one about Kaposvár or my school and it was my idea! To solve this problem, I endeavored to pass along the burden of typing up all the important information about my school, town, and Hungary to my students, a task that was recently partially completed. Continue reading “Classroom 2.0: The Wiki Experiment”
A quick update for everyone out there. We at Munkácsy Mihály Gimnázium started an English language newspaper at our school last December. We published one issue in print and now it will continue, mostly, online. Check it out at http://munkacsytimes.wordpress.com. All the articles from our first issue are already available there, and new articles will be published all this week.
On a Friday in late autumn, I walked into my ninth grade bilingual classroom to find an interesting query scrawled across the blackboard. “What is disznóvágás in English?” My command of basic Hungarian pronunciation was still rough around the edges, and as I read the sentence aloud, I mangled the word. I waited for the students to have a good laugh at my expense before I could get a chance to ask, “What exactly is a disznóvágás?” As they explained it to me the first time, I gathered that it was a pig slaughter, but little more. Continue reading “A Legfinomabb Magyar Étel”
This past weekend, Kaposvár celebrated the Hungarian tradition of Farsang (far-shaang). The festival featured creatures known as Busó (pronounced boo-show) roaming around Kossuth square, mostly scaring children and dogs, but some also got a bit aggressive with the ladies, which was a little strange. The story of the Buso goes something like this: Continue reading “State Fair Food Pitched by Munkácsy Students”
As an English teacher living in South Korea last year, I developed a tired habit. Week after repetitive week, I mentally promised myself that I would really, truly contact local Wisconsin newspapers in search of one that might grant me the space for a column. I managed to deftly avoid 52 self-imposed deadlines, but I have finally broken the cycle of procrastination. It just took moving to Kaposvár, Hungary to finally get my act together.
Each month I write a column entitled New Beginnings: At Home and Abroad, for Sun Prairie, Wisconsin’s local newspaper, The Sun Prairie Star. This month I wrote a piece about that priceless moment in every good trip where you get swept away in a moment, and how I found that instant of genuine awe is Vienna’s National Library. You can read the rest of the article here, at the Sun Prairie Star’s website.
After a week of exploring Vienna, the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived. I was utterly swept away. The woody scent of books found its way through the chilled air to my nose as the soaring crescendos of Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier played in homage to its debut a century ago. Overhead stately figures in Grecian robes leaned over a balcony in a warmly painted fresco, and old globes with sea creatures poking out of seas begged to be spun.
Yet all of this decadent beauty was only a secondary compliment to this room’s main attraction: books. Lining shelf upon shelf stretching two stories up were the crinkled pages of books dating back hundreds of years. I was in the State Room of Austria’s National Library, one of Europe’s best, and among the books filling the shelves were pages churned out by the press over 500 years ago.