Driving in The District

I hate driving in DC. I hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Good Man drove in DC for the first time tonight (excluding during his driving lessons) and I think he’s a better city (or at least District) driver than I am.

When I make a wrong turn, I flip out and get stressed. Even at night, Good Man just shrugs and says, “It’s OK. We have GPS. We’ll get there eventually.”

Thank God. He can drive in the District. I’ll be the passenger.

Keep the Book

“Amanda,” the school librarian said, “will you be the teacher representative on the book committee in case a parent challenges a book?”

“Sure, but my answer is going to be ‘keep the book’ no matter what the book is about.”

“I thought so. That’s why I asked.”

Twelve Gallons of Kimchi

“Amanda!” Mother said, the way she does, “You should not make kimchi. It is too time-consuming. You should just buy it.”

“Kimchi in the store has MSG in it.”

“Only a little bit, it’s OK,” Mother said.

“If I want to eat MSG, I will eat ramyeon noodles.”

“Amanda! No ramyeon! No cola! Soju and kimchi! But hey, kimchi is too hard. You should just buy it.”

“Mother, tomorrow you will go to church and tell everyone ‘Oh, my foreign daughter-in-law makes kimchi! She is a good wife!'”

Mother nodded and laughed, “Amanda is very smart. Oh, don’t use sugar. Use Asian pears. It is healthier.”

Good Wife
Photo by Diana

***
Diana and I made kimchi for eight hours with just a short break for lunch. What did the menfolk do? Play video games, hang out on their computers, and run to the store for leeks and garlic.

See, when I have made kimchi in the past, I have made normal amounts.

Diana and I, however, did not make normal amounts. And thus we needed more leeks and garlic.

***
“What did you talk about when we were at store?” Good Man asked me.

“Oh, work, money, people we don’t like.”

Good Man nodded, “Just like real ajumma.”

Real Ajummas
Photo by Min Gi

***
We started off easy, slicing up four heads of cabbage to make regular (easy) kimchi the way my mother-in-law showed me. While that batch was soaking (in a huge bowl—just like real ajummas would use), we started off on some easier dishes. Diana made stuffed cucumber kimchi and I made regular cucumber kimchi, very lightly spiced.

The first batches, while easy, took a bit of time. But then we pretty much had the pepper paste recipe down and it started being “손맛” (hand flavor).

We tried to rinse the cabbage leaves off in the bowl but soon realized my kitchen sink was just too small. That’s how we ended up in the bathroom. The bowl was so large we had to tilt it to get it into the bathroom!

Big Bowl of Cabbage

We worked together to rinse the cabbage while Min Gi took pictures. “Oh, two ladies are in the bathtub playing with cabbage.”

Two Ladies in the Bathtub Playing with Cabbage
Photo by Min Gi

We’d made a perfect amount of paste and mixing it in was rather fun, even if we had to sit on my kitchen floor to get it done. We packed the kimchi into canning jars and discovered that…we had a whole lot of kimchi.

Mixing in the Paste
Photo by Min Gi

Kimchi is often made in a more time-consuming way. Instead of slicing the leaves up, you soak the cabbages in brine until the stem is soft and then stuff the kimchi paste between the leaves.

I had soaked three heads of cabbage overnight and we decided to give it a try. After two half-heads, we got the method down. We even got the “rolling” part of it down pat. We packed 10-liter containers with kimchi!

Then we made radish kimchi and Chinese chive kimchi.

Finally, we put the paste away and made white kimchi.

By the time dinner rolled around, we had made over 12 gallons (45 liters) of kimchi. Diana and I stood there, laughing over the amount of kimchi we’d made. We also decided that next time we’re using her mother’s kitchen!

Seven Varieties of Kimchi

We’d used eight heads of cabbage and we’d made
– Stuffed cucumber kimchi (오이소박이)
– Cucumber kimchi (오이김치)
– Easy (quick) kimchi (쉬운김치)
– Hard (traditional) kimchi (천천히 김치)
– White kimchi (백김치)
– Radish kimchi (깍두기 김치)
– Chinese chive kimchi (부추김치)

Good Man’s suggestion that we work together was great. We couldn’t’ve made half the amount in the same amount of time working alone. Plus, it was a lot of fun to argue about the ingredients and chit-chat while we were working.

Ajummas
Photo by Min Gi

We tested the kimchi with dinner. Min Gi took a bite and grinned, “Oh! This is very good! This is delicious!”

I brought two one-quart jars to work and gave one each to my Korean coworkers. Today one of them reported back, “Oh! Amanda! Store kimchi is very spicy and very salty. Yours is very spicy and not salty. It it very good! Your husband must be happy.”

I think now we can both truly claim the “ajumma” title.

***

Kimchi Making Album

A Box of Cabbage and a Newly Minted Ajumma

“Hello, Ajumma One, this is Ajumma Two,” said Diana over the phone.

“Ajumma Two, I have a box of cabbage.”

Autumn is kimchi-making season in Korea. I’ve been wanting to make kimchi for a month or so now and decided to do so this weekend. At Good Man’s advice, I invited Diana and Min Gi over for a Sunday kimchi-making session.

Saturday, Good Man and I went shopping for the ingredients. I picked up four cabbages and headed over to the housewares section to get some charcoal (to absorb the scent of the kimchi). I asked the ajumma in housewares for charcoal in Korean. She didn’t understand me, so I explained I needed it for kimchi.

Charcoal

She understood and showed me two different boxes of charcoal. “This one is cheaper for more, you buy this.” My kind of woman! She spied the four heads of cabbage in our cart and said, “No, you can get a box of cabbage. Go ask, it’s cheaper.”

OK, she said the magic word: cheaper.

We were unsure of what kind of cucumbers we needed for the kimchi and I figured she’d know, so I asked, and she went on about how I had the right kind and what to do. Entirely in Korean.

We put the cabbage back and I asked the cashier for a box of cabbage in Korean. She looked at me and nodded knowingly before saying in Korean, “Are you making kimchi? Oh, you like kimchi? Kimchi is so delicious. Kimchi is so healthy. Wait for a minute, please…”

Usually when I speak Korean to the employees of HMart, the employees look surprised and humor me, but yesterday? Yesterday was different. It’s like buying a box of cabbage to make kimchi made me cross a threshold and now I’m one of them and thus it’s completely appropriate to speak Korean to me.

And how big is a box of cabbage? Our box ended up being nine heads of Napa cabbage for $12. We’re going to be making a lot of kimchi.

A Box of Cabbage

Gardening

I pulled my peppers up today. Those water nannies certainly seemed to have worked to me, and the roots grew around them, which proves to me that they were getting water.

Pepper Plant Roots Around the Clay Stake

Rooted Stakes

Roots Near the Stake Site

Several weeks ago, Good Man and I saw a squirrel on the porch. It was a surprise to both of us since we’d never seen one there.

Today I found a sprouting acorn and another acorn deep down in the pots. Good Man said, “The squirrel left them!” Funny, I’d thought the same thing.

Acorn

I cut some Thai basil (left) and dill (right) seeds from my garden and I hope they’ll grow. I’m not sure if either variety was a hybrid, but I figure I’ll plant them and if worse comes to worse, just buy the seeds (dill) and transplants (Thai basil) as needed in the spring.

Seeds Harvested from my Garden

I also made a pint of pickled (refrigerator) peppers today. We’ll see if I like these.

Pickled Peppers

This is Why I Don’t Speak Better Korean

Diana’s husband, Min Gi, and Good Man get along well. They met last year, and Min Gi, Good Man, and Sister (who was still here post-wedding) went out together. Min Gi and Good Man have gone out alone together. As such, Diana and I joke that our husbands are boyfriends.

Our husband-boyfriends have a man-date tomorrow. Min Gi called while Diana and I were chatting online.

Amanda: Is he calling his boyfriend? This very minute?

Diana: Sounds like it.

Amanda: 예.
예.
예예.
어.
예.
예.
어.

예.
예.
예~~~.
예예.

Other than the opening 여보세요 that was the entire part of the conversation from my husband’s end.

And I wonder why I’ve lost so much of my Korean. This is how Good Man communicates. Through yes.

Bowling Ajummas

Last night Diana and Min Gi were in our area of town (loosely, when you live an hour away from each other, it’s all relative), so they popped in for a visit.

(My thought when I read the email at work was Good Man, vacuum the floor!)

The boys played basketball while Diana and I commiserated over reverse culture shock. We had dinner together at the Korean-Chinese place near our house.

As is often the case with Diana, we started chatting about money. We’re money Buddies. Diana and I have the same profession in the same area and we have the same level of experience. As such, our pay and expenses are similar. Furthermore, we have similar ideas about money. While we were comparing retirement amounts mandated by our respective counties, I said to the gentlemen, “By the way, in America most people don’t talk about money like we do.”

Good Man nodded, “Yeah, you two are ajummas.”

It’s true.

We went bowling together and played three games, ajummas against ajosshis. Ajummas beat ajosshis two games out of three! And I beat Good Man two games out of three. I averaged 116 over three games, which is amazing for me.

Ajumma power!

If You Believe…

…they put a man on the moon—man on the moon!

Last week I read a very simple children’s book, 우산 하나로 달에 가 볼까? (Roughly, Can you Take an Umbrella to Go to the Moon?)

A girl gets a letter from the rabbits on the moon, inviting her to visit them beneath the tree. (Enter automatic confusion.) She thinks of rice cakes. (Why?) Someone (a bird? her imagination?) says, “But there’s a big problem. How will you go?”

“It’s OK, I’ll walk.”

“But there’s a big problem. It’s raining.”

“It’s OK, I’ll use an umbrella.”

And so on the bird and girl go through rain, a tornado, a clear sky, falling in the river, meeting a family of crocodiles, climbing a mountain, reaching the cliff-like top of the mountain, the clouds dissipating, and sliding down a rainbow. Where she meets the rabbits under the tree.

And then eats rice cakes.

“I am so confused,” I said to Good Man, “how come she never visits the moon? Why is she eating rice cake?”

“Oh, she’s eating rice cake with the moon rabbits.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We believe, in Korea, that there is a rabbit in the moon making rice cakes.”

I blinked at Good Man. “How come I’ve read so many stories in Korean and never heard this one before?”

He shrugged. “I dunno, we think there is moon rabbit, not man.”