Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sleepover at Grandma's

I had mentioned a quick trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house we had taken earlier and, in fact, those types of trips are about all I had ever done before. So it was a fun change of pace to have a sleepover at the farm. I also mentioned my amazement at how many random buildings they have on their property. Here are some pictures of a few of them. The first one is the house they live in, the second is where they cook, work, and eat, and then after that my best guess is storage.

They used to run a mill, although I think that was on a different portion of their property. Now, several companies just pay them money to use their buildings and property for storage.

They do maintain a large amount of fruits and vegetables in their garden, however. More on that later.

When we arrived, our first task was to pull off the prime sesame leaves from the stems. Typically, these would then be soaked in a seasoned soy sauce mixture, but this time around Grandma mixed things up a bit by dipping them in batter and then frying them.

Our appetizer was potato pancakes with freshly harvested potatoes from the garden.

Then came the main course - a delicacy Changmonim had picked up on her way over.

This eight-legged guy wasn't nearly as questionable as the three-legged octopi that Koreans like to eat while they are still living. That's one food I still haven't mustered up the courage to eat... I mean, can you think of a more lethal choking threat? A large squishy living clump with the ability to suction onto your tongue on the way down?

Present in several of the dishes was garlic, shown here drying out in front of one of the abandoned buildings.

But the specialty of Grandma's farm is hot peppers. At this point in the season, they're still green, but some of them still pack quite a punch.

The picture below shows the final layout of the food. I took another picture since someone's hand got in the way of this one, and then I realized that the inclusion of the hand was a much more accurate portrayal of a Korean meal. All the food is in the center and everyone's hands and chopsticks are flying across the table at all times (rather than ask someone to pass something, all the food stays stationary and you simply grab things a bite at a time).

Despite her lack of interest in alcohol, Joo was very interested to learn how to make makgeolli, a traditional drink that combines fermented rice and wheat. Grandma had a special ingredient of course (what Grandma doesn't?) that made this makgeolli rather unique.

We all slept on the floor, coming in and out of sleep, with the TV on until someone clicked it off around 3:00 am. Those who were awake talked freely and people just took naps as needed. Grandma showed off her yoga skills (which were amazing - they included doing a complete 180 degree splits and then touching her head to the ground) and we all took turns trying out the brutal massage chair. There were only three buttons - I knew the first one said power and so I pressed it to turn it on. The second one determined the strength of the massage, so of course I adjusted it to "Strong" and enjoyed the pounding for a bit. The third one had some characters I wasn't familiar with and so I just pressed it to experiment. From now on, I will always remember the Korean characters for "Prostate."

The next morning, I heard Grandma and Grandpa leave the house around 6:30 am, so I followed. There was a monk dressed in gray robes outside waiting to meet with them. Apparently, the monks occasionally use their property for some ceremonies. After the monk left, I walked all around the property with Changmonim gathering some kind of plant (meong?) It's funny... many times when we gather plants here to eat, I'll focus on the wrong part. For instance, when gathering the meong, I was trying to arrange all the leaves for us to eat. Changmonim saw me, laughed, and snipped off several of the leaves and threw them on the ground. The edible part is the stem. Other times it's the root, the leaves, the flower, or a combination thereof.

However, I'm not a complete idiot. When it came to the bottled water (below), I knew exactly which portion to consume.

Above, I had mentioned how my grandparents here have been able to maintain a large garden (a surprisingly large one given their age of almost 90). This was always a mystery to me since I knew they didn't have hired hands. Another thing I had often thought about was the groups of grandmas I often saw working off the side of the road doing menial tasks. A couple days ago, Joo was talking about how her Grandma is really exhausted and I tried to cheer her up by saying, "Well, at least she doesn't have to do minimum wage manual labor like the grandmas we always see working out in the hot sun." Joo laughed and said, "You mean pumashi?"

Pumashi (shown below): yet another part of Korean culture that I had often witnessed but never understood. JooYeon explained to me that pumashi is kind of the Korean farmer equivalent of Amish barnraising. Whenever it is time to plant or harvest some crops, a farmer calls up all of his or her neighbors (many times older people these days since the younger ones own equipment) and they all help each other. Funny how a simple change of perspective made all the difference... now when I see the groups together it seems much more beautiful. That said, I still see a lot of senior citizens working manual labor in a way which is obviously not pumashi. Part of it is the awkward transition from elderly people living with their eldest son (less common as Korean society grows more individualized) to retirement homes (still uncommon since they are viewed as horrible places for "rejected" elders). Somewhere in between is the struggle of older people to survive on their own without the help of their children but without checking into a center. Of course, these are all my own perceptions - any corrections from Koreans reading the blog would be welcome!

No comments:

Post a Comment