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Category Archives: hunting and gathering

>March 2011: Book Buying

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>I hadn’t been to the Kyobo bookstore in Gwanghwamun since they remodeled, so when I was in Seoul for book group on March 20, I couldn’t resist a little look-see. I had been so good all month.

As part of the upgrade, they added a particularly winsome shelf that they’ve labelled half in English and half in Korean. The English words say “Book” and “Die”, so I’m assuming the staff has amassed their selections from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I found the first two books on the above receipt there. 84 Charing Cross Road was a nice surprise, but when I saw They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? I breathed in sharply and muttered, “Omigod.” BIG score. Big, big score. As Matthew Sweet put it in one of his songs, I’ve been waiting/and I want to have you… The woman next to me said, “I know. It’s like a candy store.”

Once again, it seems that Restraint is not my middle name, but looking at the particulars of my receipt, it seems that when I go into Kyobo, I am actually another person, so I can’t be blamed for my dizzy behavior. This is entirely the work of “Suran Bylee”.


>Naked Without Salad (and Stonecrop)


I’m reading 3 books right now and I’m not terribly thrilled with any of them, so I’ll turn my attentions elsewhere — meaning to food.

My eating habits are really bad. How bad? About 8:30 in the evenings, I develop a nasty taste and a feeling that life is a little sad and ineffably difficult. I begin to wonder why I became an EFL teacher, and wonder just how it is a lesson plan is constructed. Then I look at my TBR and wonder if I’ll ever complete another book ever again. I begin to puzzle about how people manage whole novels — even short ones, like Newbery winners.

Then it hits me: Oh yeah! Sweet roll and coffee for breakfast, coffee for coffee break, coffee for lunch and another coffee for that 3-4 pm slump. Dinner? Forgotten. Upon remembering, I start out with a first course of a whole can of Pringles and a Coke and go from there to anything else readily available for consumption for the rest of the evening, pretty much in the same way the Big Bad Wolf went to each of the Three Little Pigs’ houses.

In 2011, I decided that I would not leave myself to my own boneheaded devices. So far, so good. I haven’t bought a can of Pringles or even eaten one in over a month. I banished Coke from the house but I’m allowed to drink it off the premises. Water and teas are my only beverages on hand at home. I’m also taking a new look at salad. The really green stuff. Life beyond Iceberg.

I went grocery shopping yesterday, making sure that I hadn’t eaten yet so that the nutritious stuff would look yummy beyond compare. At E-Mart, the food section is on the first level of the store. Luckily, right off the “down” escalator is the produce section. In another bit of related luck, for the past year or so, the store brand has started putting the name of the food on the package in English in small letters below the Hangul.

I studied the packaged and (allegedly) pre-washed greens:

Chard. Very green. I’ve heard it’s healthy, but the name always makes me laugh. It’s like an alternative nickname if Richard doesn’t like being called Rich or Ricky. I passed for safety’s sake. What if I started laughing while I was eating?

Leaf lettuce. Very dark green, almost greenish black. Ew. The stems were kind of woody. Ew again. But the 2011 Pringle-shunning side of myself pitched it into the cart. There’s vitamins in them there leaves and stems.

Chicory. Paler green, but still green enough and it was sort of pretty. All curly and feathery-looking. Cute name. I couldn’t remember anything about it except that in Gone With The Wind, people used chicory root for coffee when they couldn’t get the real stuff. Because it was pretty *and* made me think of GWTW, I grabbed a bag.

Endive. It looked fine. Very healthy and approachable, but the name annoyed me. I didn’t know if it was pronounced “N-Dive” or “on-deev”. How could I brag about my sudden good habits if I couldn’t pronounce what I was putting in my mouth? I didn’t buy it; but I had good intentions of consulting which pronounces the word as many times as you’d like. (I made a mental note to look and listen up “chard” while at that site.) After I’d scratched my linguistic itch, I’d pick endive up next time.

Stonecrop. This was really cute, like a plump and friendly little weed. I’d seen it somewhere before. Of course. At the Korean vegetarian restaurant down the road. I almost didn’t recognize it because when I had it at the restaurant, it was smothered in red pepper paste. There was something familiar about it, I remembered thinking. I remembered liking the texture coupled with the spicy sauce. I liked the name. All good. I added it to the cart.

So much for the greens. I added some little pinkish-red radishes to my pile. They’re very hard to find and terribly expensive. I don’t even want to tell you what I spent on a total of five little radishes, but I will — approximately $1.30 (USD). I didn’t care; I’d been missing radishes like hell. They started me thinking about Gone With The Wind again, (Scarlett gets sick after she eats a radish on an empty stomach) but I shook it off and went for a couple of carrots and cucumbers, a bag of cherry tomatoes and some button mushrooms to round out my salad.

Back at the apartment, I grabbed my biggest bowl and started washing, slicing, chopping and cutting. I’d almost forgotten how it was fun, in a sort of Zen way, to mess around with preparing food. I doused my salad with a few squirts of Wishbone Italian salad dressing, which assured me brightly on its back label that not only would it make my salad taste delicious, it would actually assist in helping me absorb more of the nutrients in the salad. Whatever. It had me at taste. I tossed the ingredients around for a couple of minutes then shoved the bowl in the refrigerator and pulled it out again 2 hours later for dinner.

Result: Nice. Maybe there was something to healthy eating after all. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the greenish-black leaf lettuce. Bitter stuff. If I were one of those people who have that extra taste bud that makes ordinary vegetables taste soapy, this would have been intolerable. What I think I’ll do with the remainder of the leaves is drown them in red pepper paste and sprinkle the mixture with some toasted sesame seeds.

I was enchanted with the interesting texture the stonecrop gave to the salad. At first bite, it seemed like it would be bitter, but then it turned some kind of gustatory corner and came across as slightly sour and peppery, not at all unpleasant. I tried a sprig of it entirely devoid of salad dressing to verify this.

What other ways were there of preparing it? Googling, I found out that stonecrop is also known as sedum, and that it’s usually used as ground cover. So that’s where else I’d seen it! Recipes? I didn’t find any, and I even visited those vegan VEGAN sites. The ones where the participants might beat the crap out of you if they saw you even glancing at an egg or a sliver of cheese.
One of the many gardening sites said that gardeners didn’t particularly have to worry about animals or children eating the attractive ground cover — it wasn’t poisonous and it didn’t taste too great, either. Finally, Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants (1919) — courtesy of the Oregon State Food Resource page — tersely allowed that “sedum” is a plant of Europe and North Asia (hey!) and “the leaves serve as a salad”. (hey again!)

Naturally, I feel very smarty and pleased with myself and very cutting-edge. I have brief fantasies about M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child asking/begging me to share my ideas with them and hazy, pleasant daydreams about the Food Network. Even though I know I’m in no way a vegetable vanguard, I’m going to have so much fun doing different things to stonecrop. Stay tuned.

>Listening To Books

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>When audiobooks started getting popular about 20 years ago, I knew I was going to be a big fan of them. After all, I had loved being read to when I was younger. Also, they seemed like a really great alternative in the car to the crap radio stations in my town. Some of my favorite titles started showing up at the local library in audiobook form, and I was all over them.

Surprisingly, I didn’t become a fan. Somewhere along the way, I had stopped liking being read to. I didn’t like the mood music on some of the tapes. I didn’t like the way the narrator “acted out” the book. In some cases, my nerves were on edge, knowing that I could read to myself faster than they were reading aloud. Out of the stack of 5-6 tapes I checked out, only one entertained me: Thinner by Richard Bachman. I don’t remember who read it, but he did a great job. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to hook me on audiobooks, and I went back to reading the other way.

Thanks to Isabella’s recent post, I’m now ready to dip my bookwormy little ears into the audiobook pool again. She’s listening to Great Expectations, read by Hugh Laurie. By coincidence, I want to do Great Expectations this year and I want to do Hugh Laurie this year…or any year. Obviously, the second part of that want is not going to happen, much to my disappointment and Mr. Laurie’s relief (if he could know), but I’m perfectly willing to once again tamp down lust and substitute literature. Having Hugh Laurie read a whole novel to me (in his natural accent, I presume, since it is Dickens) is an agreeable compromise.

Although I just got back from Seoul 5 hours ago, this calls for a road trip. I’m thinking: bookstore.

>Shameless Longing

>Sing it Garth; sing it Billy Joel —
We’ll all sing!

I’m on lead:

“I’m shameless! When it comes to loving you!
I’ll go down upon my knees,
I’ll do anything at all… “

Of course, I’m talking about my shamelessness when it comes to wanting more and more books. I went to and talked of my endless longing since I’ve moved to Korea and books written in English are in short supply in my area. (Everytime I pass a Korean bookstore, I think to myself: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”)

So far, eight people have responded to my post by offering to send m-bags! (Packages of books). Gee, what’s my new favorite letter of the alphabet? m! A bookcrosser from Arizona wrote today and said that an m-bag of 37 books are on the way as of Friday, January 29!

Thirty-seven!? 37!

That’s many more than I expected. I must’ve sounded pathetic!

Homer Simpson voice in my head: “Books……mmmmmmmm!”

Of course, these books are for both Shanghai and me. I’m not a [snort] pig. I don’t intend to keep them all, although I *love* the thought of my tiny little apartment being overrun with stacks of books everywhere!

Greedy inclinations aside, the thought of so many strangers being so good to me (but are fellow booklovers really strangers?) makes me want to be good as well — to pay the generosity back (or forward).

For example, when I get my collection decently built up again, I want to participate in “Operation Paperback” for the U.S. soldiers. I don’t like the war, but I’ve got no gripe with the soldiers themselves. They’re just doing their duty. My heart goes out to them, (especially the bookwormy ones). Many of them are right around Manfred, Jr.’s age, and that strikes a chord deep within me.