I have a "line"
Ok, so what does it take for me to write a new entry, you ask? Well, how about for starters, the dinner I had tonight. I thought I'd seen everything. I've eaten dog (sorry Lassie), been offered "pig lung and various organs" at work (none of which I've eaten), but this takes the cake. Actually, I probably shouldn't use food references here, such as "cake". You'll see why.
To bring you up to date quickly, tonight I went out to dinner with 4 Koreans. I'm giving a talk at a Health Communication conference in early September, so the orthodontist who asked me to speak invited me out to dinner with the board members of the Health Communication Academy. Sounds pretty high-end. Anyway, they just wanted me to get comfortable with some of the participants since I'll be the only English presenter at the conference.
Great. We're going out for Japanese food. Sound delish. And free. I'm thinking sushi, something that I like and no surprises. WRONG!
For the first course, they bring out a delicacy. Sort of like caviar in the U.S., I imagine. Well, it's baby octopus. And the problem, really, is that it's still alive. That's right. It's chopped into little pieces, about an inch or so long (except for the head, which is intact, complete with eyeballs). So, it's wiggling all over the place. And they want me to eat it like that. And they want ME to try it first, as the guest of honor. Well, I've heard of this phenomenon in Korea, and I've even had friends that have tried it. But I've never seen it. Tonight was my first time. So I had no idea what my reaction would be. Keep in mind, I'm in the presence of 40+ year old medical doctors, nurses, and Ph.D's. A little intimidating. And they're telling me to go ahead and eat it, it's a Korean specialty. Well folks, I couldn't do it. They're all staring at me, proudly, like "go ahead, we got you the best", "try it". And I tried to be polite about it, but I think my aversion was obvious. So I laugh nervously and say "Wow. I don't know how to eat this, why don't you show me" (all the while hoping that the wiggling and the "living" stops). So the one woman tries to show me. She tries to pick up one of the tentacles with her chopsticks. This thing is moving all over the plate like it's at a disco. She has to use a spoon to get the little guy. Anyway, after she shows me, I just continue laughing nervously and trying not to vomit all over. I'm not kidding, I was trying not to gag. And I say "I think I have to wait until it dies first....haha....no, really". So luckily another plate of raw fish shows up (dead) so I sort of distract everyone buy playing dumb and asking how to eat the tuna sashimi (which I know damn well how to eat), and it worked! No one noticed that I wasn't trying the live octopus. I mean, I was really in a pickle (god, another food reference). It's almost like saying "God, your culture is disgusting!" if you react in a certain way. I wouldn't have a problem doing that with my Korean friends, but these were new people (and sort of in important positions) so it was really hard for me.
The rest of the dinner was amazing (I can do raw, just not alive). There were at LEAST 6 courses. Mostly raw fish, mussels, seafood stew, king crab, chicken, finally fruit and tea...I kept thinking the dinner was over but it lasted for 3 hours. I was able to take a picture on my cell phone of something I've never seen. It was raw top-grade tuna (that actually was so dark red that it looked like raw beef) and it had slivers of real GOLD on it. No joke. The only thing I can compare it to are the slivers of gold in Goldschlager liquor. The tuna is called Hon Maguro in Japanese. I love tuna, actually, so I ate it. One of the doctors with us was a cardiologist who reassured me that the gold was safe to eat. It was pretty good. So here's some photos of this tuna. In the photos the tuna looks brown, but it was just that dark red. (My cell phone doesn't have the best picture quality).
I hope my stomach is okay tomorrow. Lots of raw. Nothing live though. I've found my line!
Enough of this "being open to the culture".