I have two suitcases lying in the middle of my room, not yet unpacked.
What’s the point, when I’ll be flying back to the East Coast this coming Sunday night?
So that’s my good news: I’ve been offered a summer internship with WORLD Magazine!! For four weeks, I’ll be living at the editor-in-chief’s house in Asheville, N.C., where I’ll be personally trained to be a better writer and editor.
I didn’t know this, but World Journalism Institute’s summer program is also kind of a recruitment center. I’m one of the two lucky individuals chosen to work closely with WORLD Magazine’s editors at WORLD’s central location in Asheville. I’m just so honored to be given this opportunity.
The other intern is Chelsea Kolz, an adorable 5-feet-tall Baptist girl from Upstate New York with a beautiful gift for crafting words together into poetic prose.
That’s us. Two interns, from two completely different worlds, working for one publication. We’re gonna be roommates for the four weeks in Asheville. And oh my Lord—it’s gonna rock.
I’m excited beyond words. I can’t wait to learn and grow as a journalist and as a Christian. Another thing I’m excited about is that the editor-in-chief, Marvin Olasky, wants me to write a long-form article on eating disorders—and you know how passionate I am about that subject.
So. My plane ticket to Asheville is booked. A rental car at Asheville is also booked for Chelsea and me. The two suitcases lying in the middle of my room is—well, packed and a daily reminder to me about exciting things to come.
However, during my research on Asheville, I found out that it’s got a demographic of 0.3% Asian. There goes my promise to the Olaskys that I’ll be cooking Korean food for them. I’m guessing there ain’t gonna be a single Korean supermarket there, and I think the only “Asian” eateries in Asheville is going to be Chinese fast food and California rolls.
So I’ve been eating a lot more Korean food lately to make up for the next four weeks. I had an indoor picnic of kimbap with my buddy Tracy; I’ve been binging on kimchi; I’ve been making tteokbokki (떡볶이) at home; today I had another Korean dinner with my blogger friend Hester.
Hester and I have been trying to get a meal together for more than a year now. She lives in Irvine—about an hour-and-a-half’s drive away from Los Angeles—so we just haven’t had the chance to meet up. But today, she happened to be in Los Angeles for her graduate program’s orientation, so I invited her to join me in Koreatown.
Turns out this Asian girl is a Twinkie! She has an Italian boyfriend so she knows all about Italian food; the girl makes her own fresh pasta at home. But she knows little about Korean food, which made me excited to share my mother cuisine with her.
After debating all the choices open to us, we finally decided on Mountain Cafe, an obscure hole-in-the-wall Korean eatery on 8th Street. It’s this tiny 5-table room run by two middle-aged Korean ladies that is known for their home-style porridges that will cure whatever sniffles you have.
The menu is compact. All it offers is a couple porridges and a few familiar Korean stews. Nothing exciting for a Korean, but it’s been a while since I’ve had home cooked Korean food so my stomach started growling the moment we walked in and took a whiff of that pungent kimchi and steaming chicken.
I recommended the Sam Gye Tang for Hester:
It’s whole chicken stuffed with sweet rice, jujube, ginger, garlic and ginseng, boiled in its own juices and fat. This pot was served hot and bubbling in a clay pot, with fresh-chopped scallions sprinkled all over.
Can you believe it? This whole chicken dish for less than $11. When I looked into the kitchen, I saw rows of whole cornish hen sitting next to the sink to be washed and stuffed. I tried to take a picture of it but got yelled at by one of the Korean ladies. They’re so scary.
You don’t eat it just as. You need to grab a spoon and break open the belly of the chicken and release all the yummy contents inside. Stir the rice into the broth and slurp it up like rice congee.
Also, don’t eat it without using the salt-and-pepper seasoning they provide you, or it’ll be bland like fat-free rice pudding! I get pissy when people complain to me about the “bland” Korean dish they had. Korean food is never supposed to be bland. If it’s bland, then you’re not doing something right.
“Dda ro” literally means “separate” in Korean, which means the soup and rice comes separate from each other. Although the flavors are very familiar to me, I had no idea it was called that until today. I guess I learned something about Korean food too!
The broth was supposed to be spicy, but it wasn’t spicy at all for me. Perhaps I should have made it clear to the ladies that I wanted it ASAP: as spicy as possible.
I had a great time with Hester, jumping from one random topic to the other. I don’t think we stopped talking the whole two hours or so we were together. I have so much more about Los Angeles and Korean food to introduce to Hester, so I’m super glad she’ll be commuting to Los Angeles several times a week next semester. We have lots more to catch up on, girl!
Don’t think I’ll be back to Mountain Cafe though. Service was terrible. Just a warning.
This post reminded me of something.
I was playing a game called “Would You Rather” with my friends and brother last Sunday. They got most of the questions for me right, except for one. That question was: “Would you rather not be able to dine in a restaurant for the rest of your life, or not be able to eat your top 10 favorite foods for the rest of your life?”
All my friends, including my dear ol’ brother, thought I would pick “not be able to eat your top 10 favorite foods.” They were wrong. I’d rather not eat out at all than not be able to eat my top 10 favorite foods forever. I just didn’t realize good kimchi is one of them.
So here’s my question to you too: Would you rather not be able to dine in a restaurant for the rest of your life, or not be able to eat your top 10 favorite foods for the rest of your life? What food would you die without?