Taste Test Tuesday- Lemon Birthday Cake

I used to like to cook.  I liked it when I had my mom’s pantry to raid, which was kept well stocked with basics, and special ingredients would appear if I requested them.  I liked it when I knew the names of ingredients I was working with.  I liked it when I could follow a recipe, but I also I liked it when I my substituting experiments came out delicious.  It was a stress relief for me.

These days, I need extra patience to attempt a kitchen adventure.  I’m lucky to find the basic ingredients that my mom kept so well stocked.  Forget anything special.  I do a lot of substitutions, but not with happy results.  On the chance that I decide to follow a recipe from my Korean cook book, I’m lucky if following the recipe yields a success because the ingredients are a mystery to me.  And if supplies are available, I still have the hurdle of a 6 inch tall gas oven in front of me.  Flatbread, anyone?

Sometimes, I think something is delicious only to find it’s too sweet for any of my Korean associates.  Sometimes, I think something has no taste only to find out that my Korean associates would like to take it home and share it with their families.

With these things in mind, I decided to bake my boyfriend a birthday cake, even though I could buy one at the store that would be presentable and fit his taste buds.  That’s because he’s the best and I knew no matter how my cake turned out, he would appreciate it.  And maybe we would laugh together as we ate it anyway.  We’re both good at eating bad food.

I had lemons in my fridge, (incidentally USA grown lemons- home grown, haha!) so I decided lemon cake was the way to go.  I put a lemon and my little bottle of vanilla in my backpack to make the 1 and 1/2 hour trek to an oven that I knew I could use.  (Hello, church!)

If I ever move to a new dwelling in Korea, I would be willing to pay extra and compromise on missing space in order to have an oven.

The first lemon cake recipe that came up on my go-to cooking app, Yummly, had the simplest ingredients I’ve seen in a while.  That’s the problem with cooking apps, everyone’s trying to impress.

This Lemon Cake was my baking experiment.  First, I melted butter like the recipe said.  One thing I lament about butter here is that the sticks don’t come with the measurements printed on the wrapper.  So I planned on just melting an estimated amount of butter, then measuring.

Next I prepared my lemon by taking what I thought was a zester tool, and vigorously peeling the skin off my lemon.  Turns out that tool was actually for making juice or for grating dry ingredients.  All my precious zest was just stuck on the little grater knives, and not coming off.  Because I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasted a little more zest before switching to a regular fine cheese grater.  Lemon zest juice, anyone?

When I got to the stage of dumping everything in, of course I forgot to measure the melted butter.  It all went in.

Finally, instead of using a big round pan, I used cupcake tins.  I normally would just use oil on the pan instead of cupcake papers because who wants to waste any cake because it’s stuck to the paper?!  Not to mention wasting paper on cake.  But I put papers in this time to be more presentable.  Happy accident- the cake separated perfectly from the paper!  Either the Korean papers are amazing, or I really put too much butter.

The end product was delicious.  Knowing my mistake, I’ve kept the butter thing a secret and no one has said anything because they’re too busy eating cake!  The taste wasn’t affected too much because my lemon zest juice was so strong, but the texture is somewhere between a lemon bar and a cake. They also came out quite flat- no rise like a cupcake at all- so I dusted the tops with powdered sugar and decided to put ice cream on top.

Bonus, my coworkers/taste testers at church gave the thumbs up of approval before I took my boyfriend’s cupcakes home.  I admit I tried it too, and when my boyfriend and I ate cake together later to celebrate, he ate two.  I guess we’re even!

Taste Test Tuesday – Apple Drinking Yoghurt (사과 드링킹 요구르트)

I thought it was apple flavored milk.  It was in the milk section of the convenience store, right next to coffee, chocolate, strawberry, and watermelon.  Hey, if they have watermelon milk, why not apple?  I’m still working up the courage to buy the watermelon though, because it comes in a bottle and not a carton.  What if I get stuck with a whole bottle of disgusting milk?  Watermelon is not an easily camouflaged flavor, and neither is the Pepto-Bismol pink color.  But curiosity is not just a killer of cats.

So now I’ve bought the apple milk and on closer inspection at home, I realize it is not, in fact, milk.  It’s yoghurt.  I was looking for something different to try anyway.  Mission over accomplished.  

푸르밀’s Apple drinking yoghurt looks like off-white milk.  At 7% apple juice, it’s sweet, with the sour yoghurt flavor also present.  It’s kind of the consistency of milk, but with a different texture.  Slightly slimier, but not in a terrible way.  Just youghurty sliminess.  

It’s pretty good just drinking it, which was how I intended to drink the milk.  I wish I had a blender because I think it would be delicious in a milkshake or smoothie.  It would probably be good on cereal as well but I haven’t eaten that in years.  Maybe it’s time to buy some Cheerios.  
So basically it’s milk with the health benefits of yoghurt.  Delicious and nutritious.  

  

How to get English for free

I’m walking to the bus stop because it’s finally a decent day after all the cold and freezing and wet that is winter.  Finally, I can walk with just a light jacket.  I have my headphones in, not loud enough to thoroughly enjoy but quiet enough to hear a motorbike come up behind me on the sidewalk.  Safety first.

Except it’s not a motorbike that comes up behind me.  It’s a regular bike.  And the guy pushing it is yelling “excuse me” at me like I’m thoroughly enjoying my music.  Which I’m not so he’s really loud.

Usually I humor strangers on the street, and I’m still hopeful it will turn out to be a good thing someday.   I’m optimistic.

I keep walking but I take my headphones out to be polite, and he starts in, pushing his bike and walking just far enough behind me that I have to turn my head uncomfortably to make eye contact.   “I saw you walking.  I see you are foreigner.”

I reply, but not in English.  Something about being pointed out as foreign is not impressive enough to give him what he wants.  So I say, in Korean, “Are you Korean?”

Sometimes it’s not safe to reply in a language different from what a stranger speaks to you.  Part of me was hoping that he was not Korean and he might recognize that I was putting him in a box, just like he had done to me a second ago.

Alas.  He is Korean, understands me perfectly, and has no idea that his greeting has rubbed me the wrong way.  He is also nervous and probably has planned what he is going to say next because he is already saying it.

“We can be friends!  You can teach me English and I can be your friend.”

I have a sliver of benefit of the doubt to grant him.  Maybe he just sucks at English and is meaning to make a polite request, but can’t.

I decide to switch to English to prove to him that I am an English master.  “What do you do?”  If he wants to be my friend, maybe a friendly conversation can bring out the best of him.

“I am a student.  I go to school and I play music at night.  I play guitar!  But I have no money.  Stop stop stop stop, I live up there.  (pointing to a side street we just passed)  Are you married?  If we are married, we can’t meet.”

I stop walking but keep my distance.  He closes it.  I decide full disclosure is best.  “I’m not married, but I have a boyfriend.  I think we should not meet anyway.”

I expect awkward silence but there is none because he’s talking again.

“Good, if you are married we can’t meet.  Boyfriend is okay.  We can meet in a coffee shop and you can teach me.  I will be your friend.”

“No.”  There’s the awkward silence.  “I work for a church.  You live up there?  The church is close by.  At the church, I teach a beginning English class.  If you want to learn English, you can come to the class.  Everyone is welcome.”

“Okay, but I want to meet you so yo…

“No.  I’m very busy.”

“Kakao talk ID give me.”  The equivalent of getting my phone number, except that he doesn’t get my actual phone number and I can block him much easier if I need to.

I put my ID in his phone.  I figure I will remind him about the church English class later.

He finally lets me go on my way after some more denied friend requests, and I pretty much end up just walking away.

This happens to me often, and I usually offer that I work for a church that has a service in both English and Korean, and they can speak to me there.  But what I would really like to tell them is that:

  1. A foreigner is not for sale by friendship.  We have our own friends already.  If you want me to do something free for you, do my grocery shopping.
  2. A foreigner might teach English… FOR MONEY.  Why do you think we will give a stranger free lessons?
  3. Please don’t ask the invasive questions that are okay in Korean culture but taboo in many others.  Ergo, are you married, how old are you, do you have kids, how much do you weigh?  All of which have been enquired of me by a stranger.

But here’s what you can do.

  1. Say hello (English language check), and strike up a conversation if you’d like to practice.  Good questions are: Where are you from, how long have you been in Korea, what do you like about it, etc.  Want to be friends?  Be interested in us instead of what we can give you.  At the end say it was nice to meet you and ask for contact information.  For example, “It was nice to talk to you.  Do you want to get coffee sometime?  I know this awesome cafe that I take all my friends to.”  See what I did there?  Magic, you’re friends now.  By making a friend, we will be teaching you de facto through conversation.

May I point out that if you already have a foreign friend, at NO POINT in the friendship is it okay to request us to teach you English.  No matter how good of friends we are.  It always turns the friendship into a used-user relationship.

Be more specific in your request: ask nicely for us to explain a certain phrasal verb, or ask for clarification of past perfect tense for your upcoming test.   And if you have a report or something you want me to help with, you do all the work and I happy to help you by checking it.

More recently, while on vacation in the U.S. I received a text message from an acquaintance.  “Katie, when your English class?”

I explained I don’t teach a class at the moment- it’s summer- and besides that I was gone for 2 weeks.

“Okay but I want to learn English.”

I left it at no response until I notified him of my return to Korea.  Suddenly, he shows up at my work place- with a notebook, ready to study.

I asked if he had a textbook.  No.  Did he study on his own?  Yes.  How?  Nothing.  Why did he want to learn English?  English is important for getting jobs these days, so he needed a good test score.  He confessed he forgot what he learned in school.

I led the conversation into what he had done during the summer, and what he was going to do this month.  He had some travel plans that were interesting to talk about, so it lasted for a while.  But then I broke the news.

I was currently working, and that did not involve tutoring him on work time.  Nor would it ever, but if the church held a class again, I would be sure to let him know.  He could attend an academy that would provide structure, a book, and people to study with.  Or he could pay me to tutor him at the going rate- 40,000 an hour.  I also had a professional tutor friend who would gladly take him on for 60,000.

He looked sheepish when I said I was working.  He looked hopeful when I said I would let him know if there was a new beginning English class.  But then he looked distant when I suggested an academy, and he looked angry when I stated my rate.

I’m not sorry.  I am sorry that expectations on foreigners seem to be out of whack.

Koreans, is it common to use friends like this?  Should I know that this is normal?

Fellow Waygooks, how do you handle these awkward conversations?