September 6, 2010
Making Korean galbi and kimchi for my parents today reminded me of something. Something you should probably know about me.
I have eaten gaegogi.
Look it up.
It was made in a dish called bosintang by my landlady when we lived in Korea back in 2002-2003. We happened to be living there when Korea hosted the FIFA World Cup back in 2002, which is sort of a huge deal over there. It was kinda like when Atlanta hosted the Olympics.
We didn't live in an area of town where a lot of Americans lived. We sort of didn't want to. We chose to live like the Romans, so to speak, so most of our neighbors were Korean. We got to know them pretty well. We hung out with them; our kids played together; we had barbecues together and went to parties, all that stuff.
During one of the World Cup games, when Korea was playing somebody important (I don't remember), there was a HUGE block party in our neighborhood. Sorta like the equivalent of tailgaiting at a football game. Somebody pulled one of those big ass 52" big screen TVs out into the street. They literally blocked off our whole street to have this party. Kids out playing, soju flying, folks screamin' and hollerin' at the TV, ribs on the BBQ......and gaegogi in a big black pot simmering down on the street. I knew exactly what it was. You can't miss the legs stickin' out.
I hear the jokes all the time. The jokes about Chinese food restaurants. The jokes people like to tell when they've found out I've lived in Korea. What most people don't understand is that gaegogi is a delicacy. And it is EXPENSIVE. You are not going to *accidentally* or *secretly* be fed this.....EVER. Even in Korea, you have to know someone who knows someone to find a restaurant willing to serve this to a foreigner. And to be invited to a party where this is being served and offered a plate? You better be somebody special!
So, Ms. Ana, my landlady, gave me a little advance notice of what was going on so that I could make up my mind privately as to whether or not I wanted to try it. She even brought a bowl to our house so that we could have an opportunity to try it without being stared at by 50 Koreans all waiting with bated breath for our reaction. Needless to say, I felt incredibly honored. Incredibly honored.
Basically, it's nothing more than a stew with Korean seasonings and vegetables. Sarge, the boys, and I all passed the bowl around. All four of us ate it. My kids were 5 and 7 at the time. We told them exactly what it was and let them make up their own minds.
Ms. Ana's only request was if we didn't finish it or didn't like it, that we return the leftovers to her. Like I said, it's not easily come by regardless of what ignorant foreigners like to think.
So, we ate it. We didn't just taste it like a kid touching a piece of Brussels sprout with the tip of his tongue. We ATE it. For real. The kids just kinda shrugged their shoulders in a "big deal" kind of way and ran off to play some more. Chris and I were really surprised at how NORMAL it tasted. It was a bit greasy. It's MUCH more tender than venison. Actually, if I had the choice between the two, I'd take the gaegogi in a heartbeat.
But here's the shameful part. Being the twisted mother fuckers that we are, we couldn't resist the urge to see what our precious little Basset hound thought of the whole affair. Yes. We tried to feed it to our dog. I mean, COME ON! She sitting there salivating at our feet, whining like a rusty washing machine. What were we supposed to do? I am, however, pleased to say that Sammie retained her dignity. She took one whiff of the big chunk of compadre dangling from the fork and bolted.
Good for you, Sammie. Good for you.