Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Breakfast Story

I have been now in Korea a long time. A very long time. During that time I have learned to accept any number of things about Korea. One thing that I abandoned long ago was my love of breakfast. Breakfast does not exist in Korea. Breakfast in Korea is usually a spicy soup, meat, rice, kim (seaweed), and kimchi; or just rice and kimchi if you are a simple Korean. I like breakfast. When I lived in the states I was fond of toast for breakfast. I can buy bread in Korea, sure, but a toaster is almost sixty bucks and I did not feel the need to spend that much money on a toaster. 

There was one year where I decided I like toast enough that I would make it on my stove top. Perhaps you have done so before while camping or if your toaster was in the shop. Me, I did it because I like toast and there was no toaster in my apartment but there was an electric range at the time; as an aside, electric ranges suck. I would wake up early for work, boil a pot of water for my coffee and then while the stovetop was still hot I'd make toast. It was okay toast, but it was stovetop toast. It wasn't really ideal. It did not inspire in my a feeling of satisfaction, so I eventually abandoned the practice and developed a new breakfast. 

For the past three years now breakfast has been as follows: half a cup of strawberry yogurt (god bless Yoplait for selling in Korea), a slice of processes cheese (I'm allergic to the real stuff and there is no milk to be found in the processed stuff), and nine no-salt crackers (think Saltines only delicious). Add a cup of coffee (instant of course, I do live in Korea). Breakfast. It worked. It gave me the little bit of kick in the morning to get me to lunch and it felt like breakfast. Granted it's not a great breakfast, but it's something.
I'm a fan of breakfast I admit. I would love to be able to sit down and have some egg-beaters French toast with fake sausages. Or maybe some tofuda egg burritos, or a biscuits and non-sausage gravy, or waffles with strawberries, or egg-less omelets, or, or, or. Can you tell I have issues with breakfast? Okay, I have issues with breakfast, let me explain. 

I'm allergic to everything. 

Alright, not everything but I am allergic to eggs and non-processed milk. I have found that milk is mostly okay but it has to be processed, and the more processed the better. When coming into contact with real milk or eggs I generally tend to have my throat close up and I stop being able to breathe. Since I prefer breathing I mostly gave up a long time ago on being able to enjoy the breakfasts of champions and just figured ways to manage. While it does not bother me so much anymore, my inability to eat breakfast has certainly been the bane of many of my friends. I recall once receiving a phone call in the wee hours of the morning once while in school. "Sara, bring money we are going to breakfast." This meant a trudge in the snow down the street to Mc Donald's and the change from the change jar which was full (mostly of pennies) and the only cash I had to spare at the time. As we walked options were discussed. 

"What are you getting?" I asked. 

"I'm going to have the big breakfast. Mmmm big breakfast."

I pondered as we walked. When we arrived one big breakfast was ordered and the appropriate amount of combined change counted out. Then it was my turn. I looked at the menu full of icky, gooey, sticky, sweet, delicious plentiful breakfast objects. And I looked. 

And I looked. 

"Can I get a plain biscuit and a coffee?" I finally asked. That was pretty much all that was there that I could eat. 

Ah for breakfast. 

Toast, however, has always been my friend as a breakfast item. And I like toast. It's easy enough to get fake butter in Korea, but again for the lack of toaster. Once you have given up the dream of having toast it's easy to move on. And I had moved on until about a month ago when I was target shooting. 

I like to shoot things. I'm a teacher. This should be ample explanation. 

While I was shooting at the range and accumulating any number of massive points for doing so the Ajoshi, as he counted my points, whistled in amazement and pointed at the shelves above me. There were any number of items there ranging from 80 to 1500 points. He pointed out a few things to me, like the kim-chi keeper, the baby booster seat, the mixer and the, hey, wait a minutes, is that a toaster? It was a toaster. They had a toaster. I checked my accumulated points. I had six hundred. The toaster was nine. I thought about this, took my point card, thank the Ajoshi and left. 

I had not wanted a toaster in years, but suddenly I was fueled by the desire to own a toaster. I would win that toaster. 

It was a few weeks before I ended back up at the range. After a miserable day with my favorite, least favorite, student cussing me out in Korean and English, and administration jerking my chain, yet again, I decided some time at the shooting range was just what I needed. I ended up shooting up about twenty dollars worth of frustration and it was a good time. I also accumulated 295 points. I was just shy of my goal but since my eyes were also crossing I decided to put off the finale, the shooting to win of the toaster for the next visit. 

That next visit, as it happens, was last night. I brought the lone wolf, Monoylcus, along to witness the event. While he sat target shooting with a berretta I picked up my trust long range sniper rifle and put down shots. Since I don't own the shooting range I do not have control over the guns. But I could tell that someone had been using my favorite piece and the site was desperately unaligned. I plowed on regardless. I ended up shooting my worst night ever but it was still enough to land me with about three hundred points and more then enough for the coveted toaster. 

The Ajoshi, apparently, was just as excited as I was. He came over and nudged me mid shot and pointed to me point-tickets and pointed to the toaster and patted me on the back during another shot. While I finished up he dragged the toaster box down from the shelf and brushed off the dust. I turned in my points, had my point card updated and the points deducted, and was the proud owner of a toaster. 

It's a pretty toaster, all white with a little cover that goes over the slots. It has a timer. It can toast a bagel. I am ecstatic. I brought it home and set it up last night, looking forward to the toast I would have for breakfast. The first honest to goodness made in my own apartment with a real toaster toast I have had in six years.
I woke up bleary and in need of a shower. I set the pot of water to boil and eyed the toaster, excitement returning where sleep had taken it away. 

And then it hit me. 

I don't have any bread.


linda said...

This is an amazing story and I love it.

kodeureum said...

Things in Korea must have changed a lot since we first arrived here. I was at Lotte Mart on Saturday purchasing my new kick-ass front-loading Samsung Hauzen washing machine and took a little time to browse the other labour-saving appliances: convention ovens, coffe makers, juicers, blenders and toasters. I was strolling past the microwave ovens (which I have no use for) when I noticed a decal on the front of the model at the end of the shelf. According to the photograph it could toast bread and bagels as well. I opened the door, took out the manual and began perusing the instructions to figure out how this might be possible. Generally microwaves can't even brown, turning everything left in them long enough a uniform shade of steamy gray. But sure enough, this one could toast. Just beside the door handle was a cover that when removed exposed the two slots for the slices of bread. It was a microwave-toaster combo, and instead of popping up your toasted goodies would pop out. Be sure to be there to catch them before they plop onto the floor! I think the design had even won a prize. Korea, you've come a long way baby.

Jill said...

Maybe we're related - expending tons of effort on a product I forgot I couldn't immediately use is exactly the kind of thing I'd do...

Did'ja get my email btw?

Saradevil said...

I rock the casbah on forgetfulness, but at least I improved my skill with a sniper rifle. Always a good skill for a teacher. That would be a plastic bee-bee gun sniper rifle, people, but ya know, I could, to quote that famous art film "A Christmas Story" "put my eye out with that thing" and that is kind of imposing.

I did receive electronic message communications from someone claiming to be you but offering good advice and nothing about bar bathrooms so I had my suspicions as to whether or not it was legitimate. However, since you have confirmed I believe now that it must have been you.

And thanks!