Keegan and I live in a rural area here. We're close to the beach, and the little town our apartment building is in is full of vacation houses and rooms for rent. The countryside nearby, especially on my running route, is mostly small farms, and I've enjoyed watching them go through the phases of planting, harvest, and replanting. When we first got here, chili peppers were coming strong. Now, everywhere you look there are pumpkins ripening on the vines. The rice harvest is on the verge of starting, and the rice paddies have changed from a bright, buoyant green to a heavy, weighted-down yellow. I like seeing so much growing all around and wish that we hadn't missed the entire gardening season this year because of the move.
I think that many of the fields near us are gardens/small farms for people who live in other areas because there are often cars parked on the side of the road as the farmers visit to tend their crops. In order to transport baskets of chili peppers or bags of lettuce or pots of kimchee from field to car or house, several people I've seen use old strollers. Imagine a labor-worn elderly woman slowly pushing a ramshackle stroller down the side of the road, but instead of children, the new lives she is transporting so carefully are vegetables. It's easy to forget how dependent we are on what we grow, and the baby stroller transport system makes a good reminder of how precious the harvest can be.
I've been enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of the Korean harvest in the kitchen quite a bit lately. With so much time on my hands, I've been baking and cooking up a storm, and really enjoying it. I am so grateful that cooking can be enjoyable again, since I always thought it was a tedious burden when I was working full time. Here's a loaf of country white bread that Keegan and I made this weekend. We were so pleased with its appearance that we ran for the camera while it was cooling.
It disappeared very quickly.
Some ingredients here that we've found to be far superior to their American counterparts are mushrooms (so flavorful!) and Asian pears. I've never been a big fan of pears, mostly because the texture reminds me of a mealy apple, but the pears here are very sweet, crisp and juicy. I like to dip them in honey, but really they stand pretty well on their own.
Another food adventure this week took place in a Japanese buffet on Sunday night. We went out with John and Glenda, and while John and I perused the dessert bar, I started joking about some red, spiny, sea-urchin-like fruits on offer. John responded by dishing one out onto my plate. So of course, I was forced to try this mysterious, unapproachable fruit, which turns out to be a rambutan. The spiny outer skin conceals a plum-like white fruit the size of a large grape, with a pit inside. It actually tasted pretty good, but I couldn't stop laughing about the way that the strange, slightly slimy fruit popped out of the hairy, spiny casing when I prodded it.
This is what I love about living overseas - everything, from running to cooking to eating, is a new experience, sometimes edifying, sometimes delightful, and often bizarre.