Unexpected Food Adventures in Korean Schools:

Coming to a new country I expected there to be odd moments with food. Moments which leave me confused, possibly delighted and possibly disgusted. I just thought I would share some of the memorable dishes I’ve eaten at my schools here so far.
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Episode One~The Shrimp: “Do you like shrimp, Lucca?” a co-teacher asked me hestitantly. I love shrimp. Those are the little pink things you eat in pasta with garlic sauce, right?  I nodded and all the teachers frolicked to the caffeteria excitedly. I paused as a heavy Styrofoam cooler was open to reveal massive gray prawns, their large black eyes watching me judgementally. There were “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” from all the teachers around me who love their food the fresher the better but I was still feeling a bit intimidated from the staredown and even more indimdated by the knowledge that koreans have been known to eat things live. I watched nervously but relieved as the teachers brought out pans and little stoves to cook them at the tables and jumped every time something hit the lid of the pan. The little guys sounded so angry and I was getting scared of them; this was my first time eating prawns and they seemed to have a lot of attidude. The lid finally opened back up to reveal pink, quiet food. In fact, they almost looked like the pasta shrimp I was used to having but they still had so many little legs all poised to attack and their little eyes still watched me so judgementally. I’m telling you, I have never been this scared of my food until coming to Korea. I probably would have sat for a very long time with my plate of sauce, nervously holding my chopsticks, if a kind coteacher hadn’t taken it into his heart to get them ready for me. And they were amazing. In America I usually buy food from the normal grocery store and don’t really have the time or money (or motivation) to go to do my own fishing or catching or growing. Here in Korea my tongue is getting spoiled with things straight from the sea or from the mountain gardens. So if my teacher were to ask again, “Lucca, do you like shrimp?” I would still nodd excitedly even though I know exactly what I’m getting myself into.
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Delicious but daunting for a girl who hasn’t eaten much seafood previously… 

Episode Two~The Little Squidlings: So, my life in Minnesota hasn’t included much sea food and when I moved to Geoje I was excited about the new wierd foods I would be able to discover dinning on an island. Now, when I see squid on the menu I get excited about having a familiar tasty food but this was certainly not always the case. I remember almost screaming the first time I found a baby squid in my pasta and taking about a half an hour before I build up the courage to close my eyes and eat it. But one of my first days the teachers table had a plate of beautiful purple squidlings. Ok, I’ll be honest, I don’t know if they were squid or octopus and I barely remember how they tastest. I was in shock at the fact that they did not appeared to be cooked, were as long as my hand, and were meant to just be eaten whole. I still am not sure if I liked them. My brain was still trying not to be afraid.
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I don’t think the ones I had actually had the eyeballs still but you get the idea..

Episode Three~The Tomatoes: Don’t they have tomatoes in Minnesota? Yes they do and I eat them on sandwitches and in salads if I have to, and I have eaten them in school lunches here on a fairly regular basis, but the other day they were in an unusual sauce. You can expect the sauces here to be really sweet or really spicy here in Korea and often both and you will never know until you bit into it. I’ve had apples in sauce that was actually peper sauce (that made me a bit sad) and I’ve had cucumbers and strawberries in a sweeter sauce (which surprised and delighted me). But today it was straight-up pure honey. I always felt like tomatoes as a fruit is a bit of a lie. I mean, in my opinion tomatoes trying to claim the same level as strawberries, grapes and mangos is just arrogant and untrue but drenched in honey I realized something. My goodness, tomatoes can be downright delicious. I realized this by the end of eating them, of course. The first few bites were pure confusion. Why was there honey on my tomatoes? That’s like putting honey on pizza! Oh, wait, Koreans do that too…
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Well… honey and sweet potato and corn and mayonnaise and shrimp and pretty much anything else you can thing of… 

Episode Four~The Salty Creatures: I really don’t remember what these creatures are called. I just sat down to lunch one day with my plate of veggies (drenched in lots of sauce of course). I am still pretty terrible at learning vegetable names here (there are so many new ones and they are all pretty similar) and I’m even worse at remembering those names. I thought what I was about to bite into next was some other vegetable but my chopsticks paused. They were a bit too silvery to be veggies, even though they were mixed with almonds and dressing like a salad. I stared at the unknown food item wondering if they would be sweet or spicy. I picked up an almond sliver for a flavor check. Salty. Very. Very. Salty. And I realized that all the little silver things had little black eyeballs. What is it with Koreans and food with eyeballs??! It is so unnerving! In fact, I still will not eat these little fishy things when they show up on my plate. Yes, I did try them at one point and yes, it was a bad idea. I do not like them, Sam I am.
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So many eyeballs! 

Episode Five~The Oysters: The vice principal came rushing into the teachers office with a massive styrofom box and proudly took of the lid. A massive cloud of steam floated out and all the teacher gathered excitedly around. My co-teacher told me “Gool.” I staired at the container confused. Honey? Nope, my bad. Not Ggool, just gool. Oysters! I don’t remember having oysters once back home. I’ve had them here in soup and been rather confused but found them pretty tasty. But when they opened up the package this day there were mountains of shells some still salty from the sandy seaside. (By the way, back home I love collecting seashells and any shell is exciting. Here, sea shells are just like peelings and I can’t tell you how strange that makes me feel. It’s waking up and finding out gold is just the dust that keeps collecting on the mantel piece. Not the most annoying thing in the world but just something you have to deal with. It makes me feel oddly wealthy or spoiled, I guess. And yes, I still collect seashells but not from my plate because that would be weird!) My co-teacher handed me a shell containing a massive oyster.
MY GOODNESS oysters are amazing!!
And, I really wanted to open one up myself. I got so excited about cracking open the shells you would have guessed I was pearl hunting but I didn’t even need to eat the oysters at that point, I just had fun opening up sea shells and finding the perfect little meal inside. Of course, I also enjoyed eating them and ate my fair share and my co-teachers told me that here are they are ridiculously cheap. I’ve actually seen them all over the rocks by my school but never really made the connection before.
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So these are a couple of the food adventures I’ve had at my schools so far. It doesn’t even count all the voluntary food adventures I’ve put myself through. Like the time I found bugs as a side dish for my octopus, the initial shock of finding out that beans are a main dessert ingredient here, or the time I found an whole massive octopus in my soup (or the time I found an octopus running away down the side walk for that matter). Moving to Korea has made me think more about where everything comes from and it has taught me to value fresh and local. I see all the fisherman in the morning pulling in the fish that ends up at the markets by my house and watch the ajummas collecting oyster shells in the afternoon. Of course, there are moments of unpleasant suprise, but overall all the meals here including (and especially) school lunches fantastically delicious. In fact, I am afraid I may be getting very spoiled indeed. #IslandLife
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Debunking the Gluten-Free Fad

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Here is a gluten-free champagne cupcake that I made with champagne frosting and homemade chocolate art. Ok, now we can get started ^_^

What is this new gluten-free craze? Is it just a health fad? Does it work?

Until about a year ago I was a little fed up with the gluten-free craze because it seemed to be getting a bit out of hand. I mean, I knew there were people who just couldn’t have it–one of my best friends had to avoid anything with gluten or dairy like the plague or she’d get pretty sick. However, there were other girls who seem to just be following along with the latest fad. It reminded me of the no-carrots-because-they-make-you-fat fad… a little unnecessary, I thought.

Then I went to the doctor’s due to what I assumed was a thyroid problem. I had my laundry list of stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, nausea and more. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting the doctor to prescribe, but she surprised me by telling me to eliminate gluten. I wasn’t thrilled–pizza is the main food group, and I love dessert like nobody’s business. On top of that, I had not been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I was told that I had a “gluten sensitivity.” Which is frankly a little awkward–isn’t that just a name for someone who wants to justify following the gluten-free trend? I was, however,  pretty tired of the exhaustion and stomach pains so I was ready to give anything a try. Was going gluten-free going to make me feel better?

A little research shows… that about 1.8 million Americans have Celiac Disease. When it comes to people diagnosed with Celiac Disease the answer is pretty clear. But cases like mine aren’t clear at all. I don’t have Celiac, should I really be eliminating gluten? I decided to at least give it a try, so I hopped headlong into the gluten-free mania, a little embarrassed (I don’t like following the latest health trends because it makes me feel gullible) but more hopeful than anything else. Is this just a fad?

A little more research shows… that gluten-free products have skyrocketed. Compare .9 billion dollars of sales in 2006 to the 10.5 billion dollars of sales in 2015. Even things that are naturally gluten-free try to jump on the money making trend by adding extra labeling. Yogurt, rice, water–its always been gluten-free but now its just advertised more. To some extent, it is admittedly a fad–it’s like the fads of the past where people feared fat, sugar, or carbs to the extreme. It is a wonderful money-making opportunity, but removing gluten from my own diet made me really think about how this trend may be a little more complicated than previous ones. This may be a fad but is it a lie? Are gluten-free diets going to help people?

So how did I feel once I eliminated gluten? I felt immensely better (after I finally got enough self-control to stop eating all my favorite foods… it took a while to get there). I am all for healthy eating and usually roll my eyes at fads but here are some things I learned about the latest trend through my own health foods journey.

There are two sides to the fad. 

There are an abundance of gluten-free cookies, cakes, pastas, and beer that are fantastic for those with Celiac Disease. These products allow people who can’t have their favorite foods anymore to at least enjoy replicas of them. Its pretty creative and fantastic. However, if you don’t have Celiac Disease and eat these foods the results could actually be quite harmful. Normal foods have nutrients and fiber that gluten-free products switch out for more sugars. Doing this long-term can be detrimental to a person’s health if they don’t have Celiac Disease.

What about all those athletes and movie stars who swear a gluten-free diet is their savior? Well, lets talk about the other side of the “fad.”

Cutting out processed foods like cake, pizza, and beer is going to help anyone, gluten-sensitive or not. If, that is, you substitute them with fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats… you know the drill. Even the gluten-free treats I bake are composed of things like almond flour, ripe bananas, and oatmeal and leave me feeling great for obvious reasons. They are made with ridiculously healthy ingredients. If someone chooses to make the diet switch to this, its going to make a difference. I know a lot of athletes whose diets could be labeled “gluten-free” but really they are just being healthy.

So can it work? 

It can if you are doing it right. Cutting most of the processed foods out of my life has eliminated health problems I didn’t even think about. Not only did the stomach pains vanish but the faint headaches I didn’t really notice before. Now I don’t get sick as easily either. I stopped getting sore throats every week which I just thought happened when you ate. If you have a gluten sensitivity, I think going gluten-free may really be worth the inconvenience. Gluten-free bread doesn’t make my throat scratchy like most other breads would. I never really knew that was an option.

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Some days you want something special and delicious without getting sick… like cupcakes on Valentine’s Day. It’s important.

What about the Placebo Effect? 

Such a valid question. If I didn’t know it had gluten in it, would I still think it gave me a sore throat? Would I still think that it gave me a stomach ache?

Once I had been doing so well I decided my body must have healed and ate gluten, dead sure that I was over the whole no gluten thing. Plus, I just really wanted a pancake. I got sick. Now over a year later I can have a slice of pizza or cake and it’s fine. But any time I try to push it… it just doesn’t work. I wish it were a placebo effect but I’m not so sure. I have gotten sick from things that I thought didn’t have gluten in them when they really did. I cut out gluten and all the negative symptoms fade away.

Underneath the fad I had often laughed at, there is actually an incredible health solution that I’m grateful to have found. The gluten-free issue is a bit complicated by looking at all those who continue to eat bread, beer, and pizza. However, people who cut all the harmful processed foods from their diet may be really onto something. This gluten-free craze could be pointless f you don’t have Celiac Disease, but it can also be pretty life-changing in a good way.

So there’s the gluten-free fad for you–still a bit trendy but with a real solution underneath. It can make a person healthier but ultimately its up to them and how they chose to approach it.

Parchment

Maybe it comes with being a writer but who doesn’t that beautiful parchment?? Whether you think of pirates or faded old classics with leather bookmarks, this kind of paper has plenty of character and I will teach you a few simple steps on how to make some:) These are two different types:

1. The first type is paper that is simply held over the stove until desired golden brown color.

Seriously, it’s like roasting a marshmallow. (That’s what one of my friends said that it looked like actually, hehe.) This one here is a birthday card for my brother. I thought it turned out pretty well. Adding holes in the middle also adds nice effect. The only thing to be careful about is the fact that you get ash all over the stove. It’s kinda annoying but pretty easy to wipe up.


2. Take a large shallow pan. Fill with coffee. Soak paper over night.

This actually just looks nice by itself, even without the burned added effect. It has a nice faded appearance but doesn’t seem quite as dangerous. Depends what you want it for. This stuff would work great for really “old” document:) Just be aware that if you want to add burn marks that coffee paper seems to burn a great deal faster than regular paper. (I found that out and had to put out the fire by dumping some water on, hence the water marks but you can just pretend that the water marks are on purpose, ok?) One of my friends said that the water stains looked like a map. Ttly, right? So it would be great to be used for that to:)

So if you need authentic looking old documents, treasure maps, story maps, or recipe cards that “have been in the family for a really long time,” these are the perfect things to use:)

Sweet Freedom!!! Woohoo:)

I’M DONE WITH FRESHMAN YEAR OF COLLEGE!!!!

Wow, that went by fast! I had my last final at 8am yesterday and my last paper due 11:59 last night.

After submitting the paper five minutes before it was due I left promptly to hang out at a friends house.

…I was considering blogging about something like tips for any incoming freshman, best memories, or best teachers awards but honestly, I don’t feel like doing that. I just feel like letting the world know that I’m done with school! (For this semester anyways). I’ve just had a lovely breakfast of yogurt and chocolate chip cookies and am hanging out with a friend and going to go shopping now.

Let the summer begin!:)