You know that weird feeling when someone talks about poison ivy, a mosquito bite, or a rash and suddenly you start to get itchy? There is literally no physical reason at all why the intense urge to scratch yourself arrives, and yet, there you are, scratching away like an empathetic hip hop DJ being electrocuted. It's human nature to experience situations like that. In a similar vein, I think it's also human nature to miss something only when it is denied to them. We're an interesting species, and as far as this trait goes, I think it can solidly be put in the "cons" section of being a human being. That being said, I found myself deeply missing something during my time in Korea that I really had not spent much time before appreciating. Of all the things that it could possibly be in my messed up head, it turned out to be breakfast. To be more specific, American breakfasts.
One of the most annoying things people can tell me is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. To me, it's my absolute least favourite. In fact, for most of my adult life, I have had the same Breakfast of Champions each and every day. A couple of cigarettes, a boatload of coffee, and I'm ready to tackle the day and all that it will throw in my direction. I don't trust people who eat cereal for breakfast. I think it's a huge indicator that the person suffers from sociopathic tendencies. This belief may stem from the fact that growing up, if my family wanted to get crazy, we put sliced bananas in the original sawdust-flavoured Cheerios that we were given. As we grew up in a Pennsylvania Dutch community, the craziest things that we did were to build bridges that were not covered, so there weren't many days of banana chunks floating in the disgusting o's of nutritious and all natural grain products. Sometimes I will see people open up little Ziploc bags and eat Cheerios dry. What amazes me is that this is an intentional act and they seem genuinely pleased to be doing this. Now granted, these insane and dangerous members of society are usually spotted doing this at bird watching rallies, full contact quilting bees, or whatever other horrible things that the program directors on PBS would instantly orgasm over. As a child, I begged for the cereals that would allow me to participate in school conversations. Cap'n Crunch, Fruit Loops, Coco Crisp - all the Saturday morning cartoon standards. From my mother's perspective, I might as well have been asking for a cocktail of opiates and rat poison. She wouldn't even budge on the Frosted Flakes. Peanut Butter Kix? Not in a million years. Apple Cinnamon Cheerios? Are you out of your fucking mind?!?! Stick to the staples, Puffed Rice, Puffed Wheat, and Cheerios. I think briefly we were allowed to have Kix, until the realization that Kix were shaped like balls, balls are used for fun, and fun has no place in breakfast. Kix are also for kids. I shit you not, for many years, our weekday breakfasts consisted of either Cheerios, oatmeal with wheat germ on it (no person under the age of 65 should be allowed to eat wheat germ, it should be a constitutional amendment), or on important test days, we were given scrambled eggs. With a side of toast, Pepperidge Farm, and only unsalted butter.
Ok, childhood breakfast flashback is over, maybe now you guys can see why I just am not a huge fan of breakfast. Some people can eat breakfast at lunch or dinner. What isn't as common is people having dinner for breakfast. I don't hear a lot of stories about someone having a crock of French onion soup at 6:30 in the morning. Maybe I'm wrong, but the most extreme that the average American is willing to go is cold pizza. Or to transform a later-meal appropriate item by putting eggs in it and calling it breakfast. Breakfast tacos. Breakfast burritos. Breakfast sandwiches. I don't know what it is about the egg, but you can't have a breakfast cheesesteak without it. Which makes we wonder why burgers with fried eggs on them aren't called breakfast burgers? I'm just asking for some flippin' consistency, folks. Anyway, in my opinion, a good breakfast consists of: eggs of some sort, a meat of your choice (except sliced turkey), and a potato concoction that ideally includes fried onions. Throw in some coffee and if I wasn't too lazy to get up early and make that, I can't imagine a better way to start the day. Well, yeah, obviously I mean the half pack of cigarettes as well. I thought that was a given. I'm not even going to dignify the waffle/pancake/French toast fans out there, because that is a completely disgusting thing to have first thing in the morning.
Korean breakfasts don't require as much scrutiny. Do you know why? It's because a Korean breakfast has a little bit of everything in the entire kitchen! You think I’m joking, but I’m deadly serious. When you sit down, it starts off by making a little bit of sense. Fruit. Cool, fruit is a popular ingredient of breakfasts worldwide. Totally logical that some melon, grapes, and apple would be there. Maybe having all three is a little bit of overkill, but hey, variety is the spice of life, right? That is where any familiarity of what you would associate breakfast to be ends. I’ve never had sliced cucumber for breakfast, but you know what, it’s not that different from a fruit, so I can easily go with it. Cherry tomatoes? Sure, why not. Fried rice? Umm...you do know that it's 6:45 am, right? Ok, sure, a little bit so I'm not rude. There’s egg in it, so technically, we’re officially breakfasting! Nice! Oyster fish with the heads still on them? Wait a second...is this a practical joke? Nope, everyone else is eviscerating their fish. I didn’t know a chopstick could be used to fillet a fish, but I’ve seen it done with my own eyes. How about something that resembles an alien egg? It turned out to be a black colored rice cake that had the texture of gourmet rubber cement. Of course there is going to be kimchi, but there is also fermented bean paste, some diced chili peppers, and alfalfa sprouts for good measure as well. Don’t forget the leftover birthday cake, idiot! Grab some of that. If you’ve never had birthday cake stained with alfalfa sprout juice and some stray bits of kimchi, let me tell you something -- consider yourself lucky. It’s exactly as horrible as it sounds. I’ve also never eaten birthday cake with a chopstick before. I had to put that on my bucket list just so that I could cross it out. It felt significant.
So there you go. After a couple of days of this, I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should surprise my hosts with some home fries, sausage patties, and eggs benedict. Then I realized that all of those things require cutlery a little more complex than chopsticks, so I cannot re-center my breakfast compass. I just continue to journey further and further down the rabbit hole of what the appropriate things are to eat for breakfast in Korea. The conclusion that I have come to? Nothing is off limits. You want a rack of ribs for breakfast? As long as there are only three of them to be shared with 19 people and you eat it with Canadian maple syrup candy, you’re fine. How about corn on the cob? If you eat it with dried seaweed, absolutely! What about an omelette? Ok, now you’re just being a communist. Knock it off. Eat your eggs like a grown up, you doucheberry. That means sunny side up sprinkled with sesame seeds and a side of gojuchang.
You can find many American restaurants in Korea. McDonalds, Burger King, Quiznos, Subway, etc. What you won’t find is an Original Walker Brothers Pancake House, an IHOP, or a Denny’s. They won’t catch on because the idea of only having three things for breakfast is something that the Korean brain just can’t handle. I think that is why Koreans love buffets so much. They just can’t make up their mind and commit to a few things. And the concept of potatoes as a vital and delicious food item hasn’t quite caught on yet over there. You would have an easier time getting an AK-47 than you would home fries. As soon as I landed back in the States, I immediately consumed some hash browns. Ok, I didn’t, Carianne, we had a lovely and strange meal at a Potbelly’s. But I wanted to!
Some of you will tell me that I’m being close minded and that since I’m halfway around the world, I should just enjoy the different cultural experience that includes what people eat for breakfast. And you know what? You are completely correct. But remember what I talked about at the very beginning of this post? The human nature to miss something only when it is denied to them? You go enough days without bacon or sausage before noon, and suddenly you’re looking at Jimmy Dean stock and wondering if maybe you should pick up a couple thousand shares. I’ve had breakfast in many different countries throughout the world, and I have come to the conclusion that the reason why Koreans are so thin is because they will never win a World Breakfast Championship. Ever. Which is a pretty good rule of thumb to go by. The thinner the population, the lousier the breakfasts. So if you want to lose weight, try a Korean breakfast. I think the results will be very astonishing to you. I just hope you have enough dishes in your cabinet to properly have one. In the meantime, I’m going to go have some fried eggs and corned beef hash like the fatass that I am.