수줍은 미모 or Eat Real Food

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

“How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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‘Tis the season to eat mackerel.

Oh how I love thee beauties, super fresh with bright eyes and shimmering skin.

They have a tiny, silvery tongue. Did you know that? I never cleaned mackerel before–that was my mother’s job. When I was a kid, she would get a handful of mackerel from a local traditional market, clean them, and cure them in the refrigerator. There are many, many cured or dried fish processes in the Korean culinary arsenal in order to preserve the nature’s bountifulness beyond its fleeting season.

I have been off the quadruped, as well as the biped (birds, I mean, of course), for about 20 months. I always had hard time keeping beef down in my system (it gives me diarrhea) so I was never too keen on eating beef. Not a big pork eater either. I had a soft spot for birds. But.

When I was traveling through Europe last year, it wasn’t easy to eat meat. Camping simplified my diet a lot (although I have seen hearty eaters of Dutch bicyclers who traveled the entire Europe by cycling. They were roasting meat in their uber powerful camping stove in camping sites!) I ate mostly soup, honey, a bit of cheese (lactose intolerant and I can testify to potency of European milk. WOW. Ask my butt how much milk can be in 10g of swiss milk chocolate.), bread, and dried and fresh fruit. I had a tiny alcohol stove in which I mix water with powered soup mix, or heat water for tea or coffee. Honey and sugary fruit gave me all the energy I needed. Bread satisfied my whole grain craving. Bread in Europe was an eye-opener. People were so serious about their bread! I was jealous of the Europeans (in France, Germany, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland)! Bakeries, small and large, fancy and humble, were everywhere, every corner of any neighborhood. It’s not just french bread, croissant, or pastries that were good. German kuchen was amazingly good AND far cheaper than french pastries. Camping sites all over Europe offered fresh bread from these neighborhood bakeries–we just need to place an order a night before and came next morning a warm, crackling, hardy, nutty loaf of bread ready at the office of the camp site manager.

I am back in the U.S. I am lucky to live in a neighborhood where there is a pattisserie that carries hardy french bread as well as fancy cakes, mousse, macarons, and pastries. But alas, for someone who does not eat land or sky animals, midwest can be harsh. The midwestern diet is mostly red meat and potato. And iceberg lettuce. I am not kidding. I do not like salad, unless it is hardy enough to be a meal. I have to eat a lot of vegetable (because I eat a lot). I’m 5 f tall and 107 pounds but I eat like a backwoodsman. Blame my hyper metabolism or the way I brought up (veggie/ fruit-heavy diet). I just need to eat a lot and that tiny bowl of iceberg lettuce is mostly for garnishing and cannot possible hold me.

The oasis in this gastronomic wasteland is Coastal Seafood, a local fishmonger. The range of sea animals they carry cannot compare to what people in other parts of the world eat (Japan and South Korea, for instance and France, it seems), but this is as good as it can be here.

Mackerel is in season. It is high in omega 3, 4, or 6 or whatever the number. It is fatty. It is affordable, only $5.99/ pound as opposed to countneck clams which cost $7.99/ pound. It is easy to prepare. It only takes 7-8 mins to broil (if you have a charcoal grill, open fire is the best way to roast) Only help it needs is a wee bit of curing time.

The fishmonger already gutted out gills so I just need to cut the heads out and the belly open, butterflying them. Wash them. Pat them dry. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt generously. And cure them at least 2-3 days in the refrigerator. If weather wasn’t too crazy as it is today, I could cure it outside. It is supposed to be ridiculously cold, -25 F tonight. Osmosis takes care of everything: the salt draws moisture out of the fish and transforms the flesh into something with more bite. It is fantastic.

There is a cornucopia of shellfish and sea animals. Eat something other than shrimp (nearly 100% cholesterol, not to mention too much of “blood shrimp” flooding the US markets), or salmon or tuna (overfished and way high in the food chain). Eat something beyond “white” fish such as halibut (a subtle, delicate flavor but $25/ pound!!) or tilapia (this is NOT fish, people. Most sold in US markets are farm raised and grain fed). Try oyster (high in protein and could be an aphrodisiac!), mussel (super affordable with a tangy flavor you can add to your soup or spicy pasta), or squid (unfortunately I haven’t seen in the U.S. the kind of squid I grew up with in Korea. Ones sold in the US markets are of smaller, less chewier, less flavorful distant cousin). There are also sea plants like a variety of kelp, ranging from super fine ones (roast them with sesame oil and a pinch of salt) to very fibrous ones (wondrous base for fabulous soup).

Mackerel is good for your soul. Grilled mackerel with a bowl of sweet brown rice will make you believe that heaven is for real.

Eat real food.

작년에 끄적여놓았던 것

새해가 밝았다. 많은 사람이 새해 소망과 새로운 결심을 한다. 새해가 반가운 이유 중 하나는 우리에게 “do over” 할 상징적인 “second chances”의 기회가 될 수 있다는 가능성을 부여한다는 점이다. 여기서 주시할 점은 “가능성”이라는 단어다. 아직 2015년이라는 미래가 쓰이지 않았고 또한 성불하지 않은 이상 2014년이라는 과거가 흡족하지 않았기에 우리에게는 가능성이라는 희망에 또다시 목숨을 건다. 벌써 휘청거리는 사람도 있겠지만, 인간에게 “작심”이라는 음료수의 유통기한이 육십일은 된다 (삼일은 야박하다.). 하지만 단기 기억 상실증으로 고생하지 않는 한 해탈하지 못한 한 우리는 새해 소망을 바라는 만큼 지키지도 않는다는 (또는 지킬 수 없다는) 것을 잘 안다. 이거 deja vu (어디서 많이 보고, 듣고, 거의 경험한 듯한 익숙함) 아닌가? 어떤 경우는 déjà vécu (친숙함을 넘어 이미 똑같이 경험했다는 확신.) 이기도 하다. 우리는 이걸 알면서도 반복한다. “반복”은 고통의 원천이기도 하지만 어떠한 반복된 행위는 우리에게 위로를 주기도 한다. 나는 우리의 새 결심, do-over, 반복, 기억, 그리고 두 번째의 기회로 엮여있는 실을 풀어보고자 한다.

우리의 일상은 반복으로 시작한다: 자고, 일어나고, 씻고, 밥 먹고, 일하는 이 모든 일과를 우리는 내일, 모레, 그리고 살아있는 한 매일 반복한다. 정해진 일상은 우리에게 안정감을 주고 또 무언가를 생각해서 창조해야 한다는 정신적인 짐을 덜어주는 효과가 있다. 미국에서 일부의 은퇴한 이들이 고민하는 점은 “내일은 무엇을 하나”이다. 배부른 고민이 아니다. 미국인은, 유럽인들과 달리, 우리처럼 자신의 일/직업으로 자신을 정의하기 때문이다. 갑자기 내일부터 일을 나가지 않는다면 당신은 무엇을 할 것인가를 생각해 보았나? 첫 일 주일은 천국일걸? 나와 같은 토끼들에게는 일을 안 해도 다른 반복으로 하루를 채울 능력이 있다. 하지만 일만 열심히 하는 거북이들은 무척 괴로울 것이다. 물론 거북이에게도 희망은 있다. 매일 일상의 반복을 삶의 본질이라고 받아들이고 살다가도 기대하지 못했던 일상생활에서 벗어나는 일이 생기기도 하는 날은 너의 럭키데이. 그런 날은 자신의 등을 토닥거리며 축하하고 삶은 역시 살만하다고 자신에게 한 마디의 위로도 해준다. 다른 의미에서 본 반복의 긍정적 효과를 보여주는 예는 한 가지의 일에 달인이 되는 과정이다. 무슨 일이건 무한 반복의 과정은 명상의 본질을 내포하여 우리에게 “이 순간”에 살게 해준다. 시간이 얼마나 흘렀는지 깨닫지 못하고 한 가지 일에 몰두해본 경험 (가령 뜨개질, 글쓰기, 장거리 달리기, 대청소하기, 5권의 게임오브뜨론 독파하기 등)이 있다면 “반복”의 명상적 특성을 이해할 것이다. 하지만 그 편안함이라는 레코드의 B면에는 안일함이 살포시 한 자리 차지하게 된다.

그 안일함으로 인해 어떤 반복은 우리를 정신분열 일보 직전으로 내몰고 우주를 떠나고 싶게끔 한다. 1993년의 상상 희극 영화 “그라운드혹 날 (Groundhog Day)”에는 냉소적인 필 커너스 (빌 머레이 역)가 그라운드혹 날에 갇혀 “내일”의 기약과 희망을 박탈당해 그 그라운드혹 날 (2월 2일)을 매일 반복하여야만 한다. 커너스는 일기예보를 알려주는 방송인으로 이 그라운드혹 날을 이미 몇 년째 취재해왔고 식상한 silly festivity 라고 취급한 그에게 하필이면 그 날이 무한 반복된다는 것은 생지옥이다 (참고로 그라운드혹은 설치류의 일종인 다람쥐과의 마못 (marmot)인데 펜실베니아의 독일 이민자들이 매년 2월 2일 날에 봄이 언제 오는지를 점치는 데 이용하는 귀여운 동물이다.) 커너스는 자신이 그 날에 갇힌 것을 깨달은 후 여러 가지 방법을 시도한다: 처음에는 막 산다. 체지방 축적 따위를 무시하고 (내일이 없으니 당연하다.) 폭식, 줄담배, 그리고 음주운전을 일삼고, 급기야는 자살을 수도 없이 시도한다. 그러나 내일이 아닌 내일이 오면 그는 여전히 같은 여관방에서 같은 알람 음악을 들으며 똑같은 시간에 눈을 뜬다. 결국은 커너스가 마음을 고쳐먹고 잘 살아보려고 노력하니 그가 그날의 감옥에서 진정한 내일로 진전할 수 있다는 이야기다. 나는 도덕적 교훈을 강조하는 영화에는 관심이 없으나 이 영화는 주제가 신선하고 교훈도 대놓고 강제하지 않아 볼 만하다. 일상은 우리에게 내일이라는 미지의 미래를 예측 가능하게도 해주지만 우리 안의 필 커너스는 일상의 지루한 반복을 저주하고 이로부터의 탈출과 해방을 갈구한다. 그러니 때때로 계획 없이 떠나는 여행은 (고생은 할지언정) 유난히 맛깔 난다. 그리고 그러한 일탈이 반가울 수 있는 이유 중 하나는 다시 돌아올 수 있는 지루하지만, 일정한 일과가 있기 때문이다.

다른 의미에서 보면, 어떤 이들은 이 사소한 반복을 하고자 무슨 일이든지 한다. 우리는 “두 번째 기회”라는 마약의 유혹에 빠져 안 되는 줄 알면서도 또는 해서는 안 되는 줄 알면서도 다시 시도한다. 2004년에서 2010년까지 미국 ABC에서 방영되었던 드라마 Lost 를 참고해보자. 이 드라마는 시드니 호주발 미국 엘에이행 오시에닉 항공기 815호의 추락사고 생존자들이 지도에도 없는 태평양 섬에서 보이지 않는 적들 (신? “그 다른이들”? 자연? 괴물? 나 자신? 등등)과 싸우며 살아남아 이 섬을 탈출하는 것을 줄거리로 삼는다. 이렇게 간단한 줄거리 구성임에도 불구하고 일부 시청자들은 불만이 있었다. 워낙 출연자가 많아 기억하기 힘들고 (이런 이들은 드라마는 소파에 앉아 수동적으로 소비하는 것이라고 굳게 믿고 실천하는 이들이다. 하지만 이제는, 적어도 미국에서는, 잘생긴 배우들이 연기하는 2-3명의 주인공에게 의존하는 드라마는 뒤떨어진 드라마들이다. 물론 True Detectives (HBO)와 같은 예외는 있다.), 이야기의 전개가 시간개념에 상응하여 직선으로 펼쳐지지 않고 앞으로 또는 뒤로 예고나 설명이 없이 왔다 갔다 하고 나중에는 주인공들이 다른 시간대로 여행을 하고 평행우주의 세계까지 등장한다. 이러니 자세히 보고 듣지 않으면 쫓아가기 힘들 수 있다. 하지만 정신 차리고 보면 보상을 받는다. 이 드라마가 박사논문을 쓰고도 남을만한 심오한 인생의 의미를 두세 가지의 상반되는 틀로 풀어나간다. 운명과 우연, 자유 의지와 팔자, 속죄와 타락 등이 예이다. 여기서는 second chances와 관련된 측면에 대해서 얘기하고자 한다.

로스트는 20-30명가량의 앙상블 케스트로 이루어져 많은 출연자가 대등하게 빛을 받는다. 다들 흥미진진하고 다양한 삶을 가지고 있지만 한가지 공통점이 있다: 모두 자신들이 생각하기에는 잘못된 삶을 살고 있었다고 믿고 원해서인지 아니든지 간에 일단 주어지니 두 번째 기회에 목숨을 건다. 몇몇 주인공들의 이야기를 간단하게 살펴보면, 처자 케이트는 엄마의 폭력적인 남자친구 (사실의 그의 생부이다.)를 죽여서 경찰에게 쫓기고 있고, 의사 젝은 아버지의 명성과 그림자에서 벗어나지 못해 고통받고, 소여는 어린 시절 아버지가 사기를 당해 그 충격으로 아내를 죽이고 자신도 목숨을 끊은 장면을 목격한 후 그 사기꾼을 쫓는 데 평생을 바치려고 하다 자신도 그러한 사기꾼이 되고, 사이드는 이라크의 사담 후세인 군부 내에서 고문 전문가로 일하다가 자신의 어릴 적 첫사랑과의 우연한 (아님 운명적인) 재회로 심적 변화가 있어 자신이 고문했던 무고한 사람들의 고통을 생각하며 괴로워하고, 찰리는 꿈을 이루어 유명한 밴드의 리더로 성공하지만, 마약중독자가 되었고, 진수와 선화는 신분의 차이를 극복하고 결혼에 성공하나 선화의 아버지로 인해 그들의 사랑이 깨어져 가는 와중에 사고를 당한다. 이런 이들에게 do over 할 기회가 주어지니 목숨 걸 만하다. 우리의 삶이 그러하듯이, 이들에게도 이 사고가 두 번째의 기회라는 자각은 적어도 처음에는 없는듯하다. 다만 사정이 사정인 만큼 살아남기 위해 열정적으로 산다. 그리고 그 와중에 이 다른 삶이 기회라고 어렴풋이 느끼는 주인공들도 있다. 더 얘기하면 독자들이 미래의 느낄 즐거움에 찬물을 끼얹는 것이니 줄거리 얘기는 여기서 멈춘다. 한가지 얘기할 것은 적어도 이 드라마 상에서는 우리가 아무리 발버둥 쳐서 다시 시작하고 다시는 자신의 잘못을 답습하지 않겠다고 해도 어쩔 수 없는 일은 있다는 것이다. 운명론적이거나 비관론적인 이야기가 아니다. 어차피 정해진 삶이 어쩌고저쩌고, 뭐 이런 말이 아니다. 그런 말은 짜증 지수와 혈압만 올리고 사기만 저하한다. 주위에서 이런 말 하는 사람은 멀리하는 것이 정신건강에 이롭다. 로스트가 하고자 하는 이야기는 이것이다: 굵은 틀은 이미 정해져 있지만 그 조건적 틀 안에서 우리는 선택의 자유가 있다. 강신주 님이 말했듯이 (나도 미국에서 이분이 상담하는 벙커1 파드케스트 다 들었다.) 삶의 주체성을 가진다는 것은 절대적, 무한한 자유를 요구하고 성취하고자 노력하는 것이 아니라 우리에게 주어진 조건적, 제한적 자유 속에서 얼마만큼 그 “바람”을 (그는 헹글라이더 은유를 이용했다.) 잘 읽어서 자신의 행로를 개척하는 데 이용하느냐 하는 것이다.

기독교인들은 로스트가 교리에서 경고하는 Purgatory (연옥)을 드라마화해 자신의 종교의 옳음을 보여주었다고 뿌듯해 하며 기뻐하더라. 교육이나 문화 그리고 정치 등 모든 인간의 삶에서 항상 윤리적 가르침을 전파하려는 이들의 의도는 우리를 지치게 할 뿐만 아니라 인류의 본질적인 선 함을 부정함으로써 인류 자체에 어떠한 믿음도 없다는 것을 보여주는 것이 아닌가? 피와 살로 이루어진 인류에게 믿음이 없는 사람이 어떻게 신의 존재를 믿을 수 있을까? 에니웨이, 로스트는 불교적 관점에서 본 사바세게의 본질을 더 잘 표현한다. 이 많은 주인공 중생의 사고 전 삶이 보여준 것은 연옥을 통하지 않더라도 삶 자체가 이미 지옥이 될 수 있고 우리는 인간이기에 두 번째 기회를 백십 퍼센트 활용한다 해도 잘못을 범하게 되어있다. 속죄는 과대평가 되어 왔다. 그 과거의 잘못과 실수를 곱씹고 머리카락을 죄다 뽑으며 후회하고 고민하고 궁극적으로 속죄하는 것이 그렇게도 중요할까? 또 인생을 완벽하게 산다는 것 자체가 중요한 목표인가? 속죄는 미래의 완벽함의 가능성을 내재하고 있다. 기독교적 관점에서의 속죄는 이 세상에서 다시 잘 살자는 의지 보다는 저 세상 (afterlife)에서 잘 살 수 있다는 기대만을 포함한다. 나 같은 불가지론 자에게 속죄가 그나마 의미가 있을 수 있다면, 이는 미래에는 나의 잘못을 반복하지 않겠다는 다짐을 가능하게 하고 또 과거의 실수에서 무언가를 배울 수 있다고 믿게 해 주기 때문이다 (하지만 나에게는 이 가능성과 교화는 의미가 없다. 나는 같은 실수를 반복하는 인간이다.)

속죄와 기억은 상호 포함적이다. 잘못한 기억이 없는데 어떻게 속죄하나? 하지만 우리의 “기억”이라는 것은 얼마나 나약한가? 우리의 기억은 포장되고 일그러지기 쉽고 인간의 기억력은 절대적 능력도 객관적 평가도 아니다. 예전의 기억에 의존했다가 낭패를 본 기억이 있나? 미국에서는 많은 무고한 사람들이 현장 목격 증인들의 잘못된 기억으로 사형선고를 받았다. 그렇게 극단적이 예가 아니더라도, 무슨 무슨 칼국수를 5년 전에 맛있게 먹은 기억이 있어 다시 가서 먹어보니 그 맛이 아니더라 뭐 이런 사소한 경험을 우리는 했다. 또한, 어떤 이들은 박정희 시대에는 범죄 사고도 적었고 평온했고 경제는 발전했다고 미화하며 기억을 비틀어서 진실을 부정하지 않나? 이러한 인간의 기억의 나약함을 이용해 일부의 어떤 이들은 사소한 일상의 반복을 넘어 더 거대한 반복을 꿈꾼다. 역사는, 로스트의 줄거리 전개처럼, 후진도 하고 정지도 하니 항상 앞으로만 나가지 않는다는 것은 우리도 다 아는 말이다. 하지만 우리가 과거를 반복하기를 원하고 실행에 옮기기도 하니 문제다. 잘못된 과거의 미화화는우리의 잘못을 정당화한다. 우리는 냉전이 끝나자마자 역사전쟁 (History war)을 시작했다. 이러한 새로운 전쟁의 피 튀기는 전투지는 역사와 문화이다. 과거를 한마디로 정의할 권리와 기억을 정치적 도구로 삼을 기회를 독점하기 위한 투쟁이 시작되었다.

1960년대의 문화혁명을 기반으로 미국에서도 기억과 문화의 정치화가 자리 잡았다. 미국 국립 항공 우주 박물관에서 1994년에 B-29 “에놀라 게이 (Enola Gay, 1945년 8월 6일 히로시마에 원자폭탄을 투하한 전투기)를 전시하려고 했을 때 심한 의견 대립이 있었다. 주로 기술적 성과를 기념해왔던 이전의 전시 방식에서 벗어나 이 박물관의 큐레이터는 이번에는 전시를 제2차 대전의 종결과 동시에 시작된 냉전 시대를 중점으로 한 역사적 관점에서 구성한다는 의도가 있었다. 이 계획하에 전투기 전시를 동반하는 스크립트는 원자 폭탄 투하의 정당성과 그 폐해에 대한 토론의 장을 열겠다는 의도로 작성되었다. 하지만 제2차 대전 참전용사 단체와 미 국회 등의 반대세력은 이 스크립트는 미국의 참전에 대한 전면공격이라고 반대했다. 이들의 반대와 비판 및 재정지원 중단과 국감실시 같은 협박하에 박물관 측에서는 계획했던 스크립트를 다시 써서 이전의 토론감은 모두 제외하고 간단하게 “에놀라 게이”를 전시하였다.1

이거 déjà vu 아닌가? 어디서 많이 들어보고 경험해 본 것 같지 않나? 이거 우리 국사책 논란 아닌가? 또한, 요새 자주 신문에 등장하는 “국제시장” 영화와 관련된 의견대립과 일맥상통하는 점이 있다. 아직 미국에서는 “국제시장”을 볼 수가 없으니 난 입을 다물어야겠지? 이러한 선택적 기억과 반복으로 거두는 수확의 수혜자인 기득권층의 의도는 설명을 안 해도 딴지 독자들은 다 알 것이다. 그러면 일부의 서민계층인은 왜 이에 동조하고 지지할까? 그들에게 박정희 시대의 낭만화는 무슨 의미가 있으며 과거를 바로잡네 어쩌네하는 이들을 지지하는 이유는 뭔가? 이거 1 밀리언 달러 퀘스천 아닌가? 새정치연합에서 그 답을 알고 싶어 몸부림치다 못해 새누리의 doppelgänger 가 된 그 질문이다. 답을 알면 그 서민층을 내 편으로 만들 수 있다고 믿나? 그런 건가? 이 얘기하면 너무 말이 많아진다. 나의 주제로 돌아가자. 하여튼, 우리가 사소하다고 느꼈던 대중문화가 과거와 기억의 정치화의 정점에 서 있는 세계에 우리는 살고 있다.

놀랍게도 어떤 이들은 이 과거로의 회귀와 두 번째의 기회를 과감하게 걷어차 버린다. 문화, 종교, 그리고 인종의 차이를 넘어서서 제2세대의 아이들, little me, 이야말로 두 번째 기회의 절정 중 하나가 아닌가? 내가 경험하지 못했던 것들, 잘하지 못했던 것들을 만회하기 위해서 little me를 낳은 사람들 많았다. 이것이 바람직하지만은 않다. 하지만 적어도 “곤란을 무릅쓰고”라는 자세가 있었다, 이들에게는. 물론 나처럼 첫째 딸 이후 아들을 얻기 위한 징검다리로 이용된 축복 받지 못한 (또 딸이야?) 출생자들을 제외하고는 말이다. 돈이 없어서 결혼을 못 하든, 사교육에 반대하든, 이런 험한 세상에서 나의 주변화된 삶을 대물림하고 싶지 않아서든지 간에 우리는 애 낳기를 거부하고 있다. 나는 2014년 11월의 Harper’s 라는 월간지에 나온 한국의 출생률 통계를 보았다: “Year by which South Koreans will be ‘extinct’ given current fertility rates, according to government demographers: 2750.” 현재의 출생률로 계산하면 2750년에는 한국은 더는 존재하지 않는다는 것이다. 이 정보의 출처는 National Assembly Research Service, 국회입법조사처였다. 하도 애를 낳지 않는다고 뉴스와 신문에서 떠들어 댔기에 놀랍고 새로운 정보는 아니었다. 뭐 결혼 비용과 집을 장만할 돈이 없어서 그런다느니, 사교육비를 감당할 수 없어서라느니, 아니면 많이 배운 여성은 가족이라는 족쇄를 거부한다는 등의 여러 가지 이유를 사회 비평가와 정치가들은 피력했다. 그런데 가만히 생각해보면 이 현상은 단순히 돈 문제가 아니다. 여성이 애 낳고 일하는 것이 이중, 삼중고라는 것은 다 아는 사실이다. 한국의 시장경제 GDP가 세계에서 15위이고 구매력 평가 (Purchasing Power parity)도가 12위이면 뭐하나? 개발된 국가 중 한국처럼 법적으로나 사회적으로나 아이들이 있는 일하는 여성을 배려하지 않는 나라는 별로 없다. 낳아 놓으면 제도적으로 여성의 사회 및 경제 활동 참여, 자아실현, 그리고 육아라는 세 가지를 동시에 할 수 있도록 보조해주나? 돈이 있는 여성과 가족들은 그 돈으로 남의 시간과 노동을 고용해 자신의 짐을 덜 수도 있다. 하지만 돈이 세상을 바꾸지 않는다. 이민 가지 않는 한 부조리하고 불평등한 사회에서 살아야 하니, 누가 나의 분신이자 두 번째 기회인 “다음 세대”가 아름답고 정당한 사회에서 살 수 있다고 장담하나? 이건 돈 문제를 넘어서서 실존적 위기임을 많은 이들은 자각하지 못 하나보다. 우리 중의 많은 이들이 이 “두 번째 기회” 라는 강력한 마약에게 확연하게 NO 라고, 나는 콜드 터키로 가겠다고 선포한 것이다. 아이와 결혼이 같이 가야 한다는 법은 없다. 결혼 안 해도 애 낳을 수 있고, 결혼했어도 애를 안 낳아도 된다. 각자의 자유 의지로 결정하는 거다. 이전 세대의 굳은 믿음과는 달리 애 낳고 가족을 꾸리는 것이 팔자도 운명도 아니다. 또한, 가족의 구성이 꼭 혈연으로 이루어져야 하는 것도 아니다. 그럼에도 불구하고 OECD 국가 중 한국의 가임여성 (15-49세) 출산률이 (1명의 여성이 평생 출산하는 평균 자녀 수) 가장 적다고 하니 하는 말이다.2 나의 관심은 국가와 한민족의 보존이 아니다. 이런 것은 관심 있는 사람들이 벌써 나서서 난리법석이다. 나는 애국심에 젖어서 출산률을 거들먹거리지 않는다. 나라를 위해 우리는 무엇을 하고 어쩌고저쩌고 하는 것은 숨 막힌다. 내가 가장 싫어하는 말 중 하나는 “국민 대통합”이다. 박근혜 정권이 들어선 후 이 단어의 언급빈도가 도를 지나쳤다.

이 암묵적이지만 자유 의지에 입각한 온건파의 “애 낳기” 거부 현상이 시사하는 바는 이 것이다: 우리는 더는 이 사회를 지지하지 않을 뿐만 아니라 이 세상이 돌아가게끔 하여주었던 그 시스템에 참가하지 않겠다라는 조용하지만 단호한 반란이다. 나와 같은 강경파들에게는 항상 “나의 DNA는 나에게서 끝난다”는 반복하지 않을 의지가 이미 있었기에, 이 온건파의 행동이 놀랍다. 이 “애 안 낳기” 현상은 한국을 향한 사형선고도 아니고 삶의 포기도 아니다. 다만 우리는 교육, 종교, 문화를 통한 포괄적인 자진세뇌에도 불구하고 알투사리안 (Althusserian) 아이디얼러지컬 콜링에 응답하기를 거부한다는 것이다. 우리의 자유 의지이고, 제한된 상황에서의 능동적 선택이다. 이 선택이 소위 말하는 “팔자”를 따르기보다 절대 쉽지 않다. 그럼에도 불구하고 상당수의 사람들이 이 길을 선택한 것을 보면 미래가 어둡지만은 않다.
1. 역사전쟁에 대해서 이 책을 참조한다. Edward T. Linethal and Tom Engelhardt ed., History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (New York: Henry Holt, 1996).
2. 유해미, 저출산 대응 주요정책의 현황 및 과제 (서울: 국회입법조사처, 2009)를 참조하시라.

A Long-Ass Hiatus

I have been in a long-ass hiatus from, what is it that I am supposed to have been doing? Loafing. I left my lair on May 6, 2015 for Marseille, France and I had been traveling—camping and torturing myself—in Europe for nearly three months. I haven’t written anything for several months and there are so many yarns, horrible and delightful, to unravel. To make a long story intriguing, now I’m in Hwaseong, Kyungkido, Korea.

I haven’t been home for 10 years. I was born and raised in South Korea until I came to the United States to attend a university and a graduate school. Last time I was here was 2006 doing research for my doctoral dissertation. A decade is a long time, but I have never thought a mere 10-year of time could change things so drastically. I shouldn’t be surprised knowing and having experienced the lightning speed with which Korean people live their lives.

But that does not stop me from gasping with horror and frustration, and, in rare occasion, delight, at the way things are now in Korea. Things are worse than ever. Where do I begin? Let’s begin at the beginning.

Korea is a country of 51 million people (as of 2015) crammed into mere 98,000 square kilometers. There are 514 people per square kilometers. It has about $28,000 GDP per capita and an annual economic growth at about 3%. According to the wikipedia, which cites Yeonhap News agency, which cites “Statistics Korea,” which I have no idea what it is, a rate of unemployment is said to be about 3 % as well. But don’t believe the big brother, particularly in South Korea. I don’t believe most news coming out of Yeonhap, Chosun, KBS, and MBC: they are absolutely worse than the FOX network. The unemployment rate should be more like 20%. It’s all in the detail, as those of you in the social science fields know better than I. How this “Statistics Korea” defines “unemployment” and calculates it is not explained. Yeonhap is a lapdog of the current administration of Geun-hye Park, a daughter of former president Chung-hee Park who took control of Korea via a military coup, mowed down loads of protesters and dissenters, and ruled the country with the tyranny of a police state from 1962 to 1979. He was assassinated by his bff, the director of KCIA (Korean Central Intelligence Agency) in 1979.

Korea is a large, savory lot of sardines marinated in tyrannical juices and packed in a shinny, tiny, sparkly tin of vulgar capitalism with loads of baggages from the past. Its taste is complex, complicated, and greasy.

The first thing that struck me, i.e. after I inhaled abominably lethal air once I walked out of the airport, is the level of conspicuous consumption. Consumption in all levels, kinds, and degrees of perishable or nonperishable goods, human or robotic/automatic services. I have never seen so much consumed. Daily consumption levels are truly staggering, at restaurants, mega grocery stores, car dealerships, department stores, bookstores, coffee shops, why so many fried chicken shacks? etc. It’s not like people are consuming discretely at slow pace, the kind of consumption that requires relatively little money, time, or efforts. I have never seen so many foreign cars like MINI cooper, BMW, and Mercedes in my life in the United States. I have been to bigger cities of the United States if one thinks that my living in Minneapolis, Minnesota—too much of a “countryside” as one of my friends told me—perhaps limited my experience of seeing luxury cars: San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Honolulu, etc. I’m talking from my casual observation, and I would have noticed that there are many expensive foreign cars in California or Illinois had I stayed longer than a couple of weeks at a time. But we are talking about a country with less than $30,000 a year GDP. In the United States it is about $50,000. Korean people consume things at the GDP level of $60,000 or above, as in countries like Sweden, Norway, or Swiss.

Foreign cars are expensive in Korea not only because of taxes but also insurance payments. There is no “no-fault” insurance coverage plan in South Korea. People have to settle and agree on whose fault it is that caused an accident. And just like how nearly all things are in Korea, people go after others’ insurance plans aggressively and viciously to get every penny possible when there was an accident. Likewise, like how all things are in Korea, people with money have far better access to justice. Insurance coverage for foreign cars can get quite pricey. Nevertheless, people in Korea drive the kind of luxury cars I have seen in Geneva, Switzerland. It does not make sense.

The second surprise (besides the fact that I am rambling, but perhaps that reflects how bewildered I am): all the so-called “satellite cities.” I am staying at my sister’s place in the city of Hwaseong in the province of Gyeonggi. There have been numerous small cities popping up outside Seoul, the mega city (in terms of density of people, building, business and political interests) in which an approximately 20-25% of Korean population reside. These cities popping up outside Seoul are “satellite cities” that have been designed and developed by the government in order to disperse exploding populations in the capital. It functions like suburbs in the United States–providing more living spaces and affordability to people with families. When I was here 10 years ago, only a couple of satellite cities like Bundang was being built and urban transportation was just being connected these cities to Seoul. Now there are a bunch of them, including Hwaseong, Pangyo, etc.

Guava-colored bubbles indicate cities with population of 500,000 and more. These days these cities are more than bedroom communities: they are independent of Seoul and self-contained with their own schools, hospitals, and other necessary services. Unlike 10 years ago, the residents of these cities rarely have to go to Seoul unless they want to. Some are more prosperous than others: prices of properties in Bundang and Pangyo are higher than, say Hwaseong. The reason I’m talking about satellite cities is that, although convenient and self-contained, they are far from reaching the level of development and consumption in Seoul. When I see so many MINI cooper in Hwaseong, I would likely see even more expensive cars in Seoul. I’ll probably see lots of Porsche or Lamborghini. What the fuck is going on? How is this possible in a country whose GDP is barely $30,000?

Another thing that caught my eye is that many people eat out more than 2-3 times a week. My sister’s family rarely eat at home, even on weekends. I don’t get it. She said it was cheaper to eat out than cook at home. Prices of fresh produce and grocery items are indeed out of proportion: a small loaf (about 100-150g) of whole wheat baguette costs me 3,500 won (about $3)! I paid that much in France to get 400g of whole wheat baguette. Maybe because bread is considered not a staple but a luxury item. But other things cost more than what they cost in Europe. A bottle of shampoo, nothing fancy but the basic stuff that I can get at a corner store, is 7,500 won (about $7). In Germany mediocre shampoos cost me no more than 3 euros. But then nearly everything was cheaper in Germany than the United States, other parts of EU or even South Korea. Living expenses are crazy here in Korea. Even so, there are so many restaurants, and, more surprising, there are so many people in them, stuffing themselves up to the gills.

Hwaseong-shi, Gyeonggi-do

Hwaseong-shi, Gyeonggi-do

Unlike in the United States where one needs to always drive to get to SOME place to get SOME things, there are still commercial sections right in the neighborhoods in Korea and one does not need to drive just to get coffee, meals, hardware stuff, and grocery or bakery goods. But most of these buildings in these sections are of either restaurants or 학원 hagwons (private academies for various lessons like English, math, music, etc). I wonder how these restaurants don’t go out of business as the sheer number of them must raise a fierce competition. It’s not like they sell different foods. As all things in Korea, again, most restaurants sell what Koreans consider “hot” items like fried chickens, rice cakes, dried sea weed rolls, pizzas, bakery goods, noodles, and sashimi. Maybe because it’s the proximity to one’s houses that encourages eat-out more often. Just 5 minutes of walk, you can get a meal. Why would anybody toil over hot pot of something in the kitchen? But it still does not make sense. Restaurants are surprisingly expensive, not because I am comparing the prices of things today with the prices of things 10 years ago. I’m calculating everyday one thing against another. I want to get a sense of proportion, like weighing the price of 1 kg of peaches against a bowl of cold mediocre noodles at a mediocre restaurant.

Juxtaposed with shop-till-you-drop consumption is a rate of suicide in Korea. If suicide can reflect how hopeful (or not) a given population feels, Korea has a problem of a colossal proportion. According to OECD health status of 2015, Korea has the second highest suicide rates among OECD nations.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 9.53.34 AMWhy so many people kill themselves? I would kill myself if I am forced to think, act, work, and play like other Koreans. A society that does not tolerate diversity, individuality, creativity, or in general just being different than the rest of plebs cannot breed people of healthy minds. Expressions like “cut-throat competition” or “cog in the machine” take whole new meanings as they mean EXACTLY what that refer to. People do “cut throat” to get ahead of others; you are an insignificant, completely replaceable “cog in the machine” called Samsung corporation (I think Samsung will take over the country soon).

Now something spicier. How about some rampant sex discrimination and resentment toward women, the kind of resentment that results in strangulation, acid-throwing, gang raping and boasting about it on Facebook, disembodiment, stabbing with sashimi knife? People do not even flinch now when they hear of news about men arrested for throwing acid on their ex’s because they broke up with them. Now it is more like random killing of women. They just stab women with knife, complete stranger women! And then the media and the government blame mental illness.

A woman was stabbed on May 27 around 1 am in Kangnam, one of the busiest districts of Seoul with skyscrapers, restaurants, bookstores, shopping centers, movie theaters, and bars. She was having a good time with her friend at a karaoke bar and went to the bathroom to relieve herself. The killer was just roaming around the are and waited someone to come to the bathroom (who know what he was thinking?). It is known now that during the police interrogation the man said “I killed because she was a woman.” He is said to have a history of schizophrenia. It could have been a mental case if not for the fact that it isn’t an isolated murder. There are just too many of rape and murder of women in daily news. I am not even thinking about rape that has NOT been reported to the police.


This is a makeshift memorial at Kangnam subway station where the woman was murdered. It’s all well and good, but am I the only one getting tired of this? Posting notes, grieving, bringing flowers, etc. We forget too quickly. Doesn’t this scene look familiar?


To be continued…..

“Peanut Rage”: Hung Up on Little Things

We (some of us plebs including me) get hung up on little things. Why are we enraged by some things while denying the righteous anger to things that deserve our blinding fury?

On December 5th, there was an incident where a high-ranking business woman verbally and physically assaulted a couple of innocent people in an airplane. A Korean woman Hyuna Cho whose father owns Korean Air is Senior Vice President of KAL hotel network and a meal service department of Korean Air. Korean Air, although its predecessor began as a national airline in the 1960s and greatly benefited from financial support of Korean government and taxpayers, is no longer owned by the government.

What happened was that, while Cho was in first class of Korean Air departing from New York to Seoul in the Kennedy Airport, she berated a flight attendant for serving her macadamia nuts in a bag. Cho who oversaw the operation of a meal service got angry at the attendant because it was said that Cho thought her service not up to the company standard and the meal service manual. In Cho’s memory of the service manual the nuts were supposed to be served on a plate to first class passangers. Cho flew into a rage: she yelled at the attendant and pushed her to the corner of the cabin. She demanded that the manager of the first class cabin be summoned. Cho told the attendant and the manager to get down on their knees in front of her–yes, she really did that, for fuck sake, this way of humiliating someone into oblivion is so Korean and so old school– and beg for mercy. She began to yell at them using all kinds of four-letter words, apparently. According to one and only eye witness in the cabin (not many plebs could afford one of these seats that cost more than $ 10,000), Cho hit these two crew members with the paper book of the manual while the pilots taxied the plane to the runway. Being unable to control her anger, Cho “ordered” the flight to return to the terminal area and told the manager, “you, get off [the airplane].” As a result the airplane took off some 50 minutes later than it was scheduled. How this incident was revealed to the public is not clear to me. But on December 8th a Korean newspaper reported on this and things went out of control ever since. Cho tried to cover up the incident, ordering the crew members to keep their mouths shut. As the words of mouth spread via instant message services and texts on the phone among the entire body of employee of Korean Air however, the company even ordered to search the employee’s phones to find out who first leaked this incident to media.

This ugly portrait is indicative of a number of ills in South Korea. Not only was Cho’s action illegal (physical violence in airplane endangers the safety of others on board, not to mention a disgusting violation of rights of two crew members), but also she showed that many princess/princes of mega wealthy people in Korea including her has no fucking clues. moral and ethical standards (the ownership of the company doesn’t give Cho the right to treat the company employees as slaves). Cho’s actions were indefensible. I knew the media would be pouncing on this incident as it was a sensational story that was sure to get the attention of the people whose pent-up angers and frustrations at economic difficulties and widespread injustice often looked for an outlet. But I did not expect this level of fury.

Look at this photograph taken as Cho entered (or came out of) the prosecutor’s office in Seoul.

It is taken by a reporter from a Korean newspaper OhmyNews.com that was established in 1999 by four people who believed in the principle that “all citizens are/can be journalists [when they are politically and socially conscious].” It is a decent paper not affiliated with any corporations, business interests, political influence, etc. They revolutionized the Korean media landscape on some ground: for one thing, it proves that journalism is not a profession exclusive to those who think they have proper education and training. Therefore their agenda-setting perspectives can be free from strictly professional standards about what constitute “news” and what is “newsworthy.” In the last five to seven years, this paper has become immensely popular among the public. The paper has gotten better while the rest of media industry plummeted in terms of both circulation numbers and the quality of news. Most of all, the traditional media industry completely let down people’s expectations and trust in
“truthiness,” the term popularized by Colbert, of their news. The media landscape in Korea is so barren and parched: nobody, I mean people with a speck of conscience, believes in any major newspapers. The newspapers and the reporters are jokes in Korea, unfortunately. It’s quite schizophrenic: although few reads or believes in the stories they continue to print rubbish after rubbish as if circulation numbers no longer matter to them. It’s like both sides are blissfully ignorant of the existence of one another.

Anyway, with digital cameras that have become more affordable lately while their quality has improved dramatically, taking interesting photographs is not limited to major news outlets that could afford high-end equipments. Now it’s a photo journalist’s judgement about what is shutter worthy and what to publish what he/she thinks worth the digital space in their newspapers online. This is where I disagree with the reporter who took Cho’s photo and decided to publish it. You may wonder how the media got this shot? This way. Tell me about the photographers’ fanatical devotion to their occupation. This isn’t new to Korea, or to the world. Paparazzi-sm has been around for a couple of decades now. Why am I shocked. I can’t tell you how popular the pole that extends to take closeup photos are in South Korea.

Going back to the first photo. It makes me uncomfortable not because it compels me to confront things that I want to ignore, but because I have sneaking suspicion that the decision to publish this photo may not be grounded in any kind of principles. It looks to me the photo screams of “this is what people demand right now.” I don’t support self-censorship and wouldn’t say that the reporter who got the shot of Cho should have withheld that photograph. But I do ask: What is the purpose of publishing that photo other than giving people an instant sense of gratification at having the opportunity to picture Cho as a demonic beast? A rampant sense of injustice and unfairness that is sweeping South Korea affects how selectively we apply human rights. Yes, Cho was stupid and arrogant. But how on earth making her the object of collective, national hatred solve any problems? She became an easy target that begged to be scolded and trampled on. Cho deserves punishment, but not this demonization. We don’t need to get riled up by little things. We have bigger worries that are shattering the foundation of democracy and trampling on our rights and dignity.

Fauxlags, Funlags


These cotton candy look-alike are fauxlags. Fauxlags are strips of fibers that have been rolled along their length and then spun from the one pointed end to the other. This is one of long-draw methods to spin in “woolen” style. This way fibers get spun perpendicularly to their length. If you spin directly from top or roving, you are likely to use the short-draw method to spin in “worsted” style where fibers face one direction and their uniform positions are undisturbed as they are pulled into the drafting zone. On the other hand in woolen spinning, fibers are not lying neatly along the direction of your spinning. Rather fibers, as they are pulled toward the drafting zone, are gripping one another in all kinds of directions and this unparalleled messy fiber arrangement creates somewhat compromised yarn in terms of strength. As in life however, weakness comes with strength. Woolen spun yarn is incomparable with worsted spun yarn in terms of the next-to-skin barometer. You might ask, “softness aside, why on earth anyone do woolen style when the worsted spinning seems to be so much easier?”

I do it for a couple of reasons: First, woolen style produces a dramatically different yarn that is incredibly squishy, almost spongy-like (which is not the same as that coveted “sproingy” feel), highly elastic yarn. As a knitter, this reason alone is worth the try. There are many people who spin from fauxlags but I assume that not all of them must have spun these fauxlags woolen or that only few must have been impressed by the quality of woolen spun yarn because I didn’t hear much about how radically different their woolen spun yarn were. So you can imagine my surprise when I finished my first ever woolen spun merino top below.


This merino top is actually one of my very first fiber purchase back in March or April 2014, I think. I got 8oz of it from someone’s destash at reduced prices. I didn’t mean to do woolen spinning; I only wanted to do fauxlags spinning because fauxlags were soooooo pretty (if you are Ravelry member, check out tinygiraffe’s spinning projects, particularly this one. You will get an idea of why I wanted to try it). I didn’t even know how to do short draw, let alone long draw or knowing the difference between the two! Being true to my attitude toward life (which is to be blamed for my current station in life), I do first and think later, hope for the best and expect the worst.

There were so many places where my single broke as I pulled fauxlags in long draw. Have you ever seen how taffies are made? The mixture is being pulled and pulled. It feels like that. Pulling fauxlags in a couple of long draws gave me interesting sensations and this is my second reason to spin woolen: it’s really fun. But since I wasn’t too careful and didn’t know much about spinning in general, I pulled too much and my single broke.

Now I know what people mean when they say Brooklyn Tweed yarns are “weak” and they feel like “sweatshirts.” Woolen spun yarns are fragile, unpleasing characteristic for uber tight knitters, but unbelievably plump and squishy, like sweatshirts.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, back to my first photo. That is Becoming Art fiber in camel (50)/silk (50). I got it from destash at Ravelry. Destashed fibers are great: I always get destashed stuff when trying out new fiber components in case I ruin it. I love the color, but this top has some serious problem in silk. Silk is so badly bunched together that it was impossible to pull out the fiber even when my hands are like 20 inches apart! I had to horizontally open the fiber first and that is really not fun with badly compacted silk.



That streaks of silver bits are all over the fiber. The 50% silk in this top are all in the form of these streaks. It feels like tussah (natural, non-cultivated) silk. I’ve spun 100% cultivated silk before and this top doesn’t feel and look like cultivated silk. It feels far lighter and far less smooth. I suspect that the issue of bunching up might have something to do with the fact that this is tussah silk. Nevertheless, it was just too daunting to having to open up these, and I dreaded it and the fiber languished for months. Yesterday I finally pulled it out of my yarn closet and decided to do something about it. At least I will get some practice even if I ruin it. But did I say that the colors are too gorgeous? They are incredible red, gold, silver, pewter patinas. The fiber, which must have been a club fiber to the previous owner, came with the instructions on how to spin: strip vertically long the length of top multiple times (which will have the effect resembling horizontal drafting) and spin thin strips.

Sampling, the practice I always so before determining how to spin, indicates that even in its striped state it was going to be too excruciating to do worsted spinning simple because silk isn’t pulling smoothly at all no matter how far my hands are apart. Then I thought, “why not try woolen from fauxlags?”


It’s not bad.


At least I don’t have to spend more time on opening up the fiber than actually on spinning although making fauxlags does take time.

Home Brew

My “rejuvenator,” just a simple concoction of 1 slice of lemon, orange peel, 2-3 cardamum, a cinnamon stick, about an inch-long ginger, and honey.

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Now that winter has come, I’m drinking a lot of tea. I’m sure there will be flu and cold circulating pretty soon and people will be coughing their lungs out, poor souls. Although I rarely get cold or flu (I wash my hands religiously) I make this brew when I want to feel warm inside. I’m always cold. Something about my poor blood circulation, perhaps. Ginger does wonder to cold innards. This brew should be particularly beneficial if you are suffering from cold and flu–it replenishes, nourishes, and comforts. Honey will sooth your sore throat, and give you a little more sustaining energy (unlike refined sugar that gives you a surge of energy that dies down quickly). Ginger and cinnamon will warm you to the bones. Need I say more about lemon and orange, a vast reservoir of vitamins?

There really isn’t a recipe because it is so simple to make. Whatever you fancy and what you happen to have in your refrigerator will work, as long as you include ginger, lemon, and honey. I know cardamum is not for everyone—shocking! Simmer ginger, cinnamon, cardamum for about 5-10 minutes with about 2-3 cups of water. Just make sure put lemon and orange peel, if you are using, AFTER you turn off the heat to preserve as much vitamin as possible. I kept all the ingredients in the glass so that I can show you. I don’t keep them in my glass when I drink.

One more thing: I use organic oranges and lemons that have not been exposed to pesticide or any other inorganic compound.

I will be toasty warm this winter. I have home brew along with my hot water bottle cover and a warm, cozy, comfy sweater (hot off the needles, as of today!).


Let’s Eat Cookies for Breakfast


Really. I eat these cookies for breakfast dunking them into my coffee.

I confess though: I rarely eat breakfast. I know, I know. Breakfast, being the most important meal of the day. Some studies, however, found that this statement might have been overemphasized, according to the fabulous health/fitness writer Gretchen Reynolds at New York Times. For people who eat large dinners can easily skip breakfast and would still have enough energy to function in the morning. I concur based on my years of skipping breakfast, yet still functioning and healthy!

But if you are into breakfast big time, try one of these “breakfast cookies.” They are especially handy when you are terribly in a hurry to get out the door in the morning but hear that screaming in your stomach, “feed me!”

Unfortunately though, if you are a fan of soft cookies like this,

you won’t like my recipe.

My cookies are hardier and heartier. I’m sure the cookie pictured above is decent but won’t fill my craving. “Soft cookies” are overrated!

The kind of cookies I like is adopted from David Lebovitz’s “Great Chocolate Chip Cookies” from his book, The Great Book of Chocolate. As I briefly mentioned in my carrot post, I swap white flour for whole wheat cake flour, nearly halve the amount of sugar, omit vanilla extract (because vanilla extract is ubiquitous. You won’t believe what strange things use vanilla extract in them. Plus they tend to be artificial because real vanilla is VERY expensive and its flavor, like all the other real thing, VERY subtle) and substitute delicate nuts with almonds. This is my go-to chocolate chip cookies recipe.

Making cookies may or may not be as simple as we assume. Churning out consistently extraordinary cookies can be difficult, at least for me based on my experience and experiments. A lot of things can and do go wrong: quality of chocolate and kinds of sugar, temperature/humidity of kitchen, quality of flour and butter, the way butter is handled and cookie dough managed, etc. Apparently white sugar, sugarcane sugar (blonde ), brown sugar, and dark brown sugar not only affect flavors but also create differently textured cookies. I’m not a great baker so these were new to me when I learned from a series of articles in New York Times (I used to read their recipe/dinning section religiously). For instance, this particular article explains the merits of letting the dough sit in the refrigerator for a long time.

What I care most when I want good cookies are a robust flavor and texture. I learned that I like the combination of brown sugar and blonde. I also learned that I really like 70% bittersweet Scharffen Berger cooking chocolate in my cookies. To get the brawny texture, I have to have whole wheat flour. At first I experimented with mixing half of white flour and half of whole wheat. And then I bought whole wheat cake flour (it is supposed to be “lighter”) and found out that this is it! I tried almonds, pecans, and walnuts in my cookies. Pecans were wonderful but lacked in the texture department. The flavor of walnuts was lost in the midst of bittersweet chocolate and brown sugar. Almonds worked for me: roasted almonds brought out fragrance and flavor that could compete with chocolate. And the crunch!

Without more babbling,here is the recipe.


1 cup and 2 tablespoons whole wheat cake flour

1 stick of COLD butter cut into chunks (keep them cold)

1 cup toasted almonds chopped

1 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chopped

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt to sprinkle (fleur de sel or other finishing salt would be great)

1/4 cup blonde (sugarcane sugar)

1/4 cup dark brown sugar (pack it in the cup firmly)

1 large egg (should be in room temp)




  1. Toast almonds in the oven that was preheated to about 300 F for about 9-13 minutes. Oven temperature vary widely so check your nuts often. I checked once after 5 minutes. Pay attention to the aroma and, also look for nice mid brown color. Let them completely cooled and chop them.
  2. Chop chocolate.
  3. Mix flour and baking soda in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  4. In the mixer (I only have a food processor and used that) or kitchenAid stand mixer, beat sugar and cold butter for like 1 minute and then add an egg and beat another 1 minute.
  5. Throw in nuts and chocolates and wet ingredients into the mixing bowl.
  6. Gently “fold” all the ingredients, if you are doing it like I did in an old-fashioned way with a spatula. If you use an electric mixer, you’d know what to do better than I do. It’s important not to overdo the mixing. In fact, dough can be under mixed and cookies will turn out fine.
  7. Let the dough chilled in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours or longer.
  8. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 F.
  9. Scoop out dough and line them up on your baking sheet (I didn’t use the baking parchment paper) and sprinkle fancy salt on top of each dollop. Never underestimate the power of good sea salt!
  10. Bake for about 18 minutes. Based on my experience an 18-minute bake produces cookies that are crispy around the edge but slightly softer inside. For crunchier ones, bake 30-40 seconds more; for softer ones, bake 20-30 seconds less.
  11. Resist the urge to eat them right away (the molten chocolate will be hot) and let them cool for at least 5 minutes.
  12. Now wolf down with a glass of milk or, with sips of espresso for breakfast.

Carrots, Praise Be: My Take on Salade de Carottes Râpées


I first encountered a simple recipe of carrot salad on David Lebovitz’s site. If you are into dessert recipes, you would know of David’s chocolate/ ice cream recipes. He is sort of chocolate guru. His chocolate chip cookies are the best. Ever. If you are like me who does not care for tollhouse types of chocolate chip cookies—bland, limp cookies with underwhelming flavor of chocolate—you should try Great Chocolate Chip Cookies from David’s The Great Book of Chocolate. I substitute white flour with whole wheat cake flour and skip vanilla extract. You would be amazed that whole wheat cookies are soooooo much better than cookies made of white flour. I rarely use white flours. In fact anything too white: white refined sugar, 100% white rice, white flour, etc.

I love cookies. What am I talking about? Cookies, I mean, carrots. Since I was a kid, I LOVED carrots. Especially the end parts that got left out when my mom couldn’t cut/shred any more were all mine. Then something happened when I moved to the U.S. I used to shop at regular grocery stores when I hadn’t discovered the value of organic, local, and sustainably farmed produce. I realize these carrots from, who know how long it took to get here, somewhere far away lands were flavorless. I stopped eating them. There really was no point in torturing myself with these saw dust textured stuff that barely resembled real carrots, especially those “baby carrots.”

When I became a member of my local co-op and began shopping there, I noticed a dramatically different quality of produce. Co-ops in general get their produce as locally as possible. When I tried carrots from a farm that was located less than an hour from my city, it was total magic! Crunchier, extremely sweeter, and far more beautiful to look at.

When you have carrots of such superior quality, obviously they are begging to be munched on immediately. But if you are tired of raw carrots, try this simple salad. All you need is some kind of shredder, sugar, salt, and vinegar. Apparently French people are hugely into carrots as well: David who lives in Paris included this French carrot salad in one of top five national dishes of France. This recipe is great. But I wanted my own take on this classic recipe with a dash of home flavor. My version includes several drops of roasted sesame oil. I know sesame oil is not for everyone–shocking! I couldn’t believe it, but then I grew up with this shit. We Koreans put sesame oil on so many dishes that it is one of the national flavors of Korea. If you don’t like it, skip this step. But those of you who are of my kindred palates, little bit of roasted sesame oil elevates this simple salad into something unworldly: tart, sweet, and nutty. Very satisfying salad.

Obviously you need carrots. I like a little more texture in my salad and prefer ribboned to shredded carrots.

Obviously you need carrots. I like a little more texture in my salad and prefer ribboned to shredded carrots.

So I used this gizmo by oxo. Don't know what it's called. I bought it long time ago and I finally know what to do with it.

So I used this gizmo by oxo. Don’t know what it’s called. I bought it long time ago and I finally know what to do with it

Here is generous pile from three medium-sized carrots ready to be tossed in vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and sugar.

Here is a generous pile from three medium-sized carrots ready to be tossed in vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and sugar.

Pithy recipe for glorious carrot salad for one person:

3 carrots

2-3 tablespoons of quality vinegar (i.e. brown rice or apple cider)*

generous squeezing of half of small organic lemon (mine was small as an egg)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon of sugarcane sugar + some more *

3-4 drops of roasted sesame oil


I let carrots marinated for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator and sprinkle the sesame oil right before I eat. You can also dress up this humble salad in a snap: chop some cilantro and crush roasted peanuts and throw them on top!

I also stir and turn carrots over a couple of time to ensure the flavor penetrates evenly, not just on the bits that are on the bottom.

* I’m crazy about the combination of sweet and sour flavors, but if you are not, adjust the amount of vinegar and sugar. Since this salad is so simple, use best quality ingredients you can find. In addition to starting with fresh, local, and preferably organic carrots, if you have an expensive bottle of gourmet vinegar, this is the time to use that.

Au Naturel; C’est Parfait

DSC_0033 These  alpaca fiber tops of natural (white, fawn, and brown) colors are Alpaca Supreme from John Arbon Textiles, what seems to be a family-owned small fiber mill located in North Devon, the U.K. More precisely the fibers consist of 40% british alpaca, 40% falkland merino, and 20% cultivated silk. The glorious natural hues of alpaca are earthy and stunning. This was first time I purchased alpaca fiber and wasn’t sure how much twist it would require. Even though I am familiar with merino and silk, I heard alpaca could be easily overspun. I had to promptly play with the colors. Spinning wee samples is the only way to be sure to know what to do with unfamiliar stuff. So I made these itty-bitty samples in gradient. They are positively and violently cute! DSC_0002 DSC_0007 I’m totally in love with natural alpaca colors. One of the reasons I became interested in spinning was being able to play with the colors and create my own yarn, without actually dabbling in dying. So spinning natural, undyed fiber seems counterintuitive. But mixing the natural hues and spinning is just as gratifying. This was a much needed palate cleanser. Such a color fiend I am, I need pickled ginger between my sashimi bite.