The Bare Necessities

OK, I have to talk basics here, and I mean the bare essentials…get ready for some toilet talk. I mean, while it’s true that different cultures have their own customs and such, nothing could have prepared me for my two bathroom experiences here in Seoul.

The first one is the bathroom in Dan’s apartment. At a glance it looks pretty normal: sink, toilet…oh but where is the shower? Well, as Dan explained, the bathroom IS the shower. Saywhat? There is a shower spout sticking out of the wall, and when you get down to the “bare essentials”, you turn it on. Well. The spray goes all over you, the wall, the sink, the toilet and the floor. Talk about a drenching experience! The toilet paper has a cover as does the electrical outlet, and even the toilet seat cover is built so that the seat stays dry. Ok. I can begin to get used to that as well as wiping down the walls and floor after each shower. After all, when in Seoul…..

Well. We went to an Italian restaurant last evening called Lazio Pasta. Oh yummy! Finally some carbs and bread things, and it was great, right down to the bread that is black from squid ink. (I kid you not).

The brown bread is pumpernickle. The black is from squid ink. Delicious!

The restaurant was cozy with rustic wooden tables and chairs, heaters all over the place and blankets to cover your legs if you were cold. Nice. And some of the wait staff spoke English which was a plus. The potato pizza was different but delicious as well.

After a long bus ride to get there I had to go check out the facilities. The ladies room was right out by the entrance, and on entering I felt a frigid blast of air. Oh right; I figured I’d frost my touche on that contraption. But wait – the toilet had a set of lights and buttons at the side, reminiscent of my old BMW.  But this was amazing! A heated seat – trust the Koreans. Afterwards I wondered what button to push to flush. There were three or four of them, each with a light, a Korean symbol and a picture of what looked to be clouds, explosions or spoutings. How hard could it be? One of them had to be the flusher. I tentatively pushed the first button. A few sounds but nothing else; I should have been more patient. Buttons two and three were pressed in quick succession. I needed to know what this was all about. Imagine, to my horror, a tube rose out of the depths and started spraying all over me. The stall was so small I couldn’t get out of the way and I had no idea how to turn it off. Who would have thought of a bidet in a restaurant privvy? I quickly shut the seat and exited, my coat just a little on the wet side.

So now I have seen the primitive as well as the hi-tech. What will Jeju have to offer next week?

Hi Seoul

Wow! I can hardly believe that I am actually here in Seoul, South Korea. I left my cozy bed in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia on January 23 at 4AM and arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul at 5PM on January 24th. My journey took me from Halifax to Montreal to Vancouver and then on to Seoul, crossing through at least five time zones as well as the International Date Line.  Everyone was telling me about the tremendous jet lag that I would experience, but that was not the case at all. I didn’t sleep much on the plane, and once I arrived in Seoul, it was only a few hours before I would be going to bed. Never mind that my body’s time was 4AM. I was TIRED. So I took one ativan and two melatonin and didn’t see the light of day until it was Tuesday morning in Seoul. And that was that.

I’m still having a hard time to wrap my mind around the fact that I am in a foreign country, and one that has recently been attacked. I go outside expecting no problems until I open my mouth and realize that Korean is not anything like French or English. Not at all. Sign language becomes very important; also smiling and bowing. Yes, bowing. It seems that the new handshake in Korea is bowing. Thank God I have my son Dan to walk me through protocol and customs, and also to introduce me to multitudinous new foods that Korea has to offer.

Dan’s apartment is in the Songpa-gu district of Seoul, just a five minute walk from the Olympic Park (remember the Seoul Olympics in 1988?) It’s a neat little area, filled with restaurants, Hyundai cars and Samsung products. Pedestrians have a unique relationship with the cars here, as there are no sidewalks and the streets are very narrow, so they are very respectful of each other. It’s funny, but I feel quite safe here, people are friendly and the crime rate is extremely low (attacks from North Korea notwithstanding).

On my first evening in Seoul, Dan took me to a shopping complex that could only be described as Babylon. It is called Lotte Department Store and you could see it for miles with all its lights beckoning you. There are eleven floors of shopping, and the merchandise is exquisite, although cost prohibitive. It was nice to look though. All the restaurants are on the 11th floor and we chose one that Dan had eaten at before. Imagine, after seeing all the expensive things on the lower floors, finding a great restaurant that charged only 16,000 won for both of us. That’s 16$ Canadian. And that included the tax. And Dan informed me that in Korea you don’t tip. So the full meal, which included rice, kim chee, tons of vegetables, beef and sauces was more than we could eat. No wonder Dan doesn’t cook – he just buys all these side dishes to keep in the fridge and he eats out a lot.

Over the next week or so we will be going to some of the markets, Namdemum and Dongdaemum in particular. I’m hoping to get some neat fabric to bring home for a quilting project and to see in general, what they have to offer. Stay tuned.

Holy Crap! It Works!

I’m a Dragon’s Den junkie, I’ll admit it. Every Wednesday evening finds me in my rocking chair, remote poised,  and ready to see what the rest of Canada has been up to, as far as inventing goes. A couple of months ago there was a couple from BC with a cereal they called Holy Crap! The Dragons were intrigued. I was intrigued. I think the whole country was intrigued. Anything that can make you “go” is intriguing, I guess. Anyway, Holy Crap was the biggest success story on Dragon’s Den to date.

I wanted some of this cereal right now. After going on the site, I discovered that it was 11.95 a bag, and you had to buy three bags. And it was backordered. Well what did I expect? The two main ingredients, the ones filled with vitamins, omega-3’s, antioxidants and fiber, were chia seeds and hulled hemp seeds. Now Aaron tells me there is a lot you can do with hemp, but we were obviously not thinking of the same thing…

Now what does Holy Crap have to do with O magazine? I’ll tell you. I received the December issue of O magazine in my Christmas stocking. There were some great recipes, as usual, but there was one that got me to thinking. It was a recipe for Pumpkin Granola, and it claimed to be low in fat. I was interested….what would happen if I made Pumpkin Granola and added in the essential Holy Crap ingredients? I gathered all my ingredients together and experimented. I easily found the chia and hulled hemp seeds at Bulk Barn.

Holy Crap! It tastes great!

Holy Crap! It works! (you get my drift, right?)

A star is born…

Here are some of the ingredients for Holy Crap Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola:

cup canned pumpkin puree, brown sugar, old fashioned rolled oats, chia seeds, hulled hemp seeds and dried fruit

And the full recipe is in my new book, Eat Where You Are: A Memoir in Recipes, which can be found at