Every day, I go to lunch with two of the four Korean women that work in my office. They’re both English teachers and really interested in America and teaching me about Korean food. The taller of the two, Mrs. Young, has much better English, and the significantly shorter, Mrs. Kim has speaking skills that are well, definitely proportionate to her height.
We walked in and as we were getting our trays to dish up lunch, Mrs. Young realized that she forgot her phone, so she went back to get it. “Don’t worry, I’ll catch up soon,” she reassured, “I’ll find you.” As if I’m a vulnerable toddler just learning to walk. But don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have someone to talk to and explain what exactly I’m eating, since not many teachers at Gugal speak English, and Koreans eat way more random things than even Indonesians do.
Each tray has 5 sections: 1 for rice, 1 for soup, and 3 smaller ones for the “side dishes,” which usually include kimchi, some sort of green vegetable on its way to being kimchi, and something saucy and/or meaty. That day was no different. Koreans tend to mix things into the white rice when preparing it, making it ever so slightly less monotonous. (Can’t fool us! It’s still white rice, just with sesame seeds in it.)
Unidentifiable vegetable? Check.
Something saucy? Check.
White rice disguised as not-white rice? Check.
Red soup with veggies and bits and pieces of a random animal? Check.
I sat down at the teachers’ table and started poking through the veggies and kimchi. I tend to try the new things first, as I don’t want to leave lunch with funk breath or a bad taste in my mouth. You should also know that I’ve become somewhat of a chopstick master since I’ve been here.
Usually, you eat the chunks in the soup with your chopsticks instead of the soup spoon. I picked up a piece of cabbage that was on top of the soup. Nice and spicy. As I was happily munching on what was probably just leftover kimchi tossed into soup, I realized that there was something in my soup.
Something very peculiar looking. Very, very peculiar.
Phallic, covered in veins, and definitely shaped like finger-sized man junk. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I knew it looked out of place. The first thing that came to mind wasn’t, “What is that?” but rather, “That should not be in my soup.”
The shorter English teacher looked over at the mini-member in my soup and said, “Oh, you have a big one! Haha!”
“What exactly is that?” Please don’t tell me something gross. Please don’t tell me something gross. Please don’t tell-
“It is male reproductive organ.”
A what?! Oh god. Ohgodohgodohgodohgod. What were the chummy cafeteria ladies trying to feed me?!?
Mrs. Young sat down as I was looking at my tray, absolutely bewildered. She dug right in to her soup, and I couldn’t help but feel a little green around the gills. She looked up as I dismissed the soup entirely and moved on to the rice.
“Dani, do you not like the soup?”
“I’m not exactly sure yet.”
“Oh, it is quite popular in the spring, when fish start to reproduce.”
Fish. It was some part of a fish. I was a little bit thankful at that point. Just a little bit. “What is it from?”
“It’s the egg sac of a female fish. Like the eggs on sushi.”
No way, it’s something I’ve eaten before? I was taken aback for a moment, since the thing in the metal bowl looked like it had no need for a little blue pill.
I couldn’t bring myself to finish the soup, but I definitely made sure to review a few masculine/feminine terms with Mrs. Kim on the way out of the cafeteria.
“Female fish, Mrs. Kim. It was from a female fish.”