A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Never look a gift cuttlefish in the ink hole

This evening I made a quick run down the block to the Paris Baguette. I was feeling much better so I figured I'd indulge myself and buy a small tub of green tea ice cream and a few baked goods. I'm more or less a VIP customer and the shop owner, Kim, likes to offer me a few free treats on my way out. Tonight was no exception, especially since I had told him I was sick during the week. He quickly rushed over to a small basket full of some curious looking black rolls.

"What are these?" I asked, trying to mask my despair as Kim happily dropped two of the dark lumps into a small plastic bag.

He looked at the label but was unsure about the English so he pointed it out to me.

It was unceremoniously described as "ink of cuttlefish bread."

"Oh!" I remarked, fighting to keep my appetite.

"It is very good for our health," said Kim.

This is probably one of the most commonly uttered phrases I've heard since I arrived here. Eating healthy is a national fixation, at least among the older generation who hasn't grown up around super-sized uppercuts. My boss once joked that if they discovered an animal that was said to be incredibly healthy when eaten, the Koreans would quickly hunt it to extinction.

So here I was, politely accepting the only bread I've ever seen in my life that could be described as ominous, from a grinning shopkeeper simply concerned with my good health. I thanked him and headed home with my spoils.

I could only really bring myself to take an exploratory nibble of the bread, and while it didn't taste like pungent shellfish repellent, it was hardly delicious— just bitter and doughy. As for the strange filling which you're probably wondering about, you know, the stuff that looks like congealed mayo (and I'm not altogether convinced it isn't!) that's a question best left unanswered.

I'm sure the health benefits of cuttlefish ink are profound and many, but as a rule of thumb I don't want my dunkables blacker than my coffee.

Thanks all the same Kim.


Shane said...

Koreans will eat anything as long as they have the 'health' excuse to back it up. They eat dog meat cause they say it gives you sexual stamina and other healthful benefits.
At one time eating dog was an unavoidable result of 'not much to eat'. Now they have plenty of food but don't want to give it up cause they've acquired a taste.
I don't think your bread's healthy at all...squid's just cheaper than raspberry filling around here.

jake said...

That bread looks like duong.

I'm enjoying the FN Family Circus link you have on the side.