Friday, April 13, 2012

Lunch Tasting Day

Today we put on airs for the preschoolers' parents, who pay more for their children's preschool than I did for college. It was lunch tasting day. Iryne and I introduced ourselves to the twenty-odd parents of Bear and Calf class with a short speech about how we'll teach the kids and encourage healthy eating habits. Few of them speak English, so after what I had to go through to please them, I wish I would have said cruel, honest statements while smiling and speaking in a cheery, upbeat tone of voice. I wonder what my supervisor (who had to translate my speech sentence by sentence) would have done?

I kid... I kid!

It was an exhausting day, though, undoing each naughty child's behavior all morning: turning the bulletin board pictures right-side up, tucking in shirts, scrubbing black crayon from the tables, smoothing down pigtails and braids, and stuffing vegetables into tiny Korean mouths. We did our best to make preschool seem like a very orderly, well-assembled affair. It's pretty interesting what sorts of expectations these parents have. More about that later, though.

The parents observed their little darlings enjoying a "typical" lunch at SLP. "Typical" meaning: silverware always on the plates, never on the dirty table, kids smiling while eating their vegetables, polite requests for more rice, please, no one eating with their fingers, no food spilled anywhere, no kids wrestling for the last chicken nugget. After about ten minutes, the parents left to meet with the school's nutritionist and try the food themselves. A lot of forced smiles, awkward giggles, and nodding occurred, as we all tried to make decent impressions. I wouldn't say it went perfectly or even smoothly, but I seem to have made it through unscathed. I still have a job!

Anyway, on this lunch tasting day, I thought it fitting to share some pictures from lunch in Bear and Calf class. Some days I scarf the food so ravenously I have to remind myself to take a breath. Other days I take the cover off my lunch box and quickly replace it.  Regardless, we are always served soup, some sort of main dish, kimchi, rice, and a few side dishes. These are more or less normal lunches, maybe next week there will be some stranger ones to share with you.

The top left compartment holds a sort of savory pancake with peppers and corn cooked into it. The top right has a mixture of vegetables and slices of fish cake in a red pepper paste. Fish cake (kamaboko) is made by pureeing white fish, adding some ingredients then steaming it until firm. It is then sliced and covered in sauce.
The bottom left is plain white rice, and the bottom right is kimchi made with radish. The soup is a red pepper paste-based broth with scallions, and I added rice. In the foil is dried seaweed (gim), for which I have developed a strong liking. The seaweed is coated in sesame oil and salt before drying and basically dissolves in your mouth. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best Korean school lunch I've had yet), I'd give this lunch an 8.

In the top left, there are mini hot dogs, which we have a couple times a week in various forms: sliced up, cooked whole, and sometimes diced.  These little weiners were covered in soy sauce and topped with a sprinkling of sesame leaves and seeds.  There are also some little dumplings in the mix (the white-ish lump), and I dont know how, but they are always in random shapes like stars, hearts, and animals. The top right contains a very spicy cole slaw-like side dish with julienned carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, and other greens. The rice for this meal was served with dried seaweed crumbled into it. There is also more radish kimchi! This day gets a 6.

The soup is a clear broth with cucumbers, carrots, and egg, to which I added rice. The main dish in the top left is a mixture of vegetables with Korean buckwheat noodles. The top middle is a very strange food that I have only tasted once. It's called acorn jelly (dotorimuk), and basically it's the consistency of jello. It is made with acorn starch, so there is a faint taste and scent of acorn, but overall it has little-to-no flavor. It is covered with sauce, sesame leaves, and carrots. I'm not usually picky about food textures, but I can't seem to get over this one. In the top right are soft, boiled potatoes with a red pepper paste sauce. The kimchi in this lunch is more traditional, as it is made with cabbage. I don't love it yet, but I try to eat a little kimchi every day to improve my tolerance for spice. This day gets a 7.

 He always eats all-gone in Calf class, though he usually has to run to get water halfway through because he can't eat much kimchi yet either.

She is usually the first one finished, and she always cleans her plate! No kimchi problems here. Such a cutie- she likes to randomly raise her hand in class just to tell me she loves me.

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