Yesterday evening, I enjoyed a magnificent dinner at the fortress residence of my buddy Charles and his lovely wife Hyunjin, who live at Seoul National University, where Charles works. Although I was once again probably the quietest person at the table (I'm almost never the life of the party, and am never that animated in social situations), a good time was had by all, especially as my friend Tom and my former boss Patrick spent a lot of time busting each other's balls over the course of our long meal.
As has been true in the past whenever I find myself sitting with Tom and Charles, dinner conversation was again mostly foreign to me: baseball, personal anecdotes, and Belgian beer all featured prominently, so I had little to add. Patrick was kind enough to bring a raft of different Belgian beers, most of which I sampled, none of which I can recall by name, except perhaps for La Duchesse de Bourgogne, which Charles rightly called "the champagne of beers." The Duchesse was indeed bubbly, and had almost none of that "liquid bread" taste that I associate with most of the beers I've sampled. I don't think my palate is trained enough to distinguish one beer from another, but the Duchesse was easy to separate from the crowd, and she had been saved for last. I also tried some Islay scotch (pronounced "eye-luh," says Charles) and a funky, molasses-infused Hawaiian rum called Koloa (not to be confused with Kahlúa, a coffee-tinged Mexican rum), which packed a punch and instantly warmed my face. It reminded me of my first-ever shot of Johnnie Walker whisky.
Dinner was Hyunjin's wonderful, fresh salad, made with a citrus dressing. Charles served the greatest part of the food, having made chicken pot pies that had been customized to suit our various tastes (no onions for me, no veggies at all for Tom) and a Koloa-infused apple crumble for dessert. Tom brought his wife's Thai pork tenderloin, which was very nicely spiced, and I brought a pot of choucroute alsacienne. Everybody's food received many compliments, and I'm pretty sure we all came away pleasingly stuffed.
All in all, it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening, and I was glad to find myself among friends. Charles walked us out to the shuttle-bus stop; we took the bus to Nakseongdae Station, then grabbed a cab from there. Our conversation in the cab included some talk about Stephen Krashen, who is pretty much the god of language instruction. (Tom declared Krashen to be soporific.) Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, determinism, and compatibilism also got mentions. At one point during dinner, conversation shifted to Jesus and scripture after Tom mentioned a recent article claiming that some researchers had dug up testimony to the effect that Jesus had been married—not a surprising claim for us religious-studies students, who have heard numerous assertions surrounding Jesus' life and ministry years before Dan Brown put his fictional spin on the speculation in his The Da Vinci Code.
I got let off at my neighborhood in Chungmuro, and Tom and Patrick sped off to their respective destinations. A very good evening, indeed, and it made up for the lack of celebration the previous day.