Monday, April 29, 2013

...but some things are the same

You know what unifies my experience of living in America and, now, living for a short while in Korea?

I'll tell you: grocery receipts.

Yes: grocery receipts are the same everywhere, aren't they? There's a comfort in that insight. It's not the Force that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together: it's ticker tape. A machine prints the receipts, cuts them, and spits them out; a lady briskly hands the shorn paper to you, and you stuff the receipt into one of the plastic grocery bags you're carrying, or you do what I do and gingerly fold them into your wallet because of some innominate hoarding instinct.

Shopping at the local grocer here in Seoul (thanks, John, for pointing me to DC Mart) feels almost exactly like shopping for groceries at home. The aisles are a little tighter, the obnoxious dude with the microphone/bullhorn is a pain in the ass, but the Korean meat counter attendant is just as willing to grind up some beef for you, if you request it, as the butcher back in the States is—and when you get to the cashier, you can expect her to hand you a good old familiar receipt: a glorious white ribbon that catalogues all your consumerist sins.

Tonight's sins were legion. I spent over W80,000 on budae-jjigae and ddeokbokgi ingredients. The plan is to make meals that'll last me several days, if not a couple weeks. I'm going to take some budae over to Grandma tomorrow for lunch. Maybe she'll try it; maybe she won't. She may pride herself on her own cooking, and may want nothing to do with my offering. If so, that's fine: more for me to eat.

But it's nice to know that, however different, however strange, however foreign life in Korea might seem, there are always grocery receipts to remind me that Koreans and Americans occupy the same good earth.



John said...

Yep, the butcher is friendly and always fixes me up with freshly ground beef. You do know they have free delivery right to your door, right?

Kevin Kim said...

400 grams of ground beef set me back a whopping W9000, and it didn't even feel like 400g. But it was pretty damn good beef.

Did I know they delivered? Nope. I never asked; they never offered.