Saturday, March 28, 2015

adorbs (the story of a Saturday meal)

So I visited JW and made a very late lunch for him, his wife, and his brood (if two kids constitute a "brood"). JW's kids are adorable. JA, the son, is whip-smart and fluent in at least two languages—possibly three, since he lived in India for four years and picked up a lot of Hindi. His sister, MJ, is also smart, but she's the shy one, taking more after her quiet mom. Persuading MJ to make a face for the camera, though, wasn't that hard because she's blessed or cursed with an impish sense of humor, as you'll see.

Below, we have MJ and JA on the couch, in TV mode. One creepy thing I noticed is that the siblings never fought once in my presence. Not once. That ain't right.

In the following image, JW takes one of about a billion photos of meal prep, including pics of his wife and yours truly trying to make this a worthwhile meal. The Missus insisted on helping out, so she became something like a sous-chef, but not quite: this was her kitchen, after all, and she knew it better than I did. She also had very quick nunchi (perceptivity, social awareness), and there were times when I think she knew what I wanted or needed even before I did. JW's lucky to have married a woman with that superpower.

Next, a photo of a moment inside the spanking-new family car, as I'm being driven to Gangnam Station, where I planned to catch the express bus back to Goyang City. Mom was in the middle of saying, "Don't pull that down!" when I snapped the shot. Her kids obviously don't always listen to her.

Below, the photo you've all been waiting for, and that magic moment when all parents love their kids best:

JW and his wife looked tired today. I know I probably shouldn't say that, but I can't help thinking that one of the reasons I'm still single has a lot to do with the sheer effort involved in raising kids. Kids leave you constantly tired—that's the main lesson I've learned from watching all my married friends in both the States and South Korea. Are children worth it? I'm sure the kids' parents would say yes, but they'd say so while looking as if they'd just run a marathon.

This final image, below, is from JW, whose phone camera has a timer. He mounted the phone on the counter, against the backsplash, to get this angle. I was in the midst of stirring up my pasta, which JW pronounced excellent, despite the absence of bacon (we didn't get to buy everything we'd wanted). Everyone loved the pasta, which was penne with Kevin-style Alfredo sauce (Gorgonzola instead of parmigiano), chicken, mushrooms, and baby spinach. Picky little MJ wasn't quite as keen on the salmon, but JA ate everything he'd been served, and he even phoned me later to thank me. Here's all of us (click for full size):

JW sometimes has the best intentions, but his execution isn't always as good as the conceptualization. I had told JW that I wanted to shop for my ingredients and begin prepping the Saturday lunch at my own place on Friday, so that it'd be a simple matter to lay everything out and quickly cook it all on Saturday. JW would have none of it: "Shopping together is an enjoyable way to spend time!" he boomed. "So let's meet, hike, shop, then do lunch." Of course, this best-laid of plans went awry almost immediately: I waited over 20 minutes for my local bus to show up and take me to Madu Station, so I texted JW that I'd be late in arriving at Gangnam Station (we had planned on my arriving at 10AM; I told him it'd be closer to 11). The express bus, however, turned out to be way faster than I'd thought it would be, and I was only 15 minutes late to Gangnam Station, not a whole hour late, as I'd anticipated. I texted JW at the beginning of my express-bus ride, giving him an ETA of 10:15AM, which is what the driver had told me. I then texted JW an hour later to say that I was about to step off the express bus at—yes—10:15AM, and he texted back, "WHAT?!?"—so he obviously hadn't prepared to leave his apartment in Samsung-dong to come get me. "Take your time," I texted him. I truly was in no hurry: I had already mentally calculated how the day was going to go, and I knew there'd be no time for hiking: we'd have to shop and go right back to JW's place to cook the food and serve it at a decent hour.

Turns out the Gangnam-area traffic was horrible, and driving the equivalent of three subway stops took the better part of an hour. Upshot: JW picked me up around 11; we hit the Yangjae Costco a bit before noon; we finished shopping around 1:30; we got to JW's place around 2:15; lunch wasn't ready until 3:30PM, by which point the kids were starving. I felt guilty about the delay, but it couldn't be helped, and I groused to JW that this was why I'd wanted to shop and prep on Friday. JW and his wife also told me that they intended to visit JW's parents in Huam-dong (right next to Namsan), which meant they needed to leave around 4:30PM. That gave us about an hour for lunch, which wasn't bad: we didn't have to rush our meal, which JW praised several times. (That's a rarity: JW's often a critical guy, and not shy about voicing his criticisms, so it was nice that this meal passed muster.) We ended up leaving the apartment closer to 5PM; I hit the express bus and transferred to the local bus at Madu Station in Goyang, at which point JA, JW's son, called to thank me for the meal and to say that he and his family still hadn't arrived in Huam-dong yet because of the incredibly bad traffic.

Before we parted company, JW's wife was apologetic: "We asked you to come and cook for us; we made you work; you spent so much money on the food... next time, we'll treat you!" She's a gentle soul. I waved off the money thing; that didn't worry me. I'm not going to be spending much over the next couple of weeks, anyway: I bought so much at Costco that I've got plenty of supplies to last me a long while, and the Missus made sure I took a lot of it home with me, loading two Costco shopping bags with food and sundries.

So in that nonlinear way that Koreans are infamous for (and I have to admit that I contributed to the nonlinearity), today turned out fine. I didn't buy any bacon, which I felt detracted somewhat from my pasta dish, but no one complained about its absence. I didn't get to make a chicken satay appetizer, but that was mainly because we were already so damn late with the food prep that an appetizer seemed more like punishment than an extra perk. I didn't make my homemade berry sauce for dessert—in fact, we never even ate the dessert I had bought from Costco (mini blueberry cheesecakes—six for W15,000). But everyone was stuffed in the end, and the meal went over well, all in all. A day well spent.


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