I had no idea when I walked in the cafeteria today for lunch of the mayhem I was about to cause.
I stood in line, got my tray and put kimchi in the kimchi hole. I inspected the next offering: spicy squid. Yum. I gave myself a generous portion and was putting the tongs back when my co-T gasped in horror.
“Carrie-teacher!! There is MEAT in the rice! You cannot eat the rice!”
Instantly, two other co-Ts and a music teacher flocked to my side to look in dismay at my tray, and then at the rice. The head cook came running over.
“Good thing I like squid!” I said cheerfully, attempting to bypass the rice and head to the soup.
The head cook was now staring at the rice in dismay as well. She is a very sweet lady who goes out of her way to help me navigate the meaty waters of Korean cuisine. She looked horrified.
“I can eat the soup right?” I asked, trying to distract them.
“Yes! Soup OK, OK!”
Sadly, it was a soup I’m not particularly fond of. Usually I just skim the surface with the ladle and serve myself a bit of broth and a bivalve or two. Not today. The depths of the soup cauldron were dredged to provide me with nourishment. A mountain of seaweed appeared in my bowl along with legions of bivalves and small crustaceans.
“Gosh, thanks,” I muttered, trying to smile.
The soup is a seaweed and seafood combination that should be delicious. Sadly it isn’t. The seaweed is a rubbery, slimy variety that makes the broth thick and gelatinous. It tastes like I’ve just licked the bottom of the ocean.
The nutritionist came running over, attracted by the noise. 3 co-Ts, the music teacher, the head cook, and the gym teacher who had just arrived all tried to explain my predicament.
“No rice?!” she gasped.
“It’s not really a big deal,” I tried to reassure her. “I didn’t have rice for breakfast either.”
Clearly that was the wrong thing to say. She went a bit pale and put more rubbery seaweed in my bowl.
She apologized profusely as I tried to tell her that I wouldn’t starve.
“I really like this squid!” I said smiling.
She apologized again.
I made my escape while everyone was staring at the soup pot, looking for more seaweed to serve me.
I was looking for somewhere to sit when the principal spotted me. Groaning under my breath, I made my way over and bowed as best I could with my mountain of slimy seaweed.
The principal was sitting with both VPs and several visitors from the Board of Education. He motioned that I should join them. As I set my tray down, he spotted my lack of rice.
There was a gasp of horror from the visitors.
“Ah no… but this squid sure is delicious!”
He summoned over the head cook and the nutritionist. Abject apologies were offered. I wished the floor would open and swallow me up. The nutritionist is new. How was she to know I didn’t eat meat? She has 1700 people to feed every day, why should she care about the weird dietary habits of the crazy foreigner?
The principal looked disgruntled and told all the other teachers at my table to give me the slimy seaweed from their soup. I looked at my bowl with growing horror; there was no way I could avoid eating all that nasty, slimy seaweed now.
Maybe the squid would camouflage the taste. I picked some up with my chopsticks.
“Look!” gasped one of the visitors, staring at me. “She can use chopsticks!”
Everyone turned to look at me.
“Carrie-teacher, you use chopsticks very well!” one of the VPs said, earning me a polite round of applause from everyone at the table.
“Thank you,” I muttered, smiling weakly.
Thankfully, the principal and his visitors finished soon after and left. Now that they had experienced the resident freak show, what on earth could the principal show the visitors as an encore? 😀