Yeti Eats: Rudy’s Pizza

My sister kept excitedly mentioning a place called Rudy’s. I didn’t really care–we already so many places to go to, both old favorites and new places to try. But her enthusiasm would not be denied, so one Sunday, she and her boyfriend and I drove halfway across the city and tested out this place.

It’s about as unassuming as can be from the outside.20170326_163026

But the inside is cozy, the servers are friendly and well-informed (if not actually vegan themselves) and there are signs with all kinds of vegan information.

Not everything is vegan, but there is an impressive array of options. You can choose Follow Your Heart or Daiya cheese–I don’t really know the difference but they’re both good.

 

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We showed absolutely no restraint and ordered vegan wings, cheese bread sticks, pesto breadsticks, and a half-and-half pizza. A lot of food and all of it awesome.20170328_001644

The vegan wings were not something I would have ordered but they were tasty. And it comes with a choice of vegan Ranch, Vegan Blue Cheese, Vegan Creamy Sriracha,
or Vegan Garlic Butter.20170328_001708

The pesto breadsticks only came as a mistake but were maybe the best part of the meal.20170328_001736

Finally the pizza! With 3 people there were dissenting opinions, but we went with my sister’s dream of taco pizza (which had beans on it, in proper fashion) and Vegan BBQ-Ru. Other than a lot of black olives there were no complaints at all.

Not having had pizza for a couple of years, I was really jonesing and this place was perfect. I think it leapfrogged Sizzle Pie and HUB as my favorite portland pizzeria. I’ll definitely be back.

Look at me. I am old, but I’m happy. 

My sister and I spent a lot of time at the library while growing up. My mom worked until 5 and one of the advantages of a small town is that we could easily walk to the public library after school. (And one of the advantages of being nerds is that we really liked this arrangement.) The librarians (especially Rita, who was the kindliest grandmother you can imagine) were always great to us, recommending books and watching out for us.

But the small town library was not exactly up-to-date. A lot of the books I could read were Danny Dunn (written in the 50s) Encyclopedia Brown (written in the 60’s) and We Were There (written in the 50’s).

Danny Dunn was pretty cool, everyone knows that Encylopedia Brown rocks, but The We Were There books were my favorite. They took historical events and inserted kids into them, so you ended up with titles like We Were There on the Oregon TrailWe Were There with Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusades, and We Were There with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.

In one of them, which a little research shows me must have been We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma. Or maybe it was another book about Ferdinand Magellen or Americus Vespucci (I had quite an explorer phase.) Anyway, there was a book I read where a kid joined up with an explorer. Upon finding out the explorer was 40, he gasped at how old that sounded. Of course I agreed with the kid.  40 was old! Now that I’m here, on the side of the Explorer, I kinda think that kid was exaggerating a bit. Morgan Freeman wasn’t even famous when he was 40. But I do feel my age. The early 80s, my formative years, were long ago. Even the Eddie Vedder era that is the highlight of my life was a quarter of a century ago, as far the Kennedy era as it is from us. 

Forty really isn’t so bad. However there are some drawbacks.

  • I’m beginning to think my NBA career is looking a little unlikely.
  • I can’t drink much alcohol anymore.
  • I have to stretch before running or playing basketball. 

There is good stuff too.

  • My beard has enough grey in it that I don’t get carded anymore.
  • People consider you smarter the older you look.
  • I’m closer than ever to being able to wear my pants up to my nipples.

I was never a big fan of bucket lists, for a multitude of reasons. However, back in 2009-2010 I did make a list of special things I hope I can do.

 

  • Walk barefoot over hot coals.
  • Drive the ice-fields parkway
  • Bike through the middle east.
  • Hike the PCT
  • Ride a camel across Mongolia.  Write a book about it called “I Think I Khan.”
  • Enjoy eating durian
  • Walk across Norway.
  • Play one-on-one with Arvydas Sabonis.
  • Use a grappling hook to climb up something, at night, while dressed in all black.
  • Climb a coconut tree and throw coconuts at the ground. Bonus Points if I can hit a monkey..
  • Get into a tomato fight (maybe Spain’s La Tomatino)
  • Live in a castle for at least a year
  • Direct a scary movie.
  • Have a book reading at Powells
  • Throw rotten tomatoes at someone who sings a shitty song.
  • See an Ionesco play in Paris.
  • drink maple syrup straight from a tree (or bucket) in Quebec.
  • Hike into a natural hot spring while it’s snowing outsideDrive a motorcycle with a sidecar through Russia. Bonus Points: Have a dog wearing goggles in the sidecar.
  • Bob for apples on Halloween Addams family style….(with big seesaw plank)
  • Have long hair and headbang to Bohemian Rhapsody while driving in a car. Bonus points: Dana carvey is there too.
  • buy groceries in france and walk home with baguette sticking out of bag
  • fart on a skunk

 

 

 

Not always probable, or likely

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Alis volat propriis

It’s a fifteen minute walk from my sister’s to Fred Meyers, that bastion of Oregonian grocery stores. Each day I go there, I pass squirrels jittering across the street, crows cawing from dead winter trees, rusting basketball hoops and evergreen trees. There are signs of modernity for sure–two different ganja dispensaries, a hip coffee shop filled with people on their laptops, an escape room. This is the Oregon of hipsters and yelpsters, of Portlandia fans and transplants so fresh they pronounce Couch Street like it’s furniture.

But most of the area around my sister’ house probably hasn’t changed for decades. The weathered auto repair shop, with the name spelled out on the door with fragments of duct tape. An appliance store. A combination Chinese restaurant/dive bar with a sign advertising their 5 dollar breakfast special. Burly men in baseball caps who probably wouldn’t ever be the inspiration for a Portlandia character. This is the Oregon of the past, of small towns and farmers and descendants of those who came over on the Oregon Trail. These things–even though they’re in the same city, are found next to each other on the same block–belong to a different, slower world than the modern Portland.

It’s probably true that Portland is no longer a little big city. It has grown up and grown out and grown across and is now just a city. Perhaps it’s not just any city, but most long-term residents agree that it has lost most of that je nais se weird that defined the city for so long, left with the dichotomy of small town, blue collar detritus floating beneath, partially supporting, the decadent layer of hipster institutions.Sure, she flies with her own wings but it’s not just her up in the sky anymore.

What does this all mean? I’m not sure, other than as a reminder that it’s not very useful to stereotype or generalize. But it’s interesting to me, to see these two oregons, these two times, blending together. Does that happen everywhere? Regardless, I think portland has reached the end of an era. And yet the older era is still here.  There’s a lot to think about, but my fifteen minutes is up. I have reached my destination and so thoughts on the nature of reality can wait until next time.

 

 

 

Seventeen Weird Things That Aren’t Weird in South Korea

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This entire post is going consist of generalizations and over-generalizations (if those are even two different things?) Of course all of us know that weird is relative, and one set of cultural norms isn’t objectively less strange or more weird than any other.

That said, there are a lot of things found in the daily life of your average Seoulite (which is really the only part of Korea I can speak to) that might be surprising to your average westerner (or at least North American.) And with that in mind, I present the following list.

Thanks to Nahid for helping me come up with some of these items.

919mq5tx0zL._SY355_Ramyeon (also known as ramen) is popular, as you’d imagine. But it is maybe even more popular than you can guess, possessing perhaps the social cache of coffee in the west. Banks give you ramyeon gift sets when you sign up. popular Kpop stars endorse particular brands, optometrists and phone shops give away ramyeon too.

 

  • Crazy, Shut Up. Due to stigmas against mental illness, crazy isn’t really said much. In the west, or at least in the US, crazy is a very common description: “Last night was so crazy,” “That’s a crazy song,”  etc. Not so in Korea, and calling someone crazy is considered rude. (This is changing though and it’s becoming more acceptable.)
    However, telling someone to be quiet or, much worse, to shut up, is considered the height of rudeness. I taught little kids who would swear in English, “Oh my god this shit” but they wouldn’t dream of telling someone to shut up.

BillboardPlastic Surgery. In the west, there’s still a slight taboo against plastic surgery. Not so in South Korea, which is number one in the world (just beating Brazil). It’s a common gift to 16 and 18 year old girls as a coming-of-age present. Plastic surgery tourism brings tens of thousands of visitors every year. And when I was teaching Buddhists, all of the women (in their 50s+) said they had or would consider getting plastic surgery.Subway stations, especially in affluent areas, have many, many ads on the walls

  • CCTV Other than in your house and (possibly) in the the bathroom, you’re always on tv. Perhaps this is the reason crime rates are relatively low. Thieves and muggers both have been caught, weeks later sometimes, by police who followed them over a long series of surveillance videos.

soaponastickWashing hands after using the bathroom. Women and men alike use this time for a variety of purposes–to examine their reflection, possibly re-apply makeup or straighten their hair. Almost never to actually wash their hands. Culturally hand-washing is almost a non-existent concept. (I brought a bar of soap to my school bathroom during the MERS scare, and it lasted for 11 months.) This can be frustrating when you have to line up behind several people absorbed in their own reflections waiting several minutes for the chance to reach the water that no one else is using. (When there is soap, it’s a cool blue soap on a stick)

  •  Not just for the Toilet. Rather than use a discrete system of paper products–toilet paper for the loo, napkins for the table, tissue for runny noses, paper towels for the kitchen, etc, South Koreans have all those things, but they use toilet paper for all such purposes. Which makes sense, but for many westerners it’s odd the first time to see toilet paper on restaurant tables or clutched in student’s hands. Toilet paper is so useful that it is mostly sold in large packs–18, 24–and is a common housewarming gift.
    Additionally, toilet paper itself often isn’t for the toilet. Much of the plumbing in Seoul is old and not built to handle 25 million people’s bathroom needs. So you have a separate “used paper” trash in your bathroom that you take out with your regular trash. I know what you’re wondering and, yes, Seoul does smell very bad in the hot summer sun.

    8024956668_4fe644297a_mPigeons Admittedly, pigeons in Seoul can look incredibly manky, as close to the pigeons that you know as Gollum is to, say, Merry or Pippin. Both Koreans, especially women, act like they’re in Hitchcock’s The Birds when a Pigeon even gets close. They scream, run away, wave their arms and flee in the other direction at the approach of a pigeon.

  • Movie Snacks. Koreans have adopted the large cineplexes of the west and even improved them, with things like 4dx being standard options for new releases. Instead of popped corn with artificial butter (which is also a pretty strange snack if you think about it) they prefer dried squid as their go-to movie snack. Like popcorn, it’s also popular at amusement parks or really anytime.

mr pizzaHis and Hers food.  I have been to a few health food restaurants where they serve one kind of rice to men and one kind to women. There is even a pizza chain dedicated to serving women’s pizza (although for some reason it’s called Mr. Pizza). And it’s not as simple as women are assigned diet foods and men get more substantial portions–I think it ties into traditional medicine.

  • Packaging. When you buy a box of ten cookies, the package is wrapped, as are each of the cookies. Even fruit is shrink-wrapped as a matter of course, even BANANAS, which drives me, um, bananas.

trashTrash cans/Rubbish bins are a scarce sight indeed around the city. You can walk hours without seeing one. Because of this, there are piles of trash on the street that become defacto trash piles. Anyone unwise enough to have a basket on their unattended bicycle will likewise find it full of trash. Many foreigners fill their pockets or purses until they finally encounter a receptacle.  (Why are there no trash cans? It is said  because that way North Korean Agents can’t use them for bombs, but it is also said that the real reason is that there used to be many more but too many people used them for their personal trash to avoid paying for trash pickup at your home.)

  • Funny. Never does this mean something that makes you laugh. No, it’s simply a form of the word fun, and can be used like “so much fun.” It actually is more intuitive than the way we use the word, so I’ve stopped correcting my students.

5596039b-905b-4076-ab27-785fcf5a74b9PDA. It’s really not okay to hug or especially kiss your significant other in public. But holding hands is okay! And not just couples, but same-sex friends. Old men, little girls, teen guys, business men, mothers out shopping with other mothers, it’s just kind of a cool thing here. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s not a strange thing to happen.

  • Unique Situation It’s become a bit of a meme to mock this, but for some reason this is something that many Koreans say. Something like “I will be late today. Please understand my unique situation.”  Maybe the closest expression in English is “bear with me” but then again maybe that’s not very close either. It’s a weird bit of Konglish that doesn’t really make any sense but that many people use.

facemaskFacemasks You wear a facemask either when you are feeling sick, or when you are not sick but everyone else is. Other times are in spring (Yellow Dust Season, when the winds blow sands from the Gobi desert throughout the city) or on a high pollution day or when biking along the river. In other words, any day is a good day to wear a mask. The one time I wore one, back when I had the swine flue, it was really hard to breath and vastly uncomfortable, but I guess its something you get used to.

  • Names in red. As a teacher, I have a red board marker, a blue one, and a black one. Never, never never can I use the red to write a student’s name. The reason: Traditionally the names of the deceased were written in red on registers, gravestones and plaques to ward off evil spirits so now  using red to write a name means they will die soon or you want them to die.

adjummaGetting shoved. Personal space is fetishized in the west, but isn’t much of a thing in Korea. If you are in between an adjumma and her seat on the subway, she won’t even think twice about shoving you out of the way to get to her seat. For you to react to this shove in any way would be considered very rude indeed.

 

There are lots more things I could cover but I think that’s good for now. If you want to add any, please tell me in the comments.

Budget Yeti: Veggie Shopping in Korea

That old myth about going out in Korea being cheaper than cooking at home keeps cropping up and it always bothers me. Granted, many food items here are expensive, and costs keep going up. But it’s still cheaper almost every time to cook at home.

In Seoul, it pays to shop seasonally here. Unlike North America (and probably other places) there is a seasonal shift to produce prices here. Apples are super cheap in September, for instance, and now is Hallabong season. I think this is a good thing, environmentally of course but also habitually. Now some of these seasonal surpluses are strange to my eyes (why oh why is strawberry season in January?) but overall it’s a good system.

The area I live is kind of adjumma central–there aren’t really any bars or even noraebongs. In their place are lots of little markets though, and many good places to stock up on fruit and veg.

And stock up I do. The below list was all purchased at a biggish mart, which isn’t the very cheapest place around but it has good selection. Here’s a look at a week’s worth of veggies for two people. The total price is a little high because it’s a big bag of garlic but even still you can see how cheap it is.

Now this isn’t a complete meal, of course. You’d probably want to get a carb like rice (around $5 for a kilogram, or maybe $7 for 800 grams of brown rice) or udong (about 50 cents a package) or pasta (about 2.50 for 450 grams) or if you venture into Itaewon you can even get something exotic like basmati rice or couscous, though those start to get more expensive.

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A Typical Vegtastic Meal

The shiitake give you a little less protein than your standard mushroom, but not to worry. A big block of fresh tofu is about 2 dollars or the smaller, packaged ones are usually around 1 dollar.

Add it all together and a big, healthy meal with local produce is only a couple of dollars. There’s just not any restaurant that can compete with that. The cheapest comparable is a bowl of kalgooksu, which at a cheap place is around 4 dollars for a big bowl. For less than 4 dollars, this equals 4 bowls so it’s quite a bit cheaper.

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By contrast, this meal from Osegye Hyang, which had mandu, soup, and a gluten/rice dish (plus banchan) costs about 22 bucks.

Now I understand most people want a little more variety in their lives than daily iterations of the same meal. And not everyone is willing to make the effort to cook every night, even when they’re tired. Those are different reasons, though, from the tired old falsism that it’s much cheaper to eat out than cook at home. (And not very good reasons, either, in my opinion, although that’s neither here nor there.)

Yes, things are considerably more expensive now than they were 5 years ago but it’s still possible to cook for yourself and still not break the bank. That’s all for this installment of my rant. Thanks for listening!

Best of 2016 in pictures

Just like last year, I spent almost the entire year in South Korea, with a short trip to Japan constituting my only traveling. (And other than a trip to Seoraksan in the spring, I haven’t even traveled around Korea much this year; my weekends are filled with writing, playing RPGs, and writing.)

If 2015 got me back on my feet, 2016 sat me down at the table and fattened me up. It’s been a great year of urban wanders and veggie cooking. I’m still trying to figure out what’s in store for 2017, but it seems like it should have a bit more travels.

Anyway, here’s a picture from each month for the year.

January 2016

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January – The Frozen Wasteland of Yeoido

January – Yeoido gets quite a few visitors for the fall leaves, a lot more for the spring cherry blossoms, and even more in summer time for riverside picnics. Winter is, by contrast, empty and silent. Which is perfect for stark, chilly winter strolls.


February 2016

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February – Ice Turtle

February – For Sollal (Lunar New Year) I went on a writer’s retreat at a little area outside Seoul called Petite France. Petit France is kind of an underwhelming mini-theme park (with no rides) dedicated to The Little Prince.

After the conference, Nahid and I wandered around the area and climbed a small hill, where we discovered this frozen turtle fountain which was just above an ice festival.


March 2016

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March – Best Cake Ever!

March – Continuing the tradition of a birthday hike, a small group of friends took a quick jaunt up Namsan. Once there we ate some incredible Cookie Cream Pumpkin Spice cake from Plant before heading back into Itaewon and HBC for some live music. Good birthday!


April 2016

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April – Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

April – This spring went by quicker than ever, but a visit down to a friend in Suwon meant a day of walking around the fortress walls followed by an immense feast of Indian food and a round of Game of Thrones the board game. You can’t really see in this picture, but the trees were just bursting with blossoms. I’ve been to Suwon several times but this was the most beautiful of all.


May 2016

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May – Seoraksan’s Buddha

May saw my only trip out of Seoul, a return to my favorite part of Korea. We hiked up to Ulsanbawi, which was everything you could ask for: foggy, stark, dramatic, and squirrel-infested. But it was this friendly Buddha on the way up that really encapsulates the Korean mountainside.


June 2016

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June – Cozy vegan restaurant nestled in Insadong

June – With the dearth of vegan restaurants in Seoul, the discovery of Ose Gye Hyang was a beacon in the wilderness. It’s not a Loving Hut, but it’s owned by the vegetarian food company Vegifood that supplied Loving Huts with their supplies. I’ve been back a few times and for my money it’s the best vegan place in Seoul. (Plant is awesome but doesn’t really do Korean food).


July 2016

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July – Abandoned Bball Court in Children’s Grand Court.

July was hot as balls, and yet Nahid and I spent the weekends wandering far from the safe confines of aircon. One day led us, loaded with books and portable water coloring kits, (respectively) to Seoul Children’s Grand Park we spent a sweaty few hours wandering around and listening to the chorus of cicadas before sitting down to read and paint (respectively.) The discovery of this post-apocalyptic basketball court was just a bonus on our way out.


August 2016

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August- Toyoma Restored Castle

July – I’ve blogged about my disappointment with my big summertime trip to Japan, but the more time that goes by, the better the trip gets in retrospect. I guess that’s how it always works. Anyway, wandering around Toyoma was great practice in exploring a place I had no expectations of.


September 2016

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September – Mini Hike in the hills behind Insadong

September – Insadong keeps on popping up as my favorite place, month after month and year after year. It must be my favorite part of Korea, or at least one of them. This little hike is just an amendment to the proper one but the views from here are pretty cool.


October 2016

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October – Olympic Park and Lotte Tower

October was hot and autumn never really arrived. On the night before Halloween, I took Nahid to Olympic Park where I read “Shadows Over Innsmouth” to her as it slowly got darker and colder. Spooky! The Lotte Tower is doomed to collapse in ruin and tragedy, but for now it looks pretty cool.


November 2016

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November – Forest Temple

November – Fall went by oh-so-quickly this year, though I got out looking for leaves every weekend. This photo from a hill behind my house is one of my favorite views of Seoul.


December 2016

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December – Yeoinaru Station

December traditionally is kind of let-down in this series, but this picture was taken while we were filming a Cyberpunk short film that I wrote. A great entry for one of my best Decembers yet.

Past years: 2009, 2010, 2011,  201220132014 and 2015.

Yeti Eats: Measly, Mighty Feasting

Thanksgiving is not  one of my favorite holidays. Apart from the genocidal context, it’s pretty boring. I mean, I (really) like eating but I prefer holidays with a little more than just that. Especially because it takes hours of cooking and cleaning for 30 minutes of munching. Not the most efficient of holidays, but I can appreciate for a time to connect with friends and family and reflect on the goodness of your life.

But last year I made lentil shepherd’s pie for Nahid and she has repeatedly requested them again. I put her off throughout the summer, telling her it was an autumn food. With our limited cooking facilities (a hot plate and a toaster oven)  and my lack of dough making abilities, it’s a tall order. But if Tday isn’t the day for extravagant food, then I don’t know what is.

We just loaded up on veggies and I stir-fried eggplants, onions, garlic, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and King Mushrooms. I put that pan aside and cooked some lentils and spiced them with turmeric and sage. Then I made some dough with just flour/salt/baking powder and oil.

So I put down the crust, added the lentils and veggies, then topped with mashed potatoes. Then I put it in the toaster over for 15 minutes and actually it turned out really well.

For “pudding” I cut up some apples and added lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves, and other pumpkinish spices. Then put some crust on top, and then some apples on top of that. It didn’t come out as good as the Sheppard’s pie, but it was okay.

Most importantly, we’ve got leftovers for tomorrow. So maybe it’s not such a bad holiday after all.