I had a Big Mac attack today and there was nothing that I could do about it.
In Korea, “here today, gone tomorrow” is taken quite literally especially when the favorite store or restaurant you’ve been going to for any length of time is suddenly gone one day.
That’s right, gone—just like the McDonald’s on the first floor of HomePlus/Tesco near the Dongbu (East) Bus Terminal here in Daejeon.
For the past three months I have been walking up (or over depending on your sense of direction) to this McDonald’s on Fridays (and holidays) for a burger and fries. It had become my little retreat from the hustle and bustle and sometimes boredom of living in Daejeon and having my fill—literally of Korean food all the years I have spent here.
Sorry Morgan Spurlock, this hamburger dude doesn’t mind being a “little super-sized” with a couple of Big Macs now and then.
So, once I discovered this local Mickey D’s, I really looked forward to the 20-minute walk for that burger and a chance to get out of the house for awhile.
And then today, when I went there imagine my surprise to discover that it was gone. Even the sign outside had been taken down. I was just there this past Monday and I didn’t see any signs explaining that it was going to close. And just last week, they started this special promotion for Big Macs and being open 24-hours a day. That’s weird, huh? Why would you start a promotion if you were going to close soon? And it couldn’t have been because of bad business or its location because every time I was there it was crowded.
McDonald’s was gone today and it really bummed me out.
Not long ago, I was walking back to my room after class one day when I pass this Korean restaurant specializing in Bulgogi and Kalbi—two popular Korean meat dishes—and when I catch a whiff of the meat cooking inside (it’s the kind of restaurant where customers grill the meat at their tables) I swear it smells like a burger frying on a grill.
My mouth begins to water. My gut begins to churn.
And just like that, my mind is transported back in time and space and I could be walking somewhere back home and having a similar olfactory experience if I happened to catch a whiff of some burgers sizzling on a grill at an outdoor barbecue or picnic.
It’s funny how the sense of smell can trigger something in your life and make you feel a little nostalgic when you are halfway around the world and years away from everything now tucked away in your memory bank.
Sure, I can have my burgers here, but for that second or two when I smelled that meat grilling, it wasn’t that I was craving a burger; maybe it was something much more.
Another time I was walking down the street with a colleague when I suddenly stopped in my tracks and turned to my colleague, “ Do you smell that?”
“It smells like someone just cut the grass.”
Sure enough, someone had mowed some patch of grass somewhere and on that warm, spring night I could have been walking back home in La Salle or having just finished cutting my grandparent’s lawn and ready to quench my thirst with a tall glass of iced tea.
Just a whiff of the sweet, fresh smell of cut grass (thank God I don’t have allergies!) was enough to open up that memory bank and for a split-second—for as long as it took for that smell to register—to feel a little nostalgic.
As much as I love being overseas and traveling on the path I have been on for as long as I have, there are times when feeling a little nostalgic (and not homesick) is a good thing. It’s a bit of reality check I guess. When we need to open up that memory bank from time to time.
Or in this case, almost tasting rat.
Imagine if you will, settling down in front of the TV with one of your favorite Korean snack foods.
Then, no sooner after you have torn open that bag of snacks, you are about to have the shock of your life (and maybe even feel sick) when you start munching on those crispy shrimp cracker-like snacks and come across a rat’s head inside the bag.
The nation’s largest snack maker, Nongshim, made a public apology Tuesday for one of its best-selling items containing the head of a small rodent. The company shut down the snack production line, and supermarkets are already removing them from their shelves.
The apology came after gray skin-like material, 1.6 centimeters in length, was found last month inside a jumbo-sized Nongshim snack, “Saewookkang” (shrimp snack). The Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued a correctional order to the snack manufacturer.
The “material” was very hard and covered in oil and burnt hair, and it also had the remains of eyes and a nose, which led the administration to conclude it to be the head of a rat.
A customer had reportedly called Nongshim asking for a refund and a recall on all of its products made on that day. Initially her requests were denied. However, later the company tried to compensate her and recalled all the products in the market, she said.
The company explained that a factory in China makes the dough and sends it to a factory in Busan to fry, pack and distribute it. “I doubt the frying process in Busan is unhygienic, but we are looking into the possibility of the material being added during the dough process at our factory in China,” a Nongshim spokesman said during the public apology.
Yeah, coming across a rat’s head in a big of shrimp snacks has got to be pretty gross, but not as gross as what my friend David Walther, his father and I came across in a bottle of Falstaff beer back in 1975.
We were sitting around the kitchen table, tossing down a few cold ones when David’s father discovered a stogie in the bottle he had just opened. Don’t recall whatever happened—if David’s father had taken the bottle back to the liquor store where he had purchased the beer and got his money back or if he got some free beer out of it.