Never get between a hungry man and his cod soup

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Never get between a hungry man and his cod soup

My friend Paul is one of the most unusual Korean guys I’ve ever met. At any rate, he’s the only Korean guy I know who’s taken a cake decorating class; he enrolled in one at a community center when he lived in Canada. Even more curious, he’s a straight Catholic with an engineering degree.
When he lived in Vancouver, we’d meet once or twice a month to chat over coffee. Then when I moved to Montreal he came to visit.
He would talk a lot about the time he spent on Jeju Island, where he fulfilled his military service requirement. He went on for hours about the times he spent mingling with Jeju’s famous women divers, bragging about how they gave him free fresh abalone dug up from the sea, and complimented him on how well his uniform suited him.
I could identify with most of what he was saying, except for a few things, like when he talked about going to a club and dancing for four hours straight after having had only a glass of Coke.
Another thing I had a hard time dealing with was Paul’s eating habits. He had a voracious appetite and the worst table manners of anyone I’ve met. He held his spoon like it was a shovel. Anything he ordered was gone in less than 10 minutes.
Once he visited me in Montreal after having spent more than a week on a train from Vancouver. I am sure it was a tough moment for him, having lived on hot dogs and potato salad for a week.
I took him to a Korean restaurant on the night of his arrival. He ordered cod soup. When the food arrived, he dumped his rice into the soup and drank it down like a wild beast, burying his face deep in the bowl. Then he scraped up what was left until not a grain of rice remained. I was almost relieved that he hadn’t choked to death on a fish bone.
When I was growing up, it was forbidden in our house to dump rice into one’s soup. I was told that this was a habit of lowlifes. Whatever the case, on that winter night in Montreal Paul seemed pretty hungry for a man who’d just sat down with an old friend for dinner.
I learned much later that Paul eats just about every food in the world in the same way. I had always thought he was joking when he talked about those Jeju divers handing him the abalone fresh from the sea, and claimed that he ate the flesh raw from the shells without so much as chopping it. Well, that story pretty much describes the essence of how Paul handles his food when he gets hungry.
One could call Paul’s appetite barbaric. But as an old friend, I prefer to think of it as evidence of an eagerness for life.

How to Cook

Daegu maeuntang (cod soup)

Ingredients: 1 codfish, 1/6 of a radish, 1/4 block of tofu, 2 green and 2 red chili peppers, 4 crown daisies, 1 sheet of dried dasima (seaweed), 1 teaspoon of cooking wine, 4 cups of water, pinches of salt and pepper. Serves 4.
1. Cut the whole codfish into four or five pieces.
2. Dice the radish and tofu into bite-size pieces. Chop the chili peppers.
3. Put the water in a pot, add the sheet of seaweed and bring to a boil. Remove the seaweed when it comes to a boil.
4. Add the fish, radish, chili peppers, salt, pepper and wine to the broth. Boil for 10-15 minutes.
5. Add tofu and crown daisies and boil for a minute or two.
6. Serve.
From, Delicook

by Park Soo-mee
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