Once I saw the sidewalk in front of the school, I knew that it was there one of my worst nightmares occurred. Imagine one chubby little six year old with curly hair (no glasses yet) walking to school the morning after a warm spring rain. The sidewalk in front of the school is completely covered with earthworms in various stages of dying. Every spring for three years, I faced the Trauma of the Worms (not to be confused with the Diet of Worms or the Silence of the Lambs) My mother explained that the worms came out because of the heavy rains, and some of them (must have been a couple of million) did not make it back into the nice damp earth before the sun dried everything up, including their invertebrate little bodies. There was no place to put my foot without stepping on worms, and it creeped me out beyond anything I had experienced up to that point in my life. I tried tiptoeing in between, aiming for small areas of sidewalk, hyperventilating the whole way to the front steps, silent shrieks of terror echoing in my head. It was truly horrific, and I still have nightmares. I know, I have issues. But I still hate worms.
I don't know why I worry so much about incipient Alzheimer's, because from memory I was able to reconstruct my daily walk from our house to the school, recognizing the funny zigzag you have to take to cross Flatbush Avenue and still stay on Avenue K, and the corner where my favorite candy store was located. It's a grocery now, but I faced that corner every time I crossed Flatbush, and I clearly remember the old-fashioned green Coca-Cola sign, something like this one:
Later I took a drive down Kings Highway to Flatbush Avenue, made a quick left to peek at the Exxon station there (it would have been an Esso station back then), and wondered if my father would remember the time he went to pay for gas, leaving me in the car with the motor running and I accidentally threw his car into neutral, sending me and the car sliding towards the traffic. I certainly have never forgotten the look of terror on his face as he came hoofing after me, nor the look of relief and pride when I managed to stop the car's backward slide by pressing my small, six year old foot against the brake as I had seen him do so many times.
Once we left the Marine Parkway (Gil Hodges) Bridge, Pop would continue left onto Beach Channel Drive, speeding along the edge of the water, but at some point darting onto Rockaway Freeway, weaving under and around the el, back and forth between Rockaway Parkway and Beach Channel Drive, and then just when I thought I had the directions straight in my head, he would careen onto Seagirt Boulevard. Memories of those trips remind me of the chase scene in the movie "The French Connection." Pop was nothing if not an adventurous driver.
It's still all about the food: Saturday evening Rob and I are going out to dinner with friends at Bonefish Grill, but that hasn't stopped me from thinking about ribs, risotto, and japchae.
You know, up until this very moment I never realized the resemblance between Korean glass noodles and the Avenue K Worm Gang ... let's try a different picture, shall we?
Much better. For a moment, I thought I had been sent to Bizarre Foods Hell, where I would be doomed to become Andrew Zimmern's taste tester on all of his eating adventures for all eternity.
I first experienced japchae while in South Korea. I feel the need to rhapsodize about that trip, but that deserves its own blog post, so for now we'll just take a quick peek at my family's favorite Korean dish.
Although my son is Korean, I never tried to cook Korean food until I had the chance to taste the real thing, and by that time he was 18 years old. We do have a few Korean restaurants in the area, but they are still a bit of a drive, and in any event, we didn't know what to order. The other problem is that much of Korean food is incendiary, and I have had to learn to work my way around those delightful little side dishes (banchan) that would blow the top of my head off. Fortunately, there are dishes like japchae, galbi and bulgogi that are seasoned for non-chili heads, relying on the flavors of soy sauce and sesame oil and malt syrup to delight the palate.
For now I'm just thinking about the japchae, but I do have a bag of those noodles in my pantry, and who knows where that might take me - possibly to Publix for the rest of the ingredients? Perhaps, given the amount of cooked food in my refrigerators, I'll concentrate on those barbecue ribs with a side of risotto. And whipped rutabagas (I haven't forgotten).
I'll be sure to let you know.