As I sit here in the Korean Immigration office at 8:28am in the morning, staring a lengthy and immensely frustrating 72 hours of waiting in line, checking and rechecking my number, I’m listening to a Korean rendition of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” played on what sounds like a tiny little harp inside a coke can.
Nothing about this situation is geared towards relaxing the mind. This music cannot prepare you for being told that your 96 hour wait was in vain, because you were meant to mark the gender box with an ‘X’ instead of a ‘check’ (no character map on a MacBook. You’ll just have to imagine it) and now you have to choose another number, which will presumably be in the high millions by the time you get to the front of the line to choose the number.
So I’m writing to pass the time.
On my way here I stopped at a wonderful little boutique coffee shop and bakery called “Bread & Co.”. Well, I say ‘wonderful’. What I actually meant was ‘ghastly’. But it was wonderful if you are a patron of the South Korean bakeries.
Since the moment I came to Korea, the wonderful and joyous land of Devine victory and success, I have been eating in their bakeries. Bread is considered to be a delicacy here, so you frequently find yourself being handed a floppy slice of white ‘milk’ bread, naked without even a thin coat of butter, and expected to be grateful for it. But I have a weakness for Korean bakeries. I try my hardest to limit myself to one trip per day, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. I find myself walking past the front of a “Paris Baguette”, with its egg coated hotdog weenies slathered in sugary mustard and corn, and I become like a junkie walking past his old council housing scheme. I can’t take my eyes off the forbidden prize. I want it so much. I start itching at myself, wondering if it’s acceptable to eat three sausage and egg tarts for dinner.
But the hot dog weenie is something which I feel needs explaining, since it will be a recurring theme in this ‘piece’. Most of the products for sale in these establishments contain sausage. That wouldn’t be an issue for most people if we were talking about a lovely gourmet frankfurter, or a kabanos of sorts. But, of course, we’re not. These little pink, slimy sausages look like the fingers of a would-be sex offender after he’s had scorching coffee thrown on his hands by a shrieking receptionist in an office canteen. That was a bit on wild the side, but I’ll leave it in. They seem to be made from a plethora of farm and/or urban animals and are probably made entirely from crushed up cartilage, shin, marrow and eye-lashes.
But today I just bought a coffee. I’d eaten some toast and egg for breakfast. Like methadone. No substitute, but it’s marginally better for me. So I didn’t feel particularly tempted by what I saw. But there they sat, teasing me as I bought my sugary, sausagey coffee, all in perfect little rows, with the golden Ikea light bouncing off every sugary egg-baked surface, disrobing their former goodness in front of my eyes. It was like watching a stripper who’d just had trucker triplets and a relapse. The good looks were still there, somewhere, but you’d have to hate yourself a little bit more than normal to get stuck into it.
I’m going to explain to you, with photographic evidence, the sort of bread treats you can expect to find in one of South Koreas many patisseries.
The Butter Stick
This was something I had never come across before. To my trained eye, it looked like a standard sugar stick, heavy in dough and lathered in butter. There could be a sausage hiding inside this. Sometimes you never can tell. But it looks like an anemic turd that has been squeezed out of an arse pluged with a square Playdough shape maker, and then lightly toasted at a high heat.
Chances of sausage: Moderate/High
Bookies odds: 6-2
Love and Passion for You!
Now this really is something. It is a marvellous sight to behold, looking like it was modelled on the sort of treats you would find at a banquet in Heaven, five hours deep in the bowels of an acid trip. I’m told that it’s made of yogurt and sprinkled with something. Hardened, grated sausage I would imagine.
Chances of sausage: Unlikely, but not unheard of.
Bookies Odds: 9-1
Big Cheesy Croissant Sausage Mayonaise Pat
This little gem really is as good as it possibly gets. Even I, the veteran of all things sausagy, was bowed over by its complexity of delicate flavors. It truly is the pink diamond in the crown of Korean Bakery goods. Imagine how that processed hamburger cheese would cement itself to the roof of your mouth, catching the fragments of dusty pastry, before your teeth burst through the skin of the sausage, filling your mouth with old brine. Lush.
Chances of sausage: Certainty
Bookies Odds: 1-1
A Tomato in a Cup
There is nothing to say.
Chances of Sausage: Unlikely.
Bookies Odds: An outsider at 15-1