Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Third World Wisdom: The Three Rules

During several months spent enjoying both the blistering hot Korean fall, and the arctic-frigid Korean winter one gets during a full Team Spirit, our 5-ton trucks pulling howitzers paraded hither and yon among the countryside, and as well as the dutiful parade of mamasans, who pulled up stakes before we got those orders, and magically were already set up at our next positions before we pulled in, we passed the ubiquitous sidewalk BBQ meatstick vendors.

Bamboo skewers of multiple types of meat were on display 24/7/365, in between three and seven/eight/ten* varieties.

There were only Three Rules one followed religiously for a harmonious outcome:
1) If it's steaming hot, over an open flame,
2) thus fully cooked, and it tastes good to you,
3) Just keep chewing. Don't ask what you're eating.
Nothing you find out by asking for details will make you happier, or improve the flavor.

Write those rules on your hand with laundry marker any time you visit the Third World.
(And in the mid-80s - perhaps even today - rural Korea was very much the Third World, even as modern skyscrapers climbed over the Seoul skyline, and modern factories popped up all over the landscape.)

*Fish, shrimp, chicken, pork, even beef, sure.

Also dog, cat, rat, snake, and any other native species one could catch, cut into strips, season, skewer, and flame-broil, and sometimes even non-native species, like monkey.
When you see drumsticks in the village meat market with paws on them, well...
And no, those cats and dogs in bamboo cages aren't for pets, they're for dinner.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was around in the military long before the Clinton Crime Syndicate came up with it for dealing with gays in uniform.


MMinWA said...

Back in the 70s, I used to drive down to the border, usually Nogales, park my truck and train or bus it through Mexico. Yaknow for the sights. Would be gone for a month+ at a time. Biggest problem were the Federale shakedowns as there were just your run of the mill Mexican thieves and no cartels. Really interesting times.

Anyways went with a friend once and took a gal. I'd love going through a central marketa and eating. I swear one time there was one of those hanging meat things that you usually see in Greek restaurants that had an eyeball hanging off of it. That one I skipped but I did avail myself quite liberally of numerous other offerings, sometimes even from street carts! If the food was hot, WTH huh?

My friends were aghast, telling me I was in for some bad times while they stuck to canned food and bottles of water. Wouldn't even eat at sit downs in small cafes.

On the drive back to Denver, I had to pull over every 20-30 minutes for them to evacuate themselves.

I was fine.

Anonymous said...

Pears we mighta gone to the same school after all. Did TS in mid-80's myself. A Battery XO violated those rules and took himself off the Board for two weeks as effectively as enemy fire would have.
Boat Guy

Aesop said...

We had bigger worries.
Hemorrhagic fever, kicked up in the dust of the dry rice paddy we were camped in, hit 8 guys, and 6 of them died deader than canned tuna.

Anonymous said...

Ah man ...
Hate to be the CACO on one of those...

RandyGC said...

TS 84 and 86 here

Wasn't just out in the boonies those rules apply. Also for the food stands just outside the main gate at Osan. Make sure the yaki mando was crisp and came straight out of the boiling oil vat and too hot to handle without several layers of paper wrapped around it.

Of course quantities of OB, Oscar and Soju prior to consumption probably helped kill any bacteria once it hit the stomach.

Once consumed, dump the paper wrapping into the trash without looking at it in a good light. If you don't see the classified markings on the "recycled" T.O. page used as food wrapping, you don't have to spend time at OSI writing up a security report.

Only times I ever got sick eating downtown was drinking the local Coke (with an acidity level higher than some stuff I used in college chem class) and at the "real" Wendy's restaurant salad bar.

Unknown said...

We were set to go with my dad to Korea in '63,until they told my mom we couldn't take our
poodle, Pierre. She said, screw that...I'm not taking my babies anywhere they will eat my dog. We kids were mortified at the thought.

rick said...

To this day, my children refer to ANY type of skewered meat as "Monkey-on-a-stick". I blame myself.

Dinochrome One said...

Long ago in Olongapo City, I used to love the aroma of the street BBQ-stands. I only ate the one thing that I could positively identify; smoked-squid-on-a-stick. Hot and crispy right off the grill, and I could be sure it wasn't dog, monkey, or rat. The only place in the Philippines that gave me food-poisoning was the Navy Exchange restaurant on base.

Anonymous said...

I've eaten quite an adventurous range of mammals and a smattering of reptiles but anything of the seafood variety just is not compatible with my palate for some reason. I wish I liked it simply for financial and availability reasons alone but just can't train myself to eat it even after a period of fasting. Just tastes utterly vile and wrong to me.

docretired said...

What year was that?

Aesop said...

'86, IIRC.