Suddenly everything has changed.

Greetings from Chicago!

I spent last night sorting masking tape from Scotch tape from double-sided tape, and that’s when I knew that I was finally settled in my new home. You’ve hit a rhythm when you’ve shifted from the stage when you accidentally extinguish the pilot light in your gas stove and panic because you can’t find a lighter in your dozen boxes (my new neighbor has matches and is very nice and says hi) to the stage when you can leisurely sort your adhesive cellophane strip collection.

(I have three rolls of double-sided tape. Why? Was a three-pack on sale one day? Did I keep forgetting I already had double-sided tape and buy more? Did I really need to pack all three? Why did I just confess on my blog that I spend my Saturday nights in Chicago cleaning my desk?)

Korean groceriesAn important part of feeling comfortable in a new place is falling in into a reliable rhythm of food: where to buy, where to store, how to cook. Figuring out where to buy has been more work than I anticipated, mostly because the individual stores here are not well stocked with the ethnic food I like to buy—that is, everybody seems to specialize. As a result I make four stops on market day: Joong Boo Market for Korean produce and groceries, Al Khayyam for fresh pita and hummus, a local produce place for vegetables and fruit, and when necessary, a chain grocer for anything I can’t find at the other three places. When the weather thaws I’ll work farmer’s market into this schedule somehow. If my supply of dals or spices dips I’ll go to Devon Avenue. I’m already requiring a trip to Chinatown because I’m out of canned eel with black beans, my favorite pantry staple to eat with rice when I’m out of protein. Also, Chinatown has dim sum, and everybody needs a good dose of the ‘sum, as I call it¹, now and then.

As for storage…sigh. It’s an apartment, I do what I can.

Figuring out how to cook has been messy. I have a lot of counter space but none of it near the stove. “Did I always drop so much food on the floor?” was my first thought when I started cooking here. Turns out having a stove in the middle of the kitchen instead of tucked in the corner makes for better flow.

Not that I’m cooking much anyway. Working full-time means that my breakfasts and lunches are rushed while dinner tends to be fast. Soba noodles, pita and hummus, and food my mom gave me have been my staples for the last few months. I hope that changes as I become more efficient and get my groove back. Will I cook enough that this blog will become more active? I can’t say, and I can’t make any promises.

A diverse city has a way of spoiling you. Not being in Chicago helped me blog more. Back then I made my own flatbread and hummus, and eventually I might have tried making my own kimchi or looked into cooking eel with black beans. But with a stack of warm pita currently priced at $1 and my time and energy at a premium, I don’t much see the point. Thus, slow food loses another unofficial adherent due to the inevitable weariness of life.² Despite all the personal goals I hoped to accomplished by moving here I knew that I’d suffer losses as well, and a more intimate relationship with my meals is one of them. Oh well.

In the meantime, I’m still eating healthy and enjoying foods like in the photo above: Job’s tears tea, Korean miso, and kimchi. No junk food of any kind. None. Just because Joong Boo Market carries a vast assortment of fresh pastries filled with whipped butter, packaged novelty cookies, and mochi balls full of ice cream does not mean that I indulge.

Hey . . . . . . . . . . . where did this come from?³


¹ Not really.
² How’s that for overwriting?
³ Do you know that if you buy these by the case, you get 5% off? And that a case contains 40 boxes? I don’t. How could I?

Sugared cranberries: snappy, sparkle, and pop.

Oh! Yes. Hi. It’s been a while hasn’t it? So how have you been? … Mm hmm. … Mm hmm. … Oh really? And you had to have Him/Her/It removed from your home/office/kidney? Well I’m glad you’re coping. I feel a little bad for It/Him/Her, but whaddya gonna do. What about me, you ask? I’ve been fine. I’m still job-hunting and will move to Chicago this month and look for something there. Really looking forward to an exiting life of poverty. I know, join the club, right?

Sorry sorry, I’m still in polite-conversation-with-holiday-guests mode. Thanksgiving wore me out, what with cooking for twelve and preparing two pumpkin cheesecakes on top of worrying about my move. I hereby declare a moratorium on leaky wasteful fussy trauma-filled water baths for cheesecakes. No more water baths. I don’t care if it makes the cheesecake soft and creamy. You know what? I prefer my cheesecakes dense and velvety. NO MORE WATER BAAAAAATHS!

Sugared Cranberries

This post has nothing to do with cheesecake and water baths, but I’m sure that topic and all its associated pain will come up again in the future. Until that joyous occasion, here’s a beautiful snack and appetizer that always goes over well both at Thanksgiving and at Christmas time. Sparkling sugared cranberries make a sensationally pretty addition to your snack tray and is sensationally fun in the mouth. It pops in your mouth and releases an addictive tart sweetness that makes you grab another, and another, and another. Try it. You’ll be hooked. If not, at least you’ll fight urinary tract infections and load up on antioxidants.


Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes about three cups cranberries

· 1 1/2 cups white sugar
· 1 1/2 cups water
· 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
· 3/4 cup superfine sugar
     OR 3/4 cup regular sugar ground fine in food processor or blender

1) Rinse and drain cranberries. Pick out stems and any soft or mushy cranberries. Have a medium bowl ready nearby.

2) Cook sugar and water in medium pan over low heat. Stir well until sugar is dissolved. Bring liquid to a bare simmer so that bubbles lightly break the surface. DO NOT BOIL. Remove pan from heat. If you accidentally boiled the liquid, let it cool for a few minutes.

3) Add cranberries to pan and stir. If any cranberries split, don’t despair. Pour the cranberries and the liquid into a medium bowl. Place a saucer on top of the cranberries to help keep them submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4) Put half the superfine sugar on a rimmed tray or shallow pan and break up any lumps. Drain cranberries in a colander (over a bowl, if you’d like to save the liquid for cocktails or to reuse it for the same recipe) and shake them well to remove all the liquid. Dump the cranberries onto the sugar. Shake the tray or pan to coat the cranberries and sprinkle the remaining half of the reserved sugar onto damp berries that need more coverage. Use all the sugar. Carefully separate any cranberries that stick together and let dry for a few hours.

5) Serve immediately or within a few days. The sugar coating becomes more dry and fragile with time, so they’re best early on when they’re at their prettiest.


My mother was a country girl who grew up on a small farm in the southwestern region of South Korea near Mokpo. My grandfather repaired bicycles and raised white sweet potatoes on the rich red soil. My mother and her friends often collected the abundant eggs scattered all over the fields from the chickens everyone in the neighborhood raised. She said that all the chickens, no matter how far they went, no matter how much they mingled with other chickens, came home at night to their own coops and families. No chicken got lost or confused or ran away to join the circus.

I’m an American city girl, but I don’t live in a big city. The downside of a not-big city is that the best of country life and the best of city life both elude you. I’m surrounded by farms, yet Chicagoans have better access to grass-fed beef. I’m surrounded by restaurants, but I can’t find dim sum. This is my way of explaining why it wasn’t until today that I finally got my hands on the kind of eggs my mother might have eaten.

Frightened Pastured Chickens In Danger eggs

Another wrinkle of a not-big city is that farmers who come here have just enough knowledge to know what sells but not quite enough knowledge to market perfectly to obsessive food-blog readers like me. My egg lady knew that putting up a sign that said “Free Range Eggs” would get attention. What she didn’t know was that a food nerd would cross-examine her. Legally, a free range chicken can be raised indoors as long as it has access to the outdoors, access that most free range chickens never use because they’re too busy with their Wii or whatever it is chickens do. So this was our conversation.

Me: Are your chickens pastured?
Egg lady: Muh? They’re free range.
Me: I mean do they, uh…run around outside ‘n stuff? [Wiggle forefinger and middle finger back and forth to emphasize my running point. Atticus Finch I am not.]
Egg lady: Oh yes. Well except at night, when they go in their coop. [Lowers voice.] See, I live near the woods.

Well that sealed it. If natural pastured chickens are great, pastured chickens in danger from woodland predators are downright awesome. How much more natural can you get than imminent death by fangs? Even my mom never ate eggs from frightened chickens. Her chickens had it good. A dozen brown Frightened Pastured Chickens In Danger eggs cost me only three dollars, a staggeringly good price for pastured eggs, especially in light of recent price hikes, not to mention the Danger.

The eggs are charming. They differ in size and shape. Some are evenly tan, some are freckled, some have spots. A few have bits of grass stuck to them or a misty white coating. I cradled one in my hand and realized that for the first time ever, I was holding an egg that had not been sanitized in a manner required by the United States Department of Agriculture, an egg that had not been transported at temperatures no higher than 45 degree Fahrenheit, an egg that had not been rinsed to remove the protective cuticle that keeps the natural pores in the eggs closed and allows for unrefrigerated storage outside the U.S. where this rinsing isn’t required, and egg that had gone through almost no processing, an egg that that had, I began to understand, come to me with little intervention, i.e., an egg that was fresh from the chicken’s butt.

Or wherever the egg comes out, I don’t know. I don’t want to know. You think it hurts?