Visit to Hwa-Sung Market Project
It rained cats and dogs today.
After a full day of artist presentations, everyone (like 20 people) piled into various minivans. We set the GPS devices and drove an hour due south on highway 15 to what could only be described as a town in the boonies. There we visited another international artist residency project set in a town market. The place was pretty run down. The market consisted of about one block of little shops with a few street vendors and crouching ladies with veggies spread on the street. It was the first year of the program. The artists slept in two rooms in the deserted market at night–the girls in one room, the boys in the other. The shopkeepers were at best ambivalent we were informed (more than once). There were a couple performances: one involved ramen noodles, the other was interrupted by a drunken local. He was dragged away kicking and screaming by some local towns folk and the performance went on. We later found out he was yelling about Korea beating Japan in Olympic baseball. Unfortunately the performer he took the mic from happened to be Japanese. I was able to sneak away to buy a bag of beans from an old lady in the market. I bargained her down from 2000 won to 1000. We visited an art studio. Then we were taken to a restaurant for the after party.
It was the usual leave your shoes at the door affair with low tables. We sat on the floor. Someone had ordered for the whole group. Along with the ubiquitous spread of banchan (Korean for “all those little plates of goodies”), came a huge main dish of their specialty. “Very deep water fishy.” There was a lot of hand language indicating a horizontal spreading motion across ones jaw area. There was a wiggling finger motion; then a vertical opening and shutting gesture like a crocodile. An electronic translation dictionary was passed around. “Frogfish; angler; poor man’s lobster.” The boys were confused. “It’s monkfish,” I said. Justin had seen them in an aquarium back home.
“I’ll have me some of that poor man’s lobster,” said one of my American companions.
O my gentle Western reader, this was not just the fillet of monkfish tails we know from our fish mongers. This is the whole fish: skin, bones, guts and face roughly cut up into into pieces about the size of a six -year-old’s fist, others the size of a two-year-old’s open hand. William’s first piece was a large piece of octopus. The only one on the plate, I soon discovered. The next piece he got was approximately the size and shape of an infant’s fist and a bit of forearm, It was a piece of face, complete with teeth (three or four rows of little spiky ones) and black, rubbery skin. Nestled in the midst of the fish skull he must have found some of the much touted lobstery flesh. I was able to coax some good stuff out of the mass of rubber and bones (and it was good.) But there was so much that was hard to contend with. Plus it was bathed in bean sprouts and red stuff, and accompanied by mysterious other invertebrate sea beings (some of which exploded bad medicinal tastes into your mouth).
We foreigners lost interest pretty fast. Our native tablemates had at our share in swift order (except for the medicine bombs). The young, bleach blonde, pierced Berliner said forlornly, “Ya, this is what dey serve us on our first night also.” She had ordered her own plate of pork cutlet, tonkatsu style.
We counted our blessings all the way home to Seoksu Market.