Alcoholic Drinking Stamps

Nothing can cause more regret than a nasty hangover.  That moment when you stir and pull those rotten infested bed sheets away from your putrid breath and inhale the stale air that has been lingering around you for many an hour.  That sudden hammering inside your head, that dry fury texture on your tongue and those aches and pains that suggest you may have ran a marathon last night, but you were too buggered to remember a single step.

 

It was two in the afternoon when I woke from one such hangover and unfortunately, two days later, I can still feel it.  Two nights of restless sleep probably haven’t contributed to my recover, but I can’t help think that if I hadn’t sunk that tenth beer or if I hadn’t been so eager to please those around me I wouldn’t have sent that Jagermeister concoction to the bottom of my liver.  Like Hydrochloric acid it burnt and skinned and tore apart my gut lining and I now have the sneaking suspicion that I ventured to a fast-food restaurant that collaborated to my downfall, like Hitler in April, 1945 I should have counted my blessings and fled. 

 

Always do sober what you said you would do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.’ Ernest Hemingway,

 

            The next morning I regretted the whole evening and wished I stayed inside.  But I was pointed to some of the promises I had made that evening, promises I had let slip.  I had promised to meet someone for breakfast and when asked whether I would, by my girlfriend, I responded that if I was in this state then heaven only knows what sort of situation he was going to be in.  He was after all the ‘friend’ that had bought the damn Jager and forced me, yes, forced me to drop into a half of beer and then gulp it down.  I could assume he was going to have trouble recalling his name let alone a half-assed appointment with some guy he hasn’t seen in months.  At the time there were high fives for our plans, we felt proud that after meeting one another so abruptly and out-of-the-blue we had made solid plans for the next morn, only the next day there was more chance of finding Lord Lucan under my mattress playing bridge.  I couldn’t move, I wouldn’t move.

 

            There have been numerous occasions when I have promised to meet and do things that when drunk seem like the most fun a soul could ever entail, but always have I ended up with my head under a pillow.  I wouldn’t think I’m an alcoholic, that is out of the question, although I am well aware that by saying I am not puts me into that group that are.  In fact I would like to see alcohol go the way of food stamps, we should get communistic about the booze, limit those who drink too much and push those that don’t drink enough.  Both groups of people need the push or the pull.  I think every week each person should be handed a number of stamps and if he has used them all he is unable to procure any liquor.  In my Orwellian world those who are stone sober with be forced to have a tipple, a prerequisite.  My argument for that is simple.  Whenever I have ventured out there has always been that teetotal tosser who takes the upmost delight in looking down on those who confuse their Ss from their Ts as if he were passing judgment like prophet.  It’s easy to deduce that it is not the drunkards who are starting all the fights, it’s those who are abstinent that probably begin the ‘ten-paces-at-dawn.’   And because their head isn’t spinning they have the advantage, so whenever the police arrive it is always the drunk that gets picked up and arrested whilst Mr. Clean has already arrived back at home and eating a bowl of cereal.  Limiting the booze will put everyone on the same playing field, they’ll be no being late, no making plans that no one ever plans on keeping, no waking up next to someone who looks at you like you were a gone-off piece of meat and I wouldn’t be still feeling so rotten forty-eight hours later after having really not that much in the way of booze.

 

The New Loving Hut in Haeundae, Busan

 

 

 

 

 

(published in Busan Haps magazine October 2011)

Loving Hut has been a stable and reliable restaurant for vegetarians and vegans in South Korea for almost three years.  Last year, another one of their restaurants opened up in Haeundae.  A meeting with owner Kim Hyong Ryul (Emily) was set up to find out what it’s like to run a restaurant and to be a vegan in a country where meat is available on almost every street corner.

The restaurant, which has been in her possession since July 2010, is spotless; it’s the first thing you notice when you enter; it’s almost like a dental surgery or operation theatre.  The menu has been laid out clearly and concisely with detailed Korean and English explaining what is within.  All dishes, on first inspection are not expensive ranging between 7,000-10,000won, making it nowhere near as expensive as other typical Western eateries such as VIPS or Outback.  And if you venture here during lunchtime, prices are reduced even further.

Emily seems cheerful and welcoming as we begin.  She starts by explaining some of the difficulties she has experienced getting Koreans to try a vegan diet; “People think that it’s yucky, just cooked vegetables, so to taste the food is very important.  Just EAT the food!  That’s very important!”

Her little dream that she jokingly tells me is to become more popular than the local butchers.  It seems a tall order, but she sees the future of vegetarianism in Korea as more of an opportunity than an uphill struggle.

It seems so obvious to her what the benefits are to being vegan.  She started off because of spiritual and health reasons, but she hopes that people don’t give up meat just for health issues alone. “It’s important to appreciate all living things [when] being a vegan.  If a person is a vegan [just] for health reasons they don’t really stay vegan for a long time, but on the other hand, those who think [that] for natural reasons, will fundamentally stay as vegans for the rest of their lives.”

She informs me that too often people stereotype vegan food as being tasteless and dull. “If you use fresh and organic ingredients, it will, of course taste good.”

She also continues on that people say vegan food is repetitive and uninspiring, so to combat this she tries to create a new menu every two to three months.  I asked what dishes she is currently working on, and after a little persuasion she reveals a soy steak with all the trimmings and a risotto.

She also stocks a lot of frozen fake meat and she says that this is very popular amongst the ex-pat community.  Within the refrigerator there is a large stock of soy ham, fake chicken, sausages and allegedly – fake squid.  This is again cheaper than the food on the menu.

One of the many environmental concerns people have today is the distance food travels to your plate, but Emily makes this quite clear as to where her food originates.  “Almost all the food is Korean. Sometimes [there are] things coming from Taiwan too. They have a lot of vegetarian food.”

One thing that concerned her when she started out was the amount of food from the buffet that would be left on the plate at the end.  So to combat this, any remnants left and there is a 2500won ‘fine.’ This may sound a little drastic, but it works. Now she smiles that the regular customers clean their plates from top to bottom and nothing goes back to be re-used in the kitchen.

Her family, including her two sisters, have been in the business since its inception and she gladly boasts about how her niece is on a vegan diet and how she is growing at a much quicker rate than any of her classmates.  She also proudly tells of teaching a kindergarten class once a month and hearing back from surprised parents and teachers about children eating all their greens.

It doesn’t matter what kind of ‘eater’ you are, but if you prefer eating delicious tasty food rather than the bland and stodgy, it’s well worth a visit to the Loving Hut.

For more information on vegan food and a vegan lifestyle in South Korea visit theveganurbanite.wordpress.com

By David Holt