Dolsotbab and Nurunji

Dolsotbab is a traditional Korean way of cooking rice in a very hot stone pot. The heat of the stone rapidly cooks a single serving of  rice. Nurunji is a way to prepare and eat the sometimes burnt but definitely over-cooked rice that remains adhered to the sides of the pot.

Foodies might be all into this for the experience but for me it reveals a bit of social engineering.

Preparation of rice in non-stick pots or steam cookers is a fairly modern addition to the kitchen. Regular pots are still a bit messy, prone to overheat and so are only a slight advance over the old stone bowls heated on a fire. Making another dish to add to the meal out of the scorched remains of the rice is frugal and common sense solution to scarce resources.

Just because the rice may be browned or burnt is no reason to waste it. The preparation of Nurinji requires one to add water to the stone pot, which boils up, softening the burnt rice. The diner then has to put in some work to scrape the scorched rice off the sides and bottom, giving them not only a hot soup but a extra few ounces of rice. Basically the diner does a lot of the pre-soak and cleaning of the bowl which anyone who regularly cleans burnt food off of a pan knows is a bit of a chore. Diners probably get an added bit of minerals in the diet from scraped stone though in the modern era the downside is ingesting aluminum from the flatware flaked off while scraping.

While in the past Nurunji would be created and eaten out of necessity out of being mindful of not being wasteful in an environment where stored food spoiled quickly or attracted pests it has since become a luxury process as a side dish to the modern Korean dining experience.

The Great San Diego Blackout

Not that you’d know it from the national news media but yesterday San Diego suffered a major and nearly unprecedented power outage that lasted about 12 hours.

At about 3:30 p.m. the electricity failed due to some event in Arizona. The grocery store where I worked went into power-saving mode, which means the back-up generator can run the registers and some other systems for a time, but not for very long. Apparently, the contingencies some nationwide companies have in place for regions of extreme weather that have frequent and extended power outages are not distributed or adapted to the franchises in the relative paradise of Southern California. Historically for businesses outages in San Diego rarely last more than a few hours. This time though we lost untold thousands of dollars worth of product. Some stores are reporting up to $70,000 in spoiled product. Fingers are pointing at the heads that are expected to roll but this wasn’t a disaster that began and ended at the store-level. Little or no local contingencies for extended power outages, few refrigerated trucks, limited and seemingly random ice and dry ice deliveries, many back up generators that were limited to support only registers and some lighting and not the refrigerated cases and freezers is a problem that started at and can only be fixed from a higher level.

Once the power went out we shut the doors, only letting customers out and none were allowed entry. This was for safety, mostly. The store was dark and we couldn’t have people stumbling around and possibly getting hurt.

Initially, we did let in a mother and her newborn infant so she could get some baby formula and a bottle. We escorted her with us carrying flashlights. Being in panic mode from the power being out she forgot her payment card, didn’t have cash and the ATM’s were inoperative anyways so we just let her have the items. If she pays us back great, if not we are not worried about it. Babies gotta eat. Of course, when we let the mother and newborn inside another person outside threw a tantrum about being excluded. She wanted in so we let her grab a few things.

A bit later while we were prepping the store another person arrived and went all “Trigger Effect” on the person watching the front doors, claiming an emergency. He was pretty out of line about it and in interest of keeping peace the guy was allowed inside. I don’t know what type of emergency is handled with the tortilla chips and strawberries he purchased but it is an odd world sometimes so who knows what his situation was. When I was notified of his behavior I made sure I checked this person out at a register. I dropped a few suggestions that in the future, he should behave better and that I would understand if he wanted to shop elsewhere from now on. FYI: You don’t threaten people, not any I am responsible for and basically if I am anywhere in the vicinity. I won’t stand for it. Threats will usually get you two things: At my place of work at minimum a banning and maybe a trip to the slammer. I’ve worked too many places where workplace violence is a reality to let things like that slide and hope the person doesn’t get the “Big Headache” and return with a weapon or flip out and attack.

EMERGENCY TIP: Always check the International aisles of the store when panic/emergency shopping. Often people don’t think outside their usual frames of reference and when the hardware aisle is cleaned out of regular emergency supplies the International foods section will usually still carry a good supply of veladoras (those prayer candles with religious icons on them) and Shabbat candles.

After the customers were out of the store all the employees pitched in and went to work covering all the cold items. Open chill cases are great for shopping but lousy for keeping things cold. If the power was restored in a few hours then everything would be alright (with the exception of the ice cream). Once we were all done with that we opened the store again. Taking advantage of the emergency lighting in the aisles, sunlight through the windows and using flashlights propped up on the checkstands we were able to remain open until later in the evening when it just became too dark for customer safety and we were unwilling to sell the remaining refrigerated items.

With a few exceptions the customers pretty much remained calm and didn’t act out. No one mentioned terrorism without it clearly being a light-hearted jest. I heard more people suggesting that the Grocery Workers Union was responsible for the event than al Qaeda. I did observe one couple taking advantage of the chaos by walking out the door without paying for a bunch of stuff (among the loot was a bouquet of flowers. Not even the edible ones, just a pretty arrangement!), but over all thievery was at a minimum. I guess there will always be people who take advantage. Those kind of people would rifle through wallets and pull rings off of fingers at the scene of a disastrous jet crash so stealing munchies and a flower arrangement during a power outage probably won’t cause them to lose any sleep. The truth was if anyone without access to funds (like the mother with the newborn) discreetly asked us (so others wouldn’t jump on the idea) we probably would have just let them grab whatever they needed at no cost. I wasn’t mad, mostly I was just disappointed.

Once the store was closed for the day I drove home. By then the streets and highways were clear. My neighborhood was still without power and the house was hot, hot, hot. I don’t live in the kind of area where windows and doors can remain open unguarded so even though it was cooler and tolerable outside I just went to bed. The first I was aware the power was restored was at about 3:00 a.m. when the air conditioner kicked on and woke me up with a blast of sweet, cool oxygen.

What sold the most at the grocery store during the power outage? Ice, water and booze. All three items are obvious, at least for our regional climate. Whatever fear-mongering or distortions might be reported on later I didn’t observe anyone really scared, just mostly unprepared. After everyone dumped ice in their respective fridges to prevent spoilage then it was Big Fun Party Time! Nearly every order had alcohol in it. And 13 hours without power? I wonder what kind of baby boom we can expect in the San Diego area 9 months from now.

A Case of Animal Cruelty

If your pet snake gets too big for the terrarium why don’t you just set it free, jerk? Dropping it off in a sealed cheese ball jar behind a strip mall on a hot pavement in the sun to bake to death is not right.

Were you thinking someone would find it and adopt it? It’s a snake, jerk, and had to be over four feet long. Maybe you thought setting it free would hard on the mouses and birds in the area. If that is how your brain works there is something wrong with your wiring. Take responsibility for what you do.

After calling Animal Control and describing the snake they advised me it wasn’t harmful to people or pets and to set it free. I let it go in a hilly area full of trees near the mall. Couldn’t tell you if the shock of being set free from a steaming death trap into a cooler environment will kill it or not but at least it has a chance now. I released the snake in stages, though. Moved the jar to the shade so it would cool down a bit closer to the outside temperature before getting set free. Did I mention you are a jerk?

I wish RFID chips were common enough to be implanted in that cheese ball container so the proper authorities could track you down by your purchases and you could get the sound thrashing you deserve.

Found in San Diego off Governor Drive, 6-5-11.

Improved by graffiti

I’m not the type of person who considers most graffiti as actual art. Banksy and others in that class aside the majority of the scrawls on walls and property is, cleverness notwithstanding, simple and ugly vandalism that is costly and deleterious to the area in which it appears.

The graffiti in my neighborhood, while full of pretty colors and large swooping letters, makes the street look like a slum. I don’t get why people poop where they live.

One exception I found recently is a case where vandalism may actually improve a location. While eating lunch on a day out with my wife I discovered a vandalized painting of a still life of flowers hung up above a urinal in a bathroom of a local restaurant. The painting itself is of a class that some consider to be perfectly suited for hotel rooms and other areas like bathrooms. No disrespect to the artist, as it is better than I can do and is an improvement to the standard decor of air fresheners and paper towel dispensers.

Apparently, a few ne’er-do-wells had taken the time to scrawl their monikers on the painting, tagging it with their signatures. Shame. Vandalizing art is tantamount to burning books as far as I’m concerned.

Yet the vandalism is not the most unfortunate aspect of the painting. During flushing, fluids in a toilet become aerosolized and spread out about a yard or so in all directions. Due to the proximity of the painting to the urinal it is probable the art is toxic to more than the eye. The painting is a still life but I don’t doubt that the surface is teeming with squirming, throbbing, icky, deposited nastiness. Worse, any person of average height using the urinal is positioned directly in front of the canvas, mouth a few inches away from the surface (on average, about six inches distant), breathing in and out, blowing colonies of bacteria and horror into the air and then inhaling them deep into the lungs and sinuses. So the good thing about the vandalism that mars the painting, the only reason when graffiti would improve something by damaging it, is that for esthetic reasons the painting is unlikely to be moved during redecorating to anywhere else in the restaurant. Like to the dining area.