July 18, 2006
We've been in Madrid a week now and a week is about how long it takes before Jenn and I start seeking out comfort food (see previous post). For us that means Mexican or Korean. You would think Mexican food in Madrid would be a no-brainer, but Mexican friends who have tried scores of restaurants report nothing but heartbreak (Part of the problem is that most Spaniards don't have a taste for corn—"Corn is chicken feed," sniffed a Catalan friend—and part of the problem is that spicy food is almost unknown here.) So given this knowledge we decided to seek out a Korean restaurant on the assumption it would be run by Koreans and cater to Korean tourists... We ended up at Han Gang Restaurante Coreana at Calle Atocha, 94 and when we entered at 8:00 (super early by Madrid standards), the place was packed with a Korean bus tour, a good sign. The menu in translation was less promising, (chicken in catsup?), although Jenn said the Korean was correctly rendered. The other issue was the veal which was substituted for both beef and pork throughout the menu. Veal bulgogi? We weren't so brave. Veal mandoo was edible though. Jenn enjoyed her bibimbop and the panchan was normal (although skimpy). The kimchee was decent. I barbecued some chicken at the table which was fine, but not exactly Korean. Nothing was spicy. All in all not terribly authentic, but not the horror it might have been.
Afterwards we shared beers in a pleasant bustling square with my brother Ed and an English friend of his named Briony. Both had lived in Kyoto for several years and both had moved from there to Madrid (my brother now lives in Prague). Both also are died-in-the-wool ex-pats. Jenn and I (both failed ex-pats) had lots of questions primarily about the desire to keep moving versus the desire to nest. Two comments that stuck with me: "It's much more difficult as an ex-pat to go home a resume a 'normal' routine than it is to head off to a new city" and "The thing about being an ex-pat is if you feel depressed or stressed you tend to blame it on the city, it's never about you."
Ed enlightened us as to Czech drinking etiquette. "You don't talk. You drink and you contemplate your unhappiness. When you finish a beer, another is served immediately and you drink again. The Czech always see Americans laughing and talking and think there must be something wrong with them. 'They must be simple,' they think, 'How can they laugh with so much unhappiness in the world.'
Also in Prague never order a salad, especially if you are a man. Men eat meat."
What else? We saw a Moroccan guy with a large knife in his hand running down an alley being chased by a guy with a big stick. That was exciting.
I would complain about the heat but I just checked in and noted the weather in Brooklyn where it is both hotter and infinitely more humid, so I'll keep my mouth shut. Also soon we'll escape to Galicia where it is somewhat cooler. This will be good for me, a hater of heat and for Jenn who is pregnant with our #2 (almost 3 months now). See how I buried the lead?
That's it from here. Goodnight.