It didn't take long to discover just how serious the weather forecasters had been about yesterday. When we opened the door to our badly air-conditioned apartment in the morning a wave of heat hit us from the corridor outside, and while it was windy outside, I can only imagine it's the sort of wind you would feel if trapped in a tumble dryer. It was so hot that for the first time, my wife resorting to bringing along the suspiciously ajumma-like parasol which her mother had bought for us recently. Still, the important thing was that it did its job of protecting us from the burning rays, and this is obviously why so many people can be seen with them now that the 'real summer' is upon us.
The season was in fact the reason we were out, because it was one of three specified days during the summer when among other things Koreans eat one of two meat dishes designed to restore proteins otherwise sapped by the conditions. It may seem odd to designate specific meat-eating days but this has to be seen in the context of the sparsity of meat in the ordinary Korean's diet historically, when it was a luxury rather than a just another 3,000 won item at Lotteria.
This business of the 'three days' bears some explanation. Two of the three days mark the beginning and end of the hottest period - approximately thirty days - the second designated day is ten days after the first for reasons which don't seem entirely clear, and because it's all based on the lunar calendar these dates move around when compared to the Gregorian calendar. Allegedly this means that twenty days from now we hit the end of the hottest period but I suspect this is going to prove entirely false.
So one of the dishes is that old Korean cliche, dog-meat - bosintang (보신탕) to be specific, and the other is samgyetang (삼계탕), which consists of a much less controversial whole chicken. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we'd opted for samgyetang.
By the time we'd reached the restaurant though, it was too hot for me to face it and I had crab rice instead, and even Korean Mother, who we'd met for the special lunch, opted for something else. That left my wife to bravely uphold traditions and consume the dish, which she reported to be 'disappointing' this year. Normally, restaurants here stuff the chicken with especially sticky rice, but the Chinese restaurant we'd gone to appeared to use normal rice and it just wasn't the same. Next time, we'll probably stick to Korean restaurants when we want to observe Korean traditions...
Korean keywords: 날씨, 삼계탕, 음식, 닭