Rachael Darden, a local teacher, looked exhausted. She had recently cooked four large meals of squid, sweet potatoes, and various vegetables. Black plastic bags from the five day market littered her kitchen table. She had spent the afternoon calling friends to throw a dinner party, sadly, each of them was trying to host their own.
"I just wanted to make something simple for a fun dinner with friends tonight," she said before sighing. "Now I am drowning in food."
Darden expresses a prevalent concern among five-day market shoppers who are forced to buy in bulk instead of buying a single item. Many shoppers visit the five-day market located just beyond VIPs in Shin Jeju for the diversity of products, amazing deals, and colorful experience. Recently, many teachers who are new to the island are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of food they walk away with.
"I didn't know what to do with all the food I bought. It's all organic so it will go bad. If only it had preservatives," said Kristen Krieg, a lecturer at Jeju National University who has been on the island a month.
Organic products from the local farms are a mainstay of the five-day market. A shopper can find fresh vegetables, fish, meat, and even spices. Perhaps the best part of buying locally is knowing that the money gets reinvested back into the community. Haggling with the locals can be a culturally gratifying experience that makes you feel like you are part of the Jeju community. EPiK Teacher Cassie Ann Jacinto was kind enough to share one of her experiences.
"I wanted to buy one red snapper to experiment with at home so I approached a woman selling fish." Cassie paused here and shook her head regretfully. "I found one I liked and asked her how much it was in Korean. The woman told me it would be 20,000 won. That's really expensive. I eventually got her down to 15,000 won."
Thinking all was well Cassie reached into her purse for her wallet, but when she turned to give the woman her money, the clerk was packaging five snappers.
"I was shocked," Cassie exclaimed, "I didn't know what to do with all that fish!"
When asked what she eventually did, she said that she cooked one, but that the rest were tucked away in the back of her freezer, "it's probably not fish anymore," she concluded.
Cassie's tale of miscommunication is a common one amongst the foreigner community. Leaving the five-day market oppressed with the idea of having to possibly throw a dinner party, many foreigners have been known to become antisocial for a day or two.
"I haven't seen anyone in days," bemoaned Stephen Smith over the phone. "I have all these veggies and meat to cook for a dinner party Tuesday night. I had to call in sick today and if I don't finish this mussel and fish lasagna tonight I'll have to do it again tomorrow."
Stephen wasn't the only foreigner who was worrying over his shopping at the five-day market. TALK teacher Chase Duncan was heading towards his scooter with a grimace, "I bought this amazingly fresh delicious bacon. I just wanted five strips for a burger I wanted to make later. Now I'll probably have to throw a barbecue".
Shoppers should be prepared to reckon the amazing deals on food with the social consequences. Angela Jacobus attended a small gathering of friends after the market one day and found herself in the middle of a scandal. Going to the market early, Angela had slaved away in the kitchen for hours making an oven roasted herb chicken, a delicacy on the island due to the lack of ovens amongst foreigners.
Upon arriving to the dinner, Angela proudly presented her poultry. It was met with horrified stares. Party ore Daphne Lee had also brought the same dish.
"We didn't speak for weeks. I purposefully did not go anywhere I knew Daphne was bringing a dish," declared Angela. "She really ruined that night for me. We are good friends now though."
An anonymous source lamented, “It was really hard to be in the middle of that chicken dilemma. I just didn't understand it. We ate both of them,” smacking lips, “They were delicious and fresh."
Sadly, these conflicts are a common occurrence amongst the five-day market goes. The market, which is open every fifth day of the month, lends itself to culinary intrigue.
With amazing deals on fresh local products and a colorful atmosphere that provides a culturally immersive experience, the market should be a weekly stop on anyone's schedule. Just plan ahead and invite your friends over before you go shopping.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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