13.083 The Meal

Cycle 13 – Item 83

29 (Tue) March 2022

The Meal

2.5

by me

from E-Mart

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea-

solo

Marshall Shelby is one of my all-time best friends.  We met in the 8th grade at Seoul Academy, where we spent all of our free time playing Dungeons & Dragons.  For high school, I moved on to SIS and he moved to New York.  Over the years, we kept in touch via letters, the rare international phone call.  In college, I took a year off, half of it hanging out with Marshall in Washington DC (he was attending George Washington University, while I worked part-time as a host at The Hard Rock Café), where we spent all of our free time shooting pool.  Sometime in the late 1990s, we lost contact.

Since then, I haven’t been able to track him down – surprisingly, “Shelby Marshall” is quite a common name on the internet, especially for blonde white women (seriously, try googling it) – but I remain hopeful that we will someday be reunited.  (In fact, I refer to his full name in this post in the off-chance that it snares an internet search.)

At E-Mart (Seongsu), the deep-fried takeout section.

I will always associate fried chicken with Marshall.  Whether coincidence or evidence of a racial stereotype, Marshall’s father was black (mother was Korean), and fried chicken was his favorite food, his only favorite food.  At school in the 8th grade, Marshall busted out fried chicken for lunch every other day, leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.  When I was invited to their house for the occasional sleepover, fried chicken was served for dinner.

Which was great for me, because I loved fried chicken (still do), but my own father didn’t eat chicken (still doesn’t), wouldn’t allow chicken in the house, wouldn’t allow chicken to be ordered at the same table (e.g., at a Chinese restaurant) – my mother once took me to KFC on my birthday as a secret act of defiance.

Grab-and-go fried chicken – in Korean usage, “chi-kin” = fried chicken – 14,980 won a box, pickled radishes and sauces cost extra.

During that time in DC, after or in the midst of an all-night pool session, we often headed downtown to our go-to 24-hour fried chicken joint for a quick snack.  Can’t remember the name of the place.  Not really a restaurant, no tables for dining in, just a small waiting area, cashier behind a bullet-proof glass screen, food served through a revolving bullet-proof glass window (DC was like that back then – maybe still is?).  Always ordered the same thing: a 3-piece fried chicken set, which came with a wing + leg + half-breast + slice of white sandwich bread + soda.  We called it “The Meal” – as in, “Hey, getting hungry, I’m kinda craving The Meal.”

As Marshall explained to me – that first time when I couldn’t figure out what to do with the bread – black people in the South eat fried chicken with white sandwich bread.  Nothing complicated, like making a sandwich, just taking a bite of chicken, alternating with a bite of bread.  In contrast to other fancy fixings (e.g., buttermilk biscuits, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, etc), which are elements of formal post-church Sunday dining, white sandwich bread is the standard daily no-fuss accompaniment.  After I left DC, however, I have never encountered the fried chicken + white sandwich bread combo.

I was reminded of The Meal when I found that Filipinos in the Philippines eat steamed rice with fried chicken.

It works.

Anyway, I happened to have both fried chicken and white sandwich bread, so I enjoyed a recreation of The Meal.

I miss Marshall very much.

(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)

(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)

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