Chapter 11: The Rite of Kimchi

Any excuse to get out of the city, no matter how small, is usually a good one. This week Huckleberry had the fortune of being invited to hang out with a friend while he made a batch of home brew. The bready smells of fresh malts and the cutting smells of citrus hops were welcome relief from the carbonated amber colored water bars served in the name of beer.

That wasn´t the only fresh smell come February. Running into the Old Man (Francisco the Shaman) on the hill, Huckleberry learned where one can find savage, wild, and extra crispy garlic to be unrooted, chard to be raptured, fennel to be stalked, chicory to be rainchecked and dock leafs/sorrels to be harvested by the fistful. Spring has unjustifiably come early for Huckleberry and his brain is figuring out just what to make of it, since his metabolism only just went into hibernation mode during the month of rainy weather that just ocurred and seems to already be on its way out. A short lived winter.

Some trees are already budding with pink and purple flowers. It seems rather strange. Perhaps this is the reason that Huckleberry´s sleeping capabilities are slimming down and his exceptionally lucid dreaming is accelerating its hungry spongelike expansion into new territories. Everything is just a bit off kilter. This Spring seems unsure of itself, and suddenly downshifts through different backbeat accents bringing everything to a snaring halt.

The creperia closed down, and one of the only foodie shops here in town will be closed for good as of March. Venezuela, Thailand, Bahrain, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil. 6 countries with heavily publicized demonstrations, manifestations, protests. Many, violent. A dry realism hangs about as the seasons exchange places at the throne, and thrones exchange dry international looks weighing in on opportunities and gambles to come.

The pleasing complexity of Proustian conversations fill his salon on legs like a comfortably furnished bird house on stilts as they sip awake the temporarily sunny mornings. Hawks have been offering Huck a new perspective for the narration of idle vision. Puddles are shorter, less messy around their rocky edges.

All of a sudden all momentum seems to have pooled into a deep recess.

What must a man do, to kill time? Make a liter and a half of kimchi of course!; and this is where our story begins. A naive boy wanders out into the dangerous world in hopes of making delicious kimchi – a celebration of Spring rolling in.

Like all true religious rites, kimchi requires an encapsulated death of about three days. All the world dissassembles and sits in the salty primordial bath encased by the invisible bounds of an Italian made glass jar. All the enormity and the virtue of both world events and local happenings stuck in this temporal gridlock could be digested over 2 hours devoted to dissassembling fermentable diceables. First, they must be acquireables, of course.

Getting veggies in Cáceres is quite the trip. As is getting herbs. There are fruit and veggie shops lining the fabric of the apartment quilted Cacereñan city. Most of the required roots, bulbs, and heads needed for Huckleberry´s Rite of Spring could be found by traversing various shops. However, Chili peppers and any form of herb would require extreme measures. Not the extreme measure of visiting the old lady that sells freshly snapped sprigs of romero, tomillo, and laurel while trying to con you into buying dried guindilla peppers or picking up two euros worth of white beans from her burlap-sack-island-like goodie shop. No, this was not a time to embark on typical spanish herb quests – it was time for Huckleberry to man up and make his first trip to, Carrefour.

It´s the same evil, by a different name. This is Wally´s sister in arms, Carrefour. You walk in and it smells like the freshly laid car tires on sale to your left. This non-sequitor placement shocks and disorients you as you try to pick up a basket on wheels. You mistakenly pull out two baskets and fumble them to the ground as the handle elongates to the infinity of your embarrassment below. Looking around you discreetly dislodge the extra basket back into its case and proceed past the Doughnut island just across from the fresh flower cooler. Dear god, this was exactly the human processing plant you hoped to escape in the American mid-wasteland of Wal-marts, the French bureaucratic Targets, and the do they still exist K-marts.

First they disgust you with the tires, then they feed you sugar and flowers hoping that you won´t have noticed the chillout music lounging in from the speakers behind the ever-other-one-is-lit strip-ped down lighting. Its rather disgusting. Same old game, different name.

Nonetheless, Huckleberry went there to accomplish a few things. 1. Spicy peppers are notoriously difficult to find in Spain. 2. Red curry paste is something you might see in a movie here, once. 3. While he was at it, a bit of cilantro would go nice in a red curry sweet potato soup he could rig up for dinner with some leftover kimchi hopefuls. Hell, he hadn´t tasted fresh cilantro since he got here because, well – its just not very Spanish. 4. And perhaps that´s partially what this Rite was ushering in – Project Immersion had plenty of success – he could put down the zeal for doing typical Spanish things for a good while.

The Veggie section of Carrefour was like a sacred cloister hidden behind the fortress of household necessities and moderately expensive kitchenwares.

Huckleberry scanned the bountiful, mist sprayed and cooler chilled islands of produce. Nothing. He asked the kind Oracle behind the screen lit desk where he might find something spicy.

“…”  “…have you tried padrón peppers?, they´re from Morocco, and they´re supposedly spicy – but you never know, sometimes you get a batch and they don´t bite at all.”

This, of course, would never do for Huckleberry Kimchi.

“Do you have any dried peppers that have decent bite?” Huckleberry pleaded to her holiness, the Oracle of Veggies.

“We got dry Geen-deedja´s”

<Ah, yes, the Guindilla pepper. Spoken like a proper extremaduran.> Huckleberry thought to himself, quietly. The Wally world of Spain was not to be underestimated in its tenacious vigilance. Market paranoia was watching his every deed, best not think too loudly – or clearly. He accepted her guindilla offering, the Oracle had spoken and delivered. At this point, he had found both fresh cilantro and the Rite spice. Now he was ready to find the red curry demon, and obtain coconut milk in one fell swoop. Many months of meditation in spiceless as well as herbless ascetism were about to pay off.

15 minutes pass

Huckleberry stumbles out of the disorienting and challenging forest of initiation trials. He looks at his won treasures, sacred amulets. He savours the flavor of fresh cilantro on his 5 month herb starved palate. Now, all he had to do wash, chop, grate, smush, salt and seal veggies and roots for 2 hours while his system digested the all in all happening around. His brain worked best when left alone, so -best get busy with the kimchi. Cutting open a fractal-like cabbage is all you need to satisfy your bird´s eye perspective.

After all was cut and pressed, Huckleberry sealed the salted concoction and put its colorful purple cabbage canned tapestry on his desk to bask in room temperature normality for three days. <Deliberate and disciplined patience can do a lot. Here´s to hoping that the release of this temporal slingshot´s momentary pause comes up healthy blossoms wherever they have the luck to bloom. And here´s to hoping we have the courage to work with what ferments.>

At this point in Huckleberry´s contemplation, a bunch of silver chandeliered light bulbs lit up and a small, white haired man with a green cape walked up to the altar. Time to get out of the way of Catholic mass and leave the San Juan church with its quiet stone walls baking in Friday morning´s sunlight. Time to visit that old lady with the sacks of beans and buy some laurel sprigs on the way home. Time to stop at the neighborhood pastry shop to eat a tecula mecula ( a dessert traditional to the Extremadura region of western Spain)  accompanied by a coffee and reflect on what he realized today.

Chapter 12: Fear and Loathing in Cádiz, part 1


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