Monday, February 13, 2012

Black Noodles for My Black, Black Heart

Ah, Valentine’s Day……love notes…eating half of every chocolate candy and putting the rest back in the sampler box…lovers walking hand-in-hand…birds singing because spring is just around the corner…it’s a nice scene, isn’t it?

Then, why does it suck so bad?!

Try as I might to be perky about the mandated day of love, all I seem to see is flowers that cost 40% less last week…the marginalizing of lonely individuals…poor children laboring in chocolate factories…my favorite restaurants decidedly jamming 20 more tables and chairs into an already tight space…really, really bad movies with way too many celebrity cameos…being told I’m great because a day decrees it to be so.
(I know I’m great, tell me tomorrow.)

And, I know I’m not alone. Many people can’t stand Valentine’s Day.

Antivalentinism is an established movement and, while I don’t necessarily want to label myself as quite THAT committed to my distaste for the most unoriginal day of the year, it’s a surprisingly sensible criticism.

Anti-Valentine cards exist and they’re AWESOME!

So, as you might have guessed, I looked at all other possible world holidays being celebrated this week. But, with North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and even parts of the Middle East all drinking cupid’s Kool-Aid, Independence Day in Gambia just didn’t quite make the cut. 

As a result, I set out to find a custom somewhere on the planet that could save Valentine’s Day for me. Out of all of the countries that celebrate V-Day, there just had to be a tradition that didn’t make me want to choke on a box of Be Mine hearts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Black Day:  the most excellent, South Korean (by way of China), Valentine’s ritual.

Here’s the deal, in South Korea, on February 14, folks are still actively engaging in the age-old tradition of exchanging candy – only it’s women who give candy to men. One month later, on March 14 (White Day), men return the favor by giving women non-chocolate or white chocolate tokens of their affection. Then, one more bumpy ride of a month down the Tunnel of Love, we find ourselves at April 14 – Black Day!

Reserved for the lonely hearts, Black Day is when those who didn’t exchange gifts on V-Day or White Day take themselves out to a restaurant and eat Jjajangmyun, Korean noodles with black bean sauce. The black sauce is what gives the day its name and apparently gives singles the strength to move on in their loveless world!

Black Bean Sauce, made from a base of
fermented black bean paste, potatoes, and onions.

Homemade Korean Noodles.

Mix the two and thank me later.

A little digging revealed that the best black bean noodles in the New York metro area can be found at Mandarin restaurant, in Palisades Park, New Jersey. They make their own noodles in-house and serve Chinese food in the Korean style.

Palisades Park's Koreatown has the highest concentration
of Korean restaurants within a one-mile radius in the U.S.
The main red characters spell Mandarin in Korean.
The smaller, red characters say su ta gook su (hand made noodles).

That's right! Ed wins a gold star (covered in black bean sauce) for giving his order clearly and properly.

Show off.
Though, things started to look up really quickly when I tucked into my seafood soup!

I even (generously) let Ed suck the prawn head.


And, if there's one final, loving nugget that we would like to leave you with, it's this -- when dining out on Jjajangmyun, DO NOT sample the dessert gum.
You've been warned.
Well, I’m off to get my Antivalentinist card laminated.

Until next week,


Whilst doing research on this entry, I happened upon a couple of additional, particularly awesome items:
  • The first insulting Valentine’s cards surfaced in the 1850s and were known as Vinegar Valentines or Penny Dreadfuls. They were usually poorly printed and sent anonymously. The post office sometimes confiscated these cards as unfit to be mailed.
  • The abbreviation for Singles Awareness Day is SAD

The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following:

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