The Art of Eating Rice Cake, Or Mistakes Made While Traveling Abroad

I’m a little over halfway in my To Be Read Pile Challenge. Which is saying a lot since last year, I think I only finished 4 books? This year I was more strategic with what I planned to read. I made my list a mix of humor books, book club books, and ones that have sat on my bookshelf too long.

My 2014 To Be Read Pile

  1. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
  2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  3. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
  4. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
  5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  7. Crash Into You by Roni Loren
  8. She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  10. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  11. Bonk by Mary Roach
  12. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

I have some reviews to get up here yet, but I’ve finished reading 8 books already!

One of my favorite authors to read is David Sedaris, and I recently finished When You Are Engulfed in Flames on audiobook, which in my opinion, is the BEST way to read a Sedaris book. He has the greatest voice and often reads his work aloud – even drafts – which I think is fascinating. He is then able to tell his agent what lines got the biggest laughs by the audience. Very cool.

In this book, Sedaris talks a lot about living abroad and his relationship with his partner, Hugh, as well as the eclectic group of neighbors they’ve had over the years.

Over the course of their lives together, David and Hugh have lived in New York, France, and Japan. When I visited my friend Amy in South Korea, I spent hours practicing basic Korean phrases out of a language book I’d checked out from the library, only to arrive and find out I’d memorized them with the totally wrong pronunciation. Certain consonants sound very different in the Korean alphabet than they do in English. The letter ‘G’ for example, often takes on the sound of a ‘K’ in Korean.

I greatly sympathized and heartily laughed while reading David’s recount of being the dumbest kid in Japanese class. I loved that his teachers were still kind and encouraging to him, patting him on the head for being the dunce that he was, surrounded by a class much younger than he.

One day I was shopping in Insadong Market by myself and I stopped in a beautiful second floor tea shop to journal about my trip and watch the crowds of people traverse the street market below. I ordered a Green Tea Latte and what I thought was a delicious pastry of fried dough with cinnamon and sugar inside. Amy and her boyfriend, Lin, had bought one for me earlier in the week and it was a yummy treat.

100_2000I thought THIS is what I ordered.

Instead, what appeared on a plate before me was what I would describe as a melted patty of rice cake. Now, to be quite clear, rice cake is NOT cake. And it’s consistency is pretty chewy even at room temperature. The tea shop attendant also gave me the tiniest fork I had ever seen.

Not wanting to be rude, I picked up the fork made for fairies and tried to cut a piece of the rice cake off. It was so gooey, I ended up wrapping it around my fork like a spaghetti noodle, making giant rolling waves with my arm. It just kept winding…and winding!

Once inside my mouth, the rice cake coated my teeth so that my jaw was sealed tight by this taffy-like food. I ate about half of…whatever it was I ordered. When I later described the food to Amy and Lin, neither one had a clue.

Much like David Sedaris, I live life in an experimental manner, a sort of “well, this is what I said IΒ  wanted so best to make everyone think I’m an expert at eating it.” But as the rice cake cooled, it stuck to the plate and I had to use my fairy fork to drag the stuff across it and wind it still. There was no grace or expertise about it.

I highly recommend David Sedaris’s book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It is a fantastic read for anyone who adores humor books and for lovers of wanderlust everywhere. The best part about travel is that you accept adventures. You could end up like David, sitting in a French hospital waiting room – naked. Or you might just accidentally order rice cake. πŸ˜‰


Thanks to all who left loving comments for my friend, Cat, last week. Your encouragement warms our spirits.

Now how about you? What are your favorite funny books or travel moments?



21 responses

  1. “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” is my absolute favorite Sedaris book! I laughed so many times, and felt almost the same way in Paris – this point-and-smile method of communicating that didn’t always get the results I wanted. Adventures should contain some uncertainty – that’s what makes them memorable. πŸ™‚ I’ve always been a fan of Sue Grafton and her alphabet mystery series. Great reads, every one of them.

    1. I just got his latest book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, on audio. I’ve been reading a lot of Sedaris lately.

      Yes, travel is most memorable because we’re out of our element and having to learn how to communicate and engage with new people and surroundings. I love it!

  2. They were probably playing a joke on the dumb foreigner to see if you would actually eat it. That’s why your friends had no idea!

    Let’s see, funny books. I loved Tina Fey’s book. That’s probably the most recent one where I laughed while reading it. Also The Bloggess’. She really knows how to tell a tale with the maximum amount of hilarity.

    I have many a travel story, but of course I can’t think of anything funny or interesting right now. I’ll get back to you if I do.

    1. I still enjoyed the tea shop and my latte was delicious.

      I’ve read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Bossypants. Both are amazing! I mean, bobcats loose in the house?!

  3. Sounds like a good one!

    1. Every Sedaris book is hilarious!

  4. Maybe someday, I’ll be on your list!
    Life is full of disappointments. May the rice cake be the worst of the week!

    1. I hope so Susie!

      My trip overall was wonderful. Even the adventure of rice cake.

  5. The only really funny travel moment I can recall was running out of clean underwear and socks during my road trip in 2011. Which is why I spent two days traveling from Ohio to Nebraska going commando and wearing flip-flops.

    1. LOL. Do whatcha gotta do.

  6. I, too, laughed out loud as I read Tina Fey’s book. Man, I wish I could figure out how to get some of my crazy day-to-day experiences down on paper in a more humorous fashion….
    Boy, do I have travel stories, but they are simply too lengthy to put in a comments section (you’re welcome). Let’s just say that, for some reason, our traditionally ultra-conservative, predictable family tends to throw caution to the wind when we are travelling. We have no qualms with, say, hitchhiking in Russia, if that’s what it takes to get a ride somewhere….

    1. I don’t know how your comment ended up in my spam folder, Dawn, but now that I’ve saved it, I want to know more about hitchhiking in Russia!

      P.S. I thought of you this weekend when I watched Pitch Perfect. Yes, again. *mermaid dancing*

      1. Hahaha – one can never watch Pitch Perfect too many times!
        Yes, I will need to put together a little story about the hitchhiking experience. It was memorable, to say the least!

  7. I discovered David Sedaris at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. It was “Naked” and I took it to dinner with me. The boxer shorts on the cover and I got very strange looks that night while I laughed my a$$ off during dinner over the OCD kid and his mother.

    1. It started with underwear. I might have guessed. πŸ˜‰

  8. Okay, this might be one of those “you had to be there” moments, but I’ll tell the story anyway. I’m married to a Francophile and we go to France every few years. We’ve made some friends there, all of whom speak English about as well as I speak French, which isn’t saying much.

    Once while visiting one family, the guys had gone off somewhere and the children were sick. My friend, Natalie, was upset that she couldn’t do the shopping to get us fresh bread, cheese, etc. for dinner. They live in a small village where daily marketing is still the routine.

    So I offered to do the chore. I made the rounds of all the shops and came back with le pain, fromage and pate, and even some petits gateaux (I think I spelled that right) for dessert.

    I proudly announced that the shopkeepers didn’t have a bit of trouble understanding my French. Natalie looked at me and gave a very Gallic little shake of her head. “Ma cher amie, they are highly motivated to understand you.”

    Kinda popped my balloon, but we did eat well that evening! No gooey rice cakes as I recall. πŸ™‚

    1. Sounds like a delicious dinner! What a fun experience trying out a newer language in a daily market. Good for you!

  9. That rice cake sounds – interesting. πŸ™‚ It’s good to try new things.
    Your reading list is impressive. I’d like to read Rebecca and Anne of Green Gables myself.

    1. You mean they don’t have rice cake in Ireland? πŸ˜‰

      I really enjoyed Anne of Green Gables and want to read the next one. We’re reading Rebecca in my book club in October and that was my pick. Love the Hitchcock film!

  10. That is a funny story, Jess! Good for you for trying the rice cake. I haven’t had any horror food stories traveling, maybe because I eat ANYTHING. πŸ™‚ I do remember in a small town in Spain, being scolded for putting my bread on the plate. It is supposed to be kept on the table just free from plates. Who knew? Also at bars, you were to throw your napkin down on the floor when you were done with it. Other than that I happily ate goat, tripe, and other delicacies. πŸ™‚

    I am so behind on my reading but I love your suggestions, especially on humor books. I need some of those. πŸ™‚

    1. I gobbled up humor books last year. Hit me up whenever you need a suggestion!

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