Kimchi Explosion in the USA

Mrs. ItchyFeet in her favorite lounger

So I know that you are all dying to know how the saga with my in-laws’ septic system is going. It continues! However, I’m going to tell you all about delightful food in Seattle before we talk about poop again. Smart! Don’t want to gross you out before I tell you about all the joyous fare I have been consuming in the Pacific Northwest. Eat local.

Kimchi explosion!

You make Kimchi by soaking Chinese cabbage overnight in a salt brine. Then you make this delightful red paste (with carrots and green onions and such) and smear it between the cabbage leaves. Roll those leaves up and place them in a large bowl with the additional sauce and let ferment for a couple of days at room temp. I cover the bowl with a heavy silicone lid (mine looks like a tomato top!). The bowl allows it to burp and fart contentedly without building up pressure; while the lid keeps any external contaminates from getting involved.

Slug with pine needles
The slugs in the Pacific Northwest are massive! No touching!

After that, I like to chop up the cabbage for convenience and place it all in jars and into the fridge they go. This is when things went terribly wrong! I jarred the kimchi early so the in-laws could take some on their camping trip… but I left a large jar out for one more night to get more of a ferment. Adds a bit more of a kick.

Then freakishly early the next morning, I hear a tap-tap-tap on the door. The kimchi had violently exploded… in the baking center… all over everything… and onto the laptop. Oh, snap! My first thought was that the jar must have shattered into a thousand pieces and we would waste the entire batch of kimchi. That can happen. All those good bacteria eating sugars and farting out gasses can create a lot of pressure. If you tighten the lid too much… bam! Explosion!

Not a single picture

Lucky for us, what actually happened is that the gas had built up and pushed the veggies into the bottle-neck of the jar. The pressure continued to build until it violently burst the lid off and all the veggies and red liquid went everywhere. And I mean everywhere! On the ceiling, the walls, the fancy new white doors, all the cooking supplies in the cooking center, and all over the back of the laptop.

Random statue in Seattle
Found this cool statue while wandering around Seattle with my running group.

Now the first thing I would have done if I came across this massacre of bright red kimchi splattered everywhere, is take a picture for you all. But not a single person down there thought to do that in their desperate (and successful!) attempt to save the laptop. No pictures. Sigh. At least the laptop was fine, and I managed to remove every speck of red from those new white doors. That’s really good paint.

The kimchi was delightful and well worth the effort. Mr. ItchyFeet made kimchi fried rice and the absolute best gluten-free kimchi pancakes. If you have never made one of those, you should try it. So good. My mum-in-law thought this kimchi was too spicy, but did thoroughly enjoy those pancakes. We ate more than 1/2 gallon of kimchi in like three weeks. Noms!

Fish tacos!

My in-laws love to travel around and go fishing. They have a whole setup to clean, filet, and freeze the delicious morsels in a dedicated freezer. Their freezer was packed, and they clearly said that I could eat everything in the house while they were away. Challenge accepted! My favorite of their fish selection is the walleye. It makes the best fish tacos.

Homemade hot-sauce
Made some Belizean style hot-sauce. Mum-in-law drew the lovely label! It’s spicy!

Dredge the white filets through gluten-free seasoned flour and pan fry in a bit of oil. Serve on warm corn tortillas. Top with Haitian cabbage slaw (Pikliz) and a mayonnaise chipotle sauce. I could die, it is so good. You don’t even know. The best part is that my mum-in-law bought one of those fancy air-friers, which makes leftovers all crisp again.

My in-laws also smoke salmon and freeze it. I’m in salmon territory, so I’m all over this. Nothing like smoked salmon and almond-crackers. Plus, they have an apple tree which produced some of the most wonderful apples this year. Not sure what kind, but they taste a lot like Honeycrisp. Where they live, you need to put little nylon stockings on the apples in the Spring when they are less than an inch big or you get apple maggots. I tried to help with picking, but it turns out I’m afraid of heights. Who knew?

Stock and stock accessories

The fabulous mother-in-law makes homemade stock when she’s not too busy. She saves all the bones from all the meats she makes in some bags in the freezer. There’s a separate bag for wayward veggies (green-onion and carrot tops, onion skins, squishy bell peppers, cabbage cores, etc.). She had an epic amount saved, so it was time to make stock.

Stock pot filled to the brim
Making stock! Noms!

I found a ham hock bone in the freezer so I tossed that in as well. Soon enough, the house started smelling like pork. I was super worried that I had ruined the entire bone broth. However, after five hours of slow simmer, it had totally mellowed out and was delicious. I added in all the veggies along with some salmon skins for another hour. Strain with a fat separator and I was very excited about the results. So good.

You know all the delightful foods Mr. ItchyFeet made with that stock!?! Risotto with mushrooms (Washington has all the mushrooms!). Beef bolognese with GF noodles for me. I tried to make paella, but I forgot to bring the saffron while house sitting. Can’t make paella without the world’s most expensive spice by weight. I usually steal it (with permission) from the in-laws and bring it with me when I travel.

Arepas with mojo pulled pork and all the banana bread!

I really thought that once I got back to a land with corn tortillas, I would switch from arepas to tacos for breakfast. Why make arepas when you can just reheat corn tortillas (with a wet paper towel) in the microwave? Well, because arepas are delicious, that’s why. Plus, my pops-in-law made up a boatload of pulled pork and put it in the freezer. I like chicken better, but how do you say no to pulled-pork?

Banana breads!
Gluten-free banana bread bake-off! Mine is the one in the back. Both delightfully wonderful.

Take the pulled-pork, add orange juice and lime juice and sautéed onion with some cumin and other spices. Now you have mojo pulled-pork to place inside arepas. Haitian pikliz goes on top with some hot sauce and you have breakfasts for a week! I forgot to tell about the hot sauce. Sauté carrots, onions, and garlic. Add water and boil until the carrots are soft. Add to blender with habanero peppers, white-vinegar, and lime juice. Blend into Belizean style hot sauce. Noms!

Speaking of noms, my mum-in-law has a ton of random gluten-free flours and so many bananas in the freezer. You know what that means? Banana bread! We had a banana bread bake off with her recipe versus mine. Hers uses a purchased GF flour mix to be used 1-to-1 for all kinds of baked goods. Mine is a bunch of different flours (almond, millet, rice). Hers got all poofy and was more bread-like, while mine caramelized and was more dense like a cake. I think I won, but for sure ate them both. She’s good people.

Cost of living in the Pacific Northwest

Other fun stuff I discovered on this trip. Did you know that you can save the chicken fat from making stock? It’s called schmaltz, and it is delicious as an alternative to cooking oil or butter! Who knew!?! Did you know that if you buy lentils and discover that you don’t really like anything cooked with lentils, you can grow them into delightful sprouts? Soak overnight in lots of water, rinse until the water runs clear, drain, then rinse/drain a couple times a day until those lentils sprout. I eat them with a bit of salad dressing. So good!

Now I know what you are thinking. You must be living on the cheap right now. The in-laws are paying the mortgage. They have so much food that you barely need to buy anything at all. My parents took me out to eat while they were here and I saved leftovers from that. Neighbors kept bringing over the best corn-on-the-cob. Bring water, milk (any kind), and sugar to a boil, add husked corn and turn off heat. Cover for 10 minutes. The best!

On budget? Wrong. It costs $3-4 for a single bell pepper and I put those suckers in everything! The USA is whiskey territory. $50 for a large bottle. Eggs. You want eggs? $7 for a dozen of the tasty kind. One whole chicken costs about $15 here. I have spent more moneys per month this trip and I’m not even paying rent. It’s crazy.

I’m even doing all the coupon cutting and searching around for good deals. One grocery store was giving out coupons for 10% off groceries if you use them for vaccinations. We all got all the vaccines! I also discovered that my typhoid vaccine was overdue, so I got that as well. Salmonella typhi is not uncommon in the Caribbean and Central America. No dying!

Alice in Wonderland type mushroom
One more mushroom from the Pacific Northwest. No eating! No dying!

Finally, let’s get to the good stuff… septic woes

Okay, okay, remember that whole story I told you about the septic system going bad and getting fixed right before my parents came into town? I got really lucky with that one. Soon after Mr. ItchyFeet’s parents returned from their epic RV adventures, the septic alarm went off again. The alarm that means the tanks are full and you can no longer put any liquids… or solids… down the drains. Sigh.

It begins. And of course it’s a Friday night with a holiday on Monday. Of course it is! I got out the bucket for the kitchen sink. We called all the neighbors to ask to use bathrooms and showers and such. We started peeing behind the shed or over the side of the deck. The in-laws let me know that the sink outside did not connect to the septic and the grey water ran into the ground so we could use it. WTF! You tell me this now! I went a whole week trying to figure out how to set up a sink outside. That sink made dishes a bit easier, but still an enormous pain. I already miss the dishwasher!

Holes in yard to repair septic
This is just one of several holes in the yard to repair the septic drain field. Not as costly as anticipated.

We thought the brand new pump must have gone down the crapper (see what I did there!?!). But, it turns out the drain field was clogged up. That repair can get into the many thousands of dollars. I told my in-laws not to use the guy that I had hired to replace the pump, as he was super flaky. They found this other dude who (along with his son) ripped up the yard with a fancy earth mover in no time. This was after my poor father-in-law spent many hours trying to dig out the pipes with a shovel.

And you know this all happened like the day after he spent hours spreading compost and re-seeded the lawn. That lawn is all gone. However, it only took them four days to almost completely fix the drain field. Those drain field repairs can take weeks, so we were all really happy. Plus, the cost was going to be only a couple thousand dollars. Not as bad as it could be. Then a wet spot appeared in the yard. Now they have to re-dig it up again. FFS. No worries. We can still use the dishwasher and flush the toilets. Indoor plumbing is the best!

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1 Comment

  1. Great stories, wishing you safe, fun adventures in your new home.

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