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My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Ode to Persimmons


This blog post is for my family so they can understand what a persimmon is, and why I’m obsessed with them.

When it comes to food, I’m a texture person. Even if it has a delicious flavor, of the texture is in any way off-putting I can’t eat it. There are some exceptions to this rule. Over time I’ve come to accept fish and oatmeal, but this is because my idea of what a “gross” texture was has evolved along with my palate. I still don’t like dried fruit, though I’ll eat it, and I fear that certain foods, like raw crab, I’ll never be able to stomach.

It’s taken me two years to like persimmons. My first year during the fall my host mother would always prepare sliced persimmons, and I was so confused as to what they were. Sometimes we would get these gloopy gross slices of what looked like premasticated baby food, and sometimes we  would get these hard orange-colored slices, that looked like peaches but had the texture of apples, that had small brown flecks dotting their surface. Every time I would ask her what they were, she would just say 감 (gam – persimmon). I was always confused as to how two things with such a different texture and taste could be the same thing, and subsequently developed an irrational fear of persimmons.

Now, the reason for my confusion is that I didn’t realize that there are two main types of persimmons – fuyu and hachiya. The fuyu, my current obsession, looks like the illicit offspring of a pumpkin and a tomato. When ripe it’s a rich orange color, squat, sometimes ridged like a pumpkin, and hard. You can peel it or eat it with the skin on, cook it, steam it, or eat it raw. The hachiya is oblong, redder, and when it is ripe its skin becomes delicate and almost translucent. The insides liquify, and sometimes the skin begins to tear, and when you try to pick it up the skin cannot contain the fruit’s flesh any longer and it explodes all over your hands. The hachiya is sweeter than the fuyu when it’s ripe, but if you don’t wait long enough for it to ripen, it has an astringent taste. They’re delicious raw (according to my friends – I still can’t eat these, they’re too gloopy) and good for baking.

A few months ago around Chuseok, one of my co-teachers and neighbors, the Awesome Mr. Kim, gave me a bunch of Chuseok food, including six persimmons. I had no idea what to do with them, so I left them in my refrigerator. The issue with living in the same apartment complex as your really generous coworkers is that you share the same food trash can – if you don’t end up finishing your food and end up having to dispose of it, it goes in the communal food trash bin. I knew that I had to somehow get rid of these persimmons, and in a way that Mr. Kim wouldn’t be insulted, because the idea of eating them terrified me. I decided to make banana bread and grate the persimmons up and shove them in there, letting the banana mask the flavor. As I grated the persimmons, out of curiosity I took a bite of the piece I was grating and I realized something…

Persimmons were good.

Persimmons were SO good.

Persimmons were cinnamon and spice and everything nice made into fruit form.

If an apple pie was a fruit, it wouldn’t be an apple. It’d be a persimmon.

What have I been doing with my Korean autumns?

Since that time I’ve made persimmon bread twice, persimmon pancakes once, and consumed approximately twice my weight in persimmons. I’m currently attempting to stockpile enough persimmons to make persimmon butter, but every time I buy more I end up eating them. I also have a persimmon cake recipe saved on my computer.

Go buy a persimmon right now.

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One Comment to

“Ode to Persimmons”

  1. Avatar December 9th, 2012 at 1:40 am Cathleen Potosky Says:

    Dad and I ate a peeled persimmon for the first time. it was delicious! Yummy! We were thinking of you. Hugs, Mom

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.