Unsuitable To The American Palate

“The restaurant manager says he is worried about you,” explained the interpreter. “That makes two of us,” I said. It was late 1994 and I was stationed in Korea, where my off-duty time was spent teaching English to adult and children’s classes. One of my classes was a group of doctors, and we met twice a week at the hospital in Kunsan City. On this night, however, they wanted to show their appreciation and so conspired to take me to dinner.

At one end of our table was a gas burner, upon which sat a black kettle. A frumpy lady dressed in drab polyester appeared and poured some water into the kettle, along with seashells, a few spices, some lawn grass along with an entire fish. She would return periodically to stir the soup as it simmered.

Since I didn’t know what to ask for, nor how to ask for it, my gracious hosts brought all manner of rancid, uncooked, and unchewable items with which to entertain me. The local beverage of choice was called Soju, and it tasted like a hybrid of vodka and white lightning. It wasn’t well regulated, so that one entire bottle might do no damage while a quarter of the next bottle might put you under the table. It was the Russian Roulette of booze, and I would’ve wished I were dead if I wasn’t hoping to alleviate the tribulations of that meal by getting hammered. Meantime, I gnawed on rubbery raw fish, chased it with Soju, and enjoyed chatting with my hosts until Our Lady of Perpetual Kettle Maintenance showed up to stir the soup and pronounce it ready.

While everyone else was served a bit of the broth, I was given a bowl filled with lawn grass, a couple of seashells and that poor unblinking fish with his tail flopping over the side. My Cajun roots notwithstanding, I’m not one to relish a staring contest with dinner. So while the fish looked at me from his grassy solitude, I politely pushed the shells out of the way and had a little broth but couldn’t avoid scooping up pieces of lawn grass too. The Soju helped.

Then, just when I thought the meal was coming to a merciful end, Kettle Girl showed up with an oblong shaped plate and placed it in the center of our table. The plate had been lined with old browned lettuce leaves of the sort that we typically peel away and discard. And on that lettuce, writhing and slivering about, was a live octopus with a head the size of a cantaloupe. They had chopped it alive and placed a raw egg on it, and there it lay, its tentacles moving every which way.

“Eat!” my host said, adding, “It will make you strong!” I was tempted to ask why, if it makes them so strong, they needed so many non-octopus eating Americans there to defend them … but thought better of it. The piece I went for actually grabbed onto my chopsticks for me, proving that Korean courtesy knows no limit. Since I was the only American in the joint, and every eye was on the anglo to see if he could do it, I popped that sucker in my mouth and chewed with great enthusiasm in an effort to “kill it,” since my hosts had cautioned that it must be dead before swallowing, lest it “cause problems.” The problem was that when it eventually stopped moving in my mouth, I found that I couldn’t will myself to swallow it. It was as if my throat had shut down and my entire being was in unanimous revolt. I finally reached for a cursed clump of cold rice wrapped in seaweed and used that to force the octopus down. From that point on, it was straight Soju for me — thank you very much and please shop again.

That’s when the manager showed up expressing concern that I wasn’t eating anything. How could I? They weren’t cooking anything! But, mustering all the polite diplomacy I could under the circumstances, I asked the interpreter to explain that the food was simply too different to the American palate … which was a nice way of saying that this mess would gag a maggot.

I was reminded of this biological revulsion against insufferable intrusions when reading of the assaults being undertaken against free men and women in America. A plurality of the voting public has voted the rest of us, and our descendants, into economic servitude while using the state as the means of their plunder. There is no precedent for it in our founding documents. To the contrary, the Founders warned against precisely this kind of tyranny and yet we who object are denounced as out of touch not only by starry-eyed utopians, but by those ostensibly on the right who really ought to know better. 

We now live in a parallel universe where judges release violent offenders back into society to further hone their deadly trade, and where criminals go on murderous rampages while our self-appointed intelligentsia responds by attempting to disarm as many law abiding citizens as possible. Which, come to think of it, makes as much sense as our quest to incapacitate our national defense even as the world’s mental cases acquire nuclear weapons.

What is a free person to do in a world where up is down and wrong is right, where sloth is rewarded and industry punished, where criminals are coddled and the law abiding victimized? Of course there’s no end to the advice from the well heeled right. “Don’t you see,” they tell us, “the country has moved leftward and, if we don’t move with it, we risk becoming irrelevant.” A “live and let live” approach to the activities of consenting adults behind closed doors is no longer sufficient, for example. No sir, unless we lavish societal approbation and then pay for their rubbers and abortions, we are intolerant and bigoted. And unless we acquiesce in the continued dismantlement of the nation’s sovereign borders, we are nativist and xenophobic, dontcha know? That this comes from Republican ranks calls to mind the quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that, “We’ve already established what you are, ma’am. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

Realistically, there is only so much that the individual has control over these days. Whether the fiscal cliff will be averted or whether tax rates soar as high as Willie Nelson on a bad doobie is really beyond the individual’s control. But there are lines to be drawn … lines over which the individual does have control. Take the owners of Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, who are staring down the barrel of $1.3 million per day in fines for refusing to pay for abortion-inducing drugs for their employees. Their conscience will not permit them to cede their religious freedom to the state, and they’ve chosen to fight.

Meanwhile Diane Feinstein proposes new “assault weapons” legislation that, while “grandfathering” weapons citizens already possess, would require owners of those weapons to register them and submit to photographing and fingerprinting. For me personally, that’s where the line gets drawn. My right to self-defense, inextricably linked as it is to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is non-negotiable and subject neither to the designs of the statist left nor the political expediency of Republicans whose principles were discovered at yesterday’s exit polls.

As a new year arrives, the free man looks about and asks: Given the now irreversible course upon which the country has embarked, if political relevancy requires the jettisoning of first principles, what exactly is the point of the exercise? As Bill Buckley noted decades ago:

In the past we have temporized with collectivism and we have lost. And after the campaigns were over, we were left not with the exhilaration and pride of having done our best to restore freedom, but with the sickening humiliation of having failed to seduce the American people because we were pitted against a more glib, a more extravagant, a more experienced gigolo.

I, for one, am weary of the notion that because a majority of voters decided in favor of dependency and servitude, I am now required to abandon the fixed and tried postulates upon which a great nation was created. If that makes me an anachronism, then I will happily embrace such anachronistic ideas as are embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There are, after all, certain things that are simply not suitable for the American palate.

  1. Derek Simmons

    Happy New Year, oh fellow anachronist. And may our get-togethers outgrow that other anachronistic bellwether–the phonebooth.

  2. KayBee

    Thank you, Mr. Carter.

  3. Israel P.


  4. HeartofAmerica

    Well said. The events of the last month or so has changed this arm-chair political enthusiast into an activist and the activity I have in mind is starting some recall petitions. I am tired of sending people to Washington who do not understand nor support the constitution. 2013 will either be spent looking for quality candidates for 2014 or working to begin the recall process. I’m done talking and writing about it. It’s time to get up out of my chair and do something.

  5. Douglas

    Bravo, couldn’t agree with you more. 

    Speaking of Asian cuisine adventures, when I was a (much) younger sailor,  I saw plenty of food in both Hong Kong and the Philippines that would probably get an American restaurant cited for health code violations, not to mention the taste and smell being so alien that I can’t fathom how a Westerner would ever try them without being in a state of desperate starvation. Hong Kong taught me that when the Chinese order fish, they order the whole damn fish. As my dad used to tell me, “I want to eat it, not meet it”. And the first time I smelled Balut in the PI… oh, man.

  6. Misthiocracy

    Is Ricochet eligible to submit articles to the Pulitzer committee for consideration?

  7. raycon and lindacon

    Balut… at least in the Philippines they abort duckies.  Here in America?

  8. Olive
    “The plate had been lined with old browned lettuce leaves of the sort that we typically peel away and discard.  And on that lettuce, writhing and slivering about, was a live octopus with a head the size of a cantaloupe.” :) 


  9. The Mugwump

    I hear you loud and clear, Dave.  Rest assured, you’re not the only one who’s drawn a line in the sand.  One of the advantages of moral clarity is that it puts iron in the spine.  The state can pass all the laws it likes, but we are no longer morally bound to obey them.  The left doesn’t seem to understand that civil society rests on voluntary compliance to laws that are equitable and reasonable.  America is about to get a good look at the totalitarian face of those who presume they can rule us.  The left should remember a page from their own playbook:  “You can jail the resister, but not the resistance.”  The sleeping giant is something they don’t want to provoke.  He tends to be very cranky when fully awake.    

  10. neighborhood cat lady

    While I’m not a fan of killing my own food at the dinner table, I do enjoy a weekly-or-so dinner at our neighborhood Korean restaurant. While less extreme than your experience, the kim chee is delightful and invigorating.

    Making time for activism is an entirely different issue. As a software engineer, I need to spend a fair portion of my non-working time simply keeping my skills up to date. Currently, I’m learning to program iPhone and iPad devices, and will move from there to Windows 8, with the plan being to develop cross-platform applications. All of this is to maintain my technical leadership position on my day job in medical software design and development. That is the way it is in technology these days; no employer provides training any more. It doesn’t leave a lot of spare time or energy for other things.

    On the positive side, I’m gainfully employed in the private sector, doing innovative, productive, and creative work, no small feat for those of us in the 60+ age bracket.

    I guess that joining Ricochet is my first small step towards activism.

  11. Giantkiller

    Bravo, Dave – extremely well said. 

  12. Doug Kimball

    As Picard stated emphatically in Star Trek:First Contact, “The line must be drawn here!”  The Borg represent the ultimate collective where the state and the people merge into one consciousness.  We too are being assimilated, one by one, into a controlling, over-weaning, collective state.  Our individual authority, which we refer to as freedom and liberty, is being summarily stripped and diluted.  Speech is monopolized by a collectivist media.  Wealth is stripped by an aggressive state in a feigned egalitarian argument and the constant drumbeat depreciating its legitimacy.  Envy and jealousy are deftly encouraged to justify state action and intervention in free markets.  We are de-clawed, de-legitimized and diminished.  Laws and regulations make criminals of us all leaving ever vulnerable to prosecution (persecution) by the state at will.  This is tyranny and the line must and will be drawn.  Here!

  13. kelsurprise

    What a welcome antidote to the more poisonous postings of so many insipid Facebook friends of mine.   Thanks, Dave – for the breath of fresh air in a media maze filled with garbage. 

  14. bellcpa

    Dave-well said as always! It’s clear that as you sit behind the wheel of your rig, you’re not just watching the scenery go by–you’re thinking!! The comments are interesting as well: it’s time for recalls or to draw a line here. But precisely how far is everyone willing to go? Recalls only change those who already mostly represent our views. And when Picard drew the line against the Borg, his next action was to fire phasers and photon torpedoes. Have we as freedom-loving Americans reached that point?

  15. Flyondawall

    Tks excellent post. I am not optimistic that we can slowdown or reverse the trend toward bigger and more intrusive gov’t. We are at or near a tipping point. Maybe some unforeseen event will cause a reset to the good principles of the past. There are no free lunches, notwithstanding the 47% who think otherwise.

  16. Illiniguy

    We’re living in a parallel universe. In my immediate world, I see very little change. Admittedly small, I can still exercise a measure of control, both over my actions and choosing those whom I allow to enter.

    But pop our heads through the looking glass, we see a future wrought with the tyranny of small minds, grasping at things ever closer to ourselves, such as regulations written using public health as the excuse, from smoking bans to bicycle helmets.

    It’d be instructive to go through the “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” contained in the Declaration of Independence to find actions today which the Founders would consider “having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny”.

    Kevin Williamson wrote in NR yesterday:

    “The Second Amendment speaks to the nature of the relationship between citizen and state…Liberals are forever asking: “Why would anybody need a gun like that?” And the answer is: because we are not serfs. We are a free people living under a republic of our own construction. We may consent to be governed, but we will not be ruled…”

    So true.

  17. Nick Stuart

    Well said Dave.

  18. Stan Hjerleid

    You outdid yourself Dave. This is my line too.

    For me personally, that’s where the line gets drawn.  My right to self defense, inextricably linked as it is to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is non-negotiable and subject neither to the designs of the statist left nor the politically expediency of Republicans

    I’m sending this post to all the Patriots I know. Take care, keep the shiny side down and thank for all great posts in 2012.

  19. flownover

    Kneepads are for laying tile and flooring . (emphasis on the period!)

    While there might be some subsets in our melting pot that have done some kneeling before aristos and warlords , most of us are repelled by the thought and are darned proud of our collective ancestry as represented by George Washington and company.

    The academia and media are doing their best to obscure or  dilute that history  , but as long as the universities push them out after four years into a tough job market, the young adults will  realize the score . Some stay on the campus or go into government work, the next set of victims as  public funding for twaddling bureaucracies dries up and the trillion student loan overhang comes crashing down on the universities tenured staff. And ala Ledeen: FASTER PLEASE.

    The Happy Meal generation is looking down the barrel now and they can’t be happy . They don’t want this for dinner.dogdinner.jpg

    And they don’t read newspapers and they don’t watch the newscasts.

    It is all a media construct. And  colleges all sing that America is the worst, but by gum , it’s the least worst . Thanks Dave, Bonne annee

  20. Trink

    I was reading Mark Twain . . 

    “I’m not one to relish a staring contest with dinner”  . . 

     . . and finished with Patrick Henry.

    ”  There are, after all, certain things that are simply not suitable for the American palate.”

    Amen, my friend.  Amen.

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