The room was filled with indistinct sounds of chatter and bustling.
“I told you so. I can drink all I want without being on my toes around the old hag. Yes, yes.”
Grandpa Hwang put down the phone and drank a bowl of rice wine. A drinking party was unfolding on the floor before noon.
“Gyah~ When was the last time I had Nokdu pancakes?”
“It’s freakin’ delicious.”
Mr. Lee from the house next door and Mr. Park from across the way lifted up their thumbs. Grandpa Hwang, who had been calling another friend, returned and sat down.
Mr. Lee, savoring the Nokdu pancake, spoke as he poured the rice wine for Grandpa Hwang.
“It seems it’s been awhile since Madam Yoon showed her skills. You guys fought yesterday–did you make up?”
“No, Grandmum went into town.”
“Heh? Then who’s making these pancakes?”
“A special guest I invited is making them. You know the people doing the broadcast down by the hill, right?”
Sora came out of the kitchen with a plate. She removed the empty dish from the table and put down the well-cooked Nokdu pancake.
Sora beamed a smile and quickly returned to the kitchen. Mr. Lee pointed to Sora.
“That nice city girl?”
“No. There’s one more–a young man.”
Grandpa Hwang looked over to the kitchen and smiled contentedly. Mr. Lee spoke after happily taking a gulp of wine.
“You should call Mr. Jang as well on a day like this.”
“Ah, you know. That old boozer who really likes drinking.”
Grandpa Hwang clicked his tongue at Mr. Lee’s words.
“Old man Lee, your memory is fading. We held a funeral last year.”
“Ah right, right. That run-down house that looks haunted belonged to Mr. Jang. We don’t know when we’ll go in our age. Be careful with drinking, guys.”
“Ai, You’re ruining the wine. Drink up.”
The old men’s drinking party continued with Nokdu pancakes and chit chat as the appetizers.
Minho was sweating as he ground the Nokdu in the millstone. They had to urgently restock the ingredients because the batch that Grandma Hwajung prepared last night had run out. Sora, who had just returned from delivering the Nokdu pancake, spoke as she grabbed the dish from the rack.
“Oppa, that one won’t last even ten minutes.”
“Are they still coming?”
“It seems like all the elders from the town are coming.”
She seemed a bit tired but was still smiling brightly. This scene definitely wasn’t going to be edited out.
On the other hand, Minho was sulking. He was happy to receive the compliments, but he couldn’t see an end to the work he was doing. He had planned to treat only one elder, but who would’ve thought it would grow this big.
But Minho couldn’t whine because of his man-pride. He replied nonchalantly,
“Wait a bit. With this I can make about ten pancakes.”
His hands became busy grinding the millstone.
When the two of them heard that more of the elders were coming this way, they decided to treat all of them here and not at the assembly hall.
The floor director opened the back door and handed them a box of ingredients. Minho, who had finished grinding the Nokdu and put it in a dish, looked over the ingredients. He brought it over to Sora who had just finished doing the dishes.
“What should I do?”
“Can you chop them up?”
“I can do that much.”
Minho handed carrots and onions to Sora while he got busy mincing the pork
Meanwhile, the gates to the yard opened and an elder walked in.
“Mr. Hwang! I’m here! I heard I can eat Nokdu pancakes to my heart’s content, right?”
“Eyy, Mr. Kim, come in, come in.”
The production staff that was directing the filming in the yard hastily radioed Producer Na as the number of elders in the house kept increasing.
“It seems like a banquet’s about to unfold. There’s a considerable amount of joking from the elders. We’re going to have a ton of footage to go through.”
On the other side, ‘A successful year!’ mixed with sounds of ‘Huzzah!’ in the background.
Four hours later.
Finally the end of the desperate struggle drew near.
“Ughh. I hate you, Grandpa.”
Minho let out a groan as he sat in the shade of the pavilion.
He’d had to flip the frying pan without a moment’s rest because the friend that Grandpa Hwang called over called his friend, and then that friend called his friend.
‘At least I avoided digging potatoes.’
The result was overwhelming. All of the elders lifted up the ‘It’s good’ signs so Producer Na couldn’t do anything but accept it as a success.
“Aigo, I feel like dying.”
Sora, who had suffered with him, was drooping as she moaned. Her work hadn’t been easy either. She’d been serving, doing the dishes, and cleaning the vegetables. She even sang “trot”* songs for the elders as she sat in between them.
But the break after hard work is sweet.
“I have come, I have seen, I have won.”
Minho smiled at Sora.
“This is good enough, right?”
“This is more than enough~”
She gave a wide smile and a thumbs up. Sora was definitely a professional–she kept smiling even though she was as limp as an octopus from fatigue.
“Shall I tell you something scary?”
Minho instinctively shook his head. This would be something he didn’t want to hear
Sora pointed to her wrist watch.
“It’s only one o’clock.”
Minho, who was massaging his arms, felt chills go down his back.
“… You’re bad.”
The scheduled time for the end of filming was 12:00 midnight. That time was moved up to 8:00 pm due to the mission’s success, but the anxiety lingered.
Producer Na wasn’t so lenient. He could definitely find other farm or stable work for them to do for the remaining seven hours. Just because they had all that footage didn’t mean the broadcast would be finished.
“Minho! Where are you?!”
Minho flinched at Grandpa Hwang’s husky voice. Sora, who was drooping over, began to pull herself up.
“You rest some more. He only called me.”
Minho checked if the cameraman was following him and caught his breath. They couldn’t be blamed if the exhaustion showed on their faces when they were filmed during rest breaks, but other than that they had to always look lively. They never knew what might end up in the broadcast.
Grandpa Hwang’s face hadn’t changed color even after drinking so much rice wine.
“Yeah, you did good work. It was hard to handle old men’s pestering, right? Your face looks rough.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Forget it. You’ll get better if you drink this.”
Grandpa Hwang poured something from a coca-cola bottle into a paper cup and handed it to Minho.
Grandpa Hwang had the personality to take care of people and give them things. It was a habitual practice to call all the people in town and have a banquet when a specialty dish, the Nokdu pancake, was fried. That was probably why Grandma Hwajung secretly made some behind Grandpa Hwang’s back and escaped to the town.
“What is this, Grandpa?”
Minho examined the liquid Grandpa Hwang poured for him. It was obvious from the strong smell reaching his nose that it was alcohol.
“Drink up. It’s something good.”
Minho couldn’t not drink it because Grandpa Hwang kept staring at him. He emptied it into his mouth and swallowed without a choice.
“I made our first son after drinking that. It’s the best for stamina. It’ll fire you up.”
Grandpa Hwang confidently lifted his thumb up. Minho grabbed his throat. The alcohol percentage was very strong, even though he had only taken one gulp.
“This was made by Mr. Jang who was good at brewing alcohol, and it’s famous in this town. Now we can’t even get our hands on it.”
Minho couldn’t make out the effects of this alcohol known to be good for stamina. It felt like his stomach was slowly starting to hurt already. There was no help for it since he’d already drunk it. He endured it since it was supposed to be good for him.
The old man burst into a hearty laugh and clapped Minho’s shoulder.
“How is it? It’s slowly coming, eh?”
“Huh? What’s coming?”
At that moment, he felt a burning sensation in his stomach. At his age he was already overflowing with vitality. And Grandpa Hwang’s mysterious energy-restoring alcohol was warming his whole body.
Early July was the season of stifling heat.
Minho was desperate for the stream water that he had jumped into yesterday.
Dojin had returned from the town and came straight to the village assembly hall to chase down Producer Na.
“Aren’t you being too harsh?”
Dojin spoke as he shook the registration certificate he got from the town office.
“The foreman could’ve done this for us if we asked him. I didn’t have to go!”
“Really? Writer Kim, why didn’t you tell him? Our Dojin hyung made a trip in vain.”
Writer Kim, who had woken Dojin up, made a troubled face. But Dojin was perceptive. He surely knew who the real culprit was.
“Grab a hold of Producer Na next to you.”
Producer Na put his hands up as he saw Dojin ball his hands into fists with a death glare.
“Whoa~whoa~ calm down. Calm.”
He quickly spoke to the camera director.
“Keep filming Dojin hyung. You can’t turn off the camera. Dojin Lee explodes. Commits violence towards the staff. We have to put in subtitles–bam bam! Like that.”
Dojin backed off like he had no choice.
“I’ll never fall for that again.”
Even though Dojin said this, they knew that constantly falling for these things was one of the charms of this program, so Producer Na and all the staff secretly laughed.
After all the fuss had calmed Dojin saw a strange scene on the floor of the assembly hall.
There was roast fish, porridge, Japchae, and pancakes, local dishes and even unfamiliar ones. The place was filled with food as if they had made a bunch for someone’s ancestral memorial rite. But there were barely any people. It was more confusing to see the gloomy Girl Seven and Jinsuk staring blankly into space.
“What did you guys do this morning? You made this for me to eat?”
“It was a mission.”
Girl Seven came to Dojin’s side. He could guess right away from their downcast expressions.
They had failed. It was his role to smooth things over.
But there were a few members missing.
“Where’s our ace Minho and Sora?”
“At Grandma Hwajung’s place.”
“So this is what happened…”
The youngest, Hayoung, began to quickly explain the events of the morning to Dojin, who listened curiously.
“Jeesh, What’s with that kid….”
Donjin smiled with his dimples deeply set when he understood the situation of the assembly hall; that it was dead because all the elders went to Grandpa Hwang’s place.
“If it’s a rice wine party, then Madam Yoon will throw a fit later. I don’t know, but I’m worried Grandpa Hwang will get kicked out if it’s that bad. Haha.”
The youngest, Hayeon, spoke sounding disappointed.
“I would have followed Minho oppa if I’d known this would happen. I shouldn’t have followed Jinsuk oppa to cook.”
“We were pretty busy and cooked a lot.”
“There’s so much left. Whew!”
The rest of Girl Seven’s faces showed their agreement.
“I……again to that weakling…….”
Jinsuk who was sitting in the kitchen was half out of his mind. This was a situation where he could’ve made himself stand out. And on top of that, he’d made country food and city food fusion. Jinsuk turned his gaze to the chicken stir fry that was topped with pizza cheese to increase the savory seasoning and the bibimbap* made with beef roasted with wine for more flavor.
Only the Nokdu pancakes captured the elders’ taste buds. But why?
That question was answered when he tasted the plate of Nokdu pancakes that the staff brought over.
It was a taste beyond his imagination–a perfect balance of distinct flavors.
‘I can’t win against one pancake.’
He had no choice but to admit the gap. It was a crushing defeat for two consecutive days.
Now all he could think of was some low slapstick comedy for digging potatoes.
Trot: A type of Korean pop music popular among older people, known for its repetitive rhythm and vocal inflections. Also called ppongjjak.
Bibimbap: Bibimbap, sometimes romanized as bi bim bap or bi bim bop, is a Korean dish. The word literally means “mixed rice”. Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with vegetables and pepper paste, soy sauce, or bean paste. A fried egg and sliced meat are common additions. It is thoroughly stirred together just before eating.
Double release today, click next chap:)