Who will it be, and what should we call him?
Kim Jong-il is dead, at 69, of a “heart attack.” A Pyongyang newscaster, nearly doubled over by the pain of it all, said the little guy died of “physical and mental overwork.” Probably tried to hoist a king-size bottle of fine single malt and fell off his elevator shoes but, cause aside, the mighty mite of the Korean Peninsula is gone.
The immediate results: hundreds of thousands of distraught and, in most cases, starving North Koreans bawling their eyes out in a public display of extreme grief, mourning the loss of a teensy tyrant who kept them in a serf-like condition for decades while he downed bottle after bottle of the world’s best wines and spirits and zipped around in a private jet. There is now a gaggle of Kim Jong-il impersonators out of work, and a rush is underway north of the DMZ to establish a successor before the collective tears dry.
There is talk that the late little fellow’s rotund and Swiss-educated young ’un, Kim Jong-un will ascend the throne (a fairly short throne, from what I’m told, given the height-deprived character of the family).
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care which megalomaniacal dictator took the reins in North Korea, since I am not a resident of Seoul and, as a result, not a few minutes and a short missile lob away from being vaporized by a crudely fashioned, but effective nuclear device. I love Korean food, but I am not tied to the idea that Americans need to invest blood and money in that part of the world just so we can enjoy a steaming pile of gobchang. Oh, yeah, I know, the North Koreans have a few nuclear weapons and they have splashed a couple missiles down in the South China Sea, but didn’t Ronald Reagan build a Star Wars system? Huh. Didn’t he? Wasn’t that one of the many extraordinary things The Gipper did?
As it turns out, though, I do care who will assume power in North Korea. The reason: I have a candidate in mind, a horse in the race. Someone who can dominate this wretched people in a style surpassing that of Kim Jong-il and his nasty old man, Kim Il-sung.
That’s right … my grandson, Banzai.
The Bonz is perfect for the job; he possesses all the qualities one wants in a North Korean dictator.
He’s short (he’s not quite 3 years old, after all).
He’s armed with all the tools: charm, guile, an understanding of human weakness and a talent for manipulation.
He’s ruthless in the pursuit of his goals.
He’s got a whale of a temper when he hasn’t had a snack or a nap.
He likes girls.
What more could you want or need in a despot?
I came to this realization last week, after babysitting Bonz for three consecutive nights. His dad and mom were working and Kathy was off to Denver.
It was me and Kim Jong-bonz. The emperor and his vizier.
He got plenty of practice, dominating the people (me) as the people toiled in the kitchen and attempted to entertain the Great Leader in the makeshift throneroom/playroom, otherwise known as the basement (the only place where it is safe to let the Great Leader roam at will and take his pleasure as he desires).
He perches, regally, at the kitchen island.
“I want orange juice.”
“Yes, great Leader.”
“That’s not enough. I want more juice. In my special sippy cup.”
“Yes, Great Leader.”
“I want cashews.”
“Sorry, Great Leader, we have no cashews. Would you like some almonds?”
“No, I want cashews! Cashews!” (imagine sound of tiny fists hitting countertop).
It is time to make Great Leader’s dinner, and he demands to know what is on the menu.
“Well, I am going to make enchiladas with …”
“I don’t like enchiladas. They’re too picey”
“I wasn’t going to make the enchiladas for you. I’m making the enchiladas for your daddy and me, so we can eat when he gets off work at the ski area and comes to pick you up. I’m making enchiladas ranchero, in a stack. I am going to give you chicken. I bought a rotisserie chicken and I will give you some and use the rest in the enchiladas.”
“I don’t like enchiladas. Too picey.”
“Gotcha, Great Leader. I’m also making some beans and corn and…”
“I don’t like corn. I want ’cado.”
“Well, Great Leader, there weren’t any avocados worth buying. The best you could do with the avocados at the store would be to use them to break windows during a riot.”
“I want a tortilla.”
“OK, I’ll give you a tortilla.”
Great leader has a ripping case of eczema, exacerbated by dairy products, so I come up with a crafty plan: I’ll slip a slice of soy cheese onto his tortilla and use the shredded, four-cheese Mexican blend for the enchiladas.
“I want my tortilla now.”
“But, Great leader, it’s not quite time for …”
“I want my tortilla, now!”
I comply. I take a corn tortilla from the pack, put it on a small plate and, with back turned, keeping my body between the Great leader and the fridge, I unwrap a slice of the soy cheese. I plop it on the tortilla, turn, and dramatically present it for inspection.
“No! That’s not cheese. I want real cheese.”
“But, Great leader, that’s a slice of …”
“No, I don’t want that. I hate that. I want your cheese.”
I find this perfectly appropriate behavior for the future leader of North Korea. He sees that you have something, he wants it, he gets it. You take it in the shorts.
I sprinkle a bit of shredded “real” cheese on the tortilla.
“I want it melted.”
I put the plate in the microwave and zap the tortilla for 30 seconds. I remove the plate and roll the now soft tortilla into a cylinder. I hand it to the Great Leader.
“It’s too hot.”
“Well, blow on it.”
“You blow on it.”
“No, you can do it.”
A dark shadow passes over the face of the Great Leader. He growls.
I blow on the tortilla.
I begin to put the meal together. I take the rotisserie chicken from the pack, then start to remove the meat from the carcass and tear it into pieces.
“Move my stool over. I want to help.”
“Well, there’s not a lot of room and…”
“Move me over. I want to help.”
I move the Great Leader’s throne to the countertop, next to the stove.
“I want some chicken. No, not that piece. I want that piece (the best one).”
I finish with the chicken and I turn to making the sauce for the enchiladas. I put a couple tablespoons of neutral oil in a saucier set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, I add a couple tablespoons of flour and I whisk.
Or, rather, the Great Leader whisks. Whisking (as opposed to washing dishes) is fun. The Great Leader excels at tasks that are fun and he leaves the grunt work to the underlings.
When the roux is cooked to a golden state, I toss in a couple tablespoons of Mrs. Romero’s special, hot Española red. The Great leader whisks the mix, complaining loudly about the “picey” quality of the aroma.
Then, I add chicken broth, a bit at a time, until the mix reaches the desired consistency (I like mine somewhat thick). In goes a clove of garlic, minced and mashed, some salt, some freshly ground black pepper, a splash of red wine vinegar, a half teaspoon of chicken base, a couple pinches of ground cumin, a pinch or so of dried Mexican oregano and a quarter cup or so of diced and smushed fire roasted tomatoes and their juice.
“I don’t like this,” says the Great Leader. “Too picey.”
“Yes, Great leader, it is picey. Real picey. So, I won’t give you any.” He dismisses me with a perfunctory wave of his itsy bitsy hand.
I open a can of pinto beans, put the contents into a saucepan, add some of the tomato, a bit of cumin and oregano and a half teaspoon of chicken base and set the mix to heating. Some frozen corn and lightly salted water goes into a pan and on to the heat. This dinner is no nod to fresh ingredients, but it works.
I take a wad of greens and put them in the salad spinner. The Great Leader pulls the cord that sets the spinner in motion. I wash grape tomatoes and add them to the greens, and I make vinaigrette with olive oil, minced shallot, red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, a blob of coarse-ground mustard, salt and pepper.
“Where’s the ’cado?”
“Remember, I told you the store didn’t have any.”
“Well, they had some avocados, but they weren’t ripe.”
“Well, they’re picked green and they supposedly ripen as they’re transported and while they’re on the shelf, and …”
“I don’t know.”
“Why?” (I have a vision of me strapped to a rack, electrodes connected to my testicles, an inquisitor looming above me, asking, “Why?”)
To finish off the enchiladas, for each serving I spread a bit of sauce in a shallow, microwave-safe, wide bowl. Down goes a corn tortilla. On top of that goes chicken pieces, shredded cheese and a couple tablespoons of sauce. I repeat with a second layer. I top with a third tortilla, some sauce and cheese. I make a stack for me and one for Jon (Kim Il-jon, the Great Leader’s father). This dish improves with the addition of caramelized onions, but the cooking process would annoy the Great Leader.
“I think I’ll fry an egg and plop it on top of the stack.”
“I want an egg.”
“OK, I’ll give you an egg as well.”
“I want an egg now.”
“Well, it’s not quite time for dinner. We’ll eat in a half hour or so.”
“I want an egg now.”
We change the schedule. I microwave my stack of enchiladas and, while they are warming, I put chicken, beans and corn on the Great Leader’s plate.
“I don’t want that plate. I want my other plate.”
I change plates. I give the Great Leader the three-compartment plastic plate emblazoned with the image of a tiger. He rightly identifies with the tiger.
I crack two eggs into the pan. One of the yolks breaks.
“I don’t want that one. You broke it. I want the good one.”
A fine quality in a dictator —knowing who gets the spoils.
I pause and I think; “He wants the intact yolk, does he? Well, I read somewhere that undercooked egg yolks can be deadly. Hmmmm.
Ah, but I think twice. I fully cook the egg for The Great Leader. After all, as the revered grandfather of Kim-Jong bonz, I (Kim Jong-karl) will have a special place at the Great Leaders’ table once he ascends to the top of the power pyramid. Until such a time that he finds me a threat and has me eliminated.
I think I’ll fit in well in Pyonyang. After all, I’ve trained with the Great Leader. I’m his grandfather. I know the drill.
I can’t wait for the first state banquet. The Bonz and I will tie into a heap of gobchang then send the kitchen help reeling with the demand that the pork intestines be re-cooked.
All hail Kim Jong-bonz.