Flower Fry!

June 29th, Friday:

  • Miso Soup (Carrot, Cabbage, Tamogi Mushroom)
  • Mabo-dofu (Tofu, Pork, Green Onion, Shiitake Mushroom)
  • Flower Fried Sillago
  • Rice
  • Milk

In June, right before spawning, a rich flavour is condensed within sillago fish. With a light and high-quality flavour, you can feel the sweetness like no other. It is said it seems “like a picture that can be eaten.”

As the 「給食だより」 says, the sillago is indeed a delicate and delicious fish. I hardly noticed the tiny little bones. Mabo-dofu served today comes from a Chinese dish apparently traditional in Szechuan. I don’t like chinese-ish food since it is oily and slimy. But actually this dish has been thoroughly adapted to Japan. It’s oiliness has been toned down and it isn’t spicy at all. That and I love tofu. The name “麻婆” is apparently supposed to come from the pock-marked auntie who originally invented the dish.

  • みそ汁
  • 麻婆豆腐
  • キスの華揚げ
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

 

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Shaped Cheese

June 28th, Thursday:

  • Wakame Udon (Udon Noodle, Chicken, Naruto Surimi, Onion, Bean Curd, Carrot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Potstickers
  • Shaped Cheese

What character is today’s cheese shaped like? The boys might like it, and we will be suprised if most people don’t know this character.

Usually, the cheese is shaped like Hello Kitty, but today it was in the shape of Ultraman, a Japanese superhero whose TV show has been running for some 30 years. As an example, one of the teachers had watched the show when he was a little boy and another teacher’s toddler son currently likes to watch it. Japan has an appreciable history of long running TV shows, probably the longest running, Mito Komon, ran for 42 years. (Seriously, think about that.)

In other news, I got to attend a meet about the overnight excusion two of my schools are planning together. I myself can recall going on such an excursion as a child, although not as a part of school, but for the community children’s choir in which I was. Thus most of my memories involve singing and sneaking off to collect lava rocks. Anyway, my students’ excusion will involve staying at a certain nature lodge and doing activities such as river rafting, a nature hike, a group-building “adventure”, and an evening movie. It also will include cooking lunch over a campfire (curry rice?), catching and then cooking fish on sticks over the campfire, the morning ceremony, and cleaning the lodge.

The history of school excursions in Japan stretches back to the start of universal education in the Meiji period. Universal education began as a broader effort to modernize and unite the many provinces of Japan into a nation-state equal to and capable of holding it’s own against those of the West. One of the slogans propagated by the government was “富国強兵” or “Rich Country, Strong Military.” Considering how capitalist imperialism was (is) largely the West’s foreign policy, you can understand why Japan would need such an goal. Thus the educational curriculum in Japan included not only western science and chinese classics, but also more practical education, such as outdoor excursions. In the autobiography of one Meiji gentleman, he describes a single day excursion. His whole class of school students walked several miles (I forget how many, but it was far) to the site, carrying any supplies they needed. They started the fire themselves, caught fish, and cooked the food they would eat and so on. I can’t remember it all, but it was really hardcore. Truly it was the sort of event that could never been done in these decadent times.

  • わかめうどん
  • 牛乳
  • ギョウザ
  • 型抜きチーズ

Veggie Fritter on Rice

June 27th, Wednesday:

  • Veggie Fritter on Rice
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Cabbage, Carrot, Aburaage)
  • Cut Konbu and Lotus Root Stirfry (Konbu Seaweed, Pork, Lotus Root, Green Onion)
  • Tempura Sauce

Konbu is the bounty of Mother Ocean. Although low calorie, it has minerals and dietary fiber in abundance. It also includes a great amount of iodine that makes up the thyroid.

Today, I overheard a teacher hoping for more summer-like foods for kyuushoku. I’m from a tropical island, so I am not well acquainted with the seasonality of food, but I assume he meant that he hoped for lighter dishes, rather than the oily foods such as served today. Summer foods that immediately come to my head are warabi mochi, somen, and pineapple. However my school lunch menu exhorts me to eat lots of “summer vegetables”, that is tomatoes, eggplants, corn, squash, and cucumbers, because they help cool down the body.

  • 野菜かき揚げ丼
  • 牛乳
  • みそ汁
  • 切り昆布とレンコンの炒め煮
  • 天丼のタレ

Scotch Egg

June 26th, Tuesday:

  • Colourful Chowder (Red and Yellow Bell Pepper, Corn, Onion, Ham, Broccoli)
  • European-Style Potatoes and Bacon (Potato, Bacon, Onion, Edamame)
  • Scotch Egg
  • Black Bread
  • Milk

Recently, there was a new discovery in Turkey. Many tools that substantiated the making of dairy products were discovered. They were 8500 years old.  Why don’t you become interested in history of zymotic foodstuffs?

Concerning today’s lunch, scotch eggs are really wonderful. They are so pretty and handy! I don’t eat meat at home, but if I did, I would like to try to make such a charming dish as scotch eggs. Today’s school lunch scotch egg was way overcooked, but I imagine that can’t be helped due to safety regulations. The chowder was quite nice too. It had several types of western vegetables, tasted quite bell pepper like and didn’t even given me a stomachache. Plus black bread and chowder are just a really nice mix. I love potatoes, so of course I also like today’s potato and bacon dish. I suppose it is European style because of the bright red tomato based (?)  sauce  used. Anyways, potatoes and edamame are a good mix. Thinking about it, I suppose I am just fond of Japanese style haole dishes. Yum! Yum!

Of the new discovery in Turkey, you can read more about it this anthropology article (bottom half). It isn’t very detailed, but still interesting. All humans were unable to drink milk (ie: lactose intolerant, like me!) back in the day. But this discovery in Turkey found that even though we couldn’t drink milk, we still raised cattle and then processed their milk into non-lactose products, like cheese and yogurt. That’s pretty awesome.

  • 彩りチャウダー
  • じゃがいもとベーコンの洋風煮込み
  • スコッチエッグ
  • 黒パン
  • 牛乳

Eel Saury

June 25th, Monday:

  • Midakusan Soup (Sweet Potato, Tofu, Sliced Konnyaku, Carrot, Onion, Burdock)
  • Simmered Minced Meat and Daikon (Daikon Radish, Pork, Edamame)
  • Eel-Style Simmered Saury
  • Rice
  • Milk

The saury catch increases in Autumn. The saury we use in this season are frozen. It is an easy to use ingredient due to it’s stable price. It was cooked kabayaki(eel)-style with a sauce made of shoyu and mirin.

I can’t say that the daikon soboro is my favourite. It isn’t bad, but neither is it very good, in my ignorant opinion. There are fish I like more than saury, but today’s eel-style cooked saury was pretty popular among the boys in my class today. Thus soup (unsurpisingly) was my favorite dish today, although it was strangly onion-y.

A year or so ago, one of my teacher’s gave the students some free time–like five or ten minutes–at the end of class. They could work on homework or even talk with their friends, but she said they shouldn’t read in class. This struck me as peculiar.
When I was in school, students failing to read was considered a problem. Thus we had lots of programs put in place in order to encourage kids to read more. The one I most fondly recall was where you got stickers for reading a certain amount and when you collected enough stickers, you could get a free personal pizza. Going out to eat was something reserved for special occasions, so going out for pizza merely for reading was pretty awesome. But my point is, that I was raised with the idea that any form of reading ought to be encouraged, but here in Japan I was encountering the idea that reading is a frivilous activtiy not always allowed. (To be fair, the lack of children reading is becoming more of a problem now in Japan, and very few teachers are strict about not reading during down time in class.)
Why is there the idea that reading is frivilous in Japan? I can think of two reasons. The first is that reading is still fun for most Japanese children. There are a wide variety of books: manga, illustrated novels, sports-based novels, etc. that lower the barrier to reading for lower-level students. The second reason is historically Japan has distinguished between frivilous reading (ie: worthless novels &c.) and serious reading (ie: the classics, moral biographies &c.)

Speaking of historical Japan and reading, Edo period Japan had a higher literacy rate than the Western nations. Thus it is interesting that all the Edo/Meiji period novels I own (which is several), are written largely in kanji all accompanied by furigana. These are popular novels: tales of the supernatural, or tales of love and revenge. Equivalent modern books rarely use furigana and use hiragana rather than the more difficult kanji. I think this is a shame. Not only does a fully glossed text allow the less educated to enjoy reading the book, but it adds a fuller meaning to the text. 握飯 (nigirimeshi) alone only means some rice in a ball. For example, お握飯 glossed as “omusubi” gives it a fuller meaning: more colloquial, slightly soft feeling. And there were many such instances as this. I feel this kanji with furigana glosses method allows the text to be read at two levels: both meaning and phonetically. (If you aren’t convinced, consider how Motowori glossed the Kojiki. Definitely two levels.) It is a shame it is hardly used any more.

  • みだくさん汁
  • 大根のそぼろ煮
  • さんまの蒲焼風煮
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Mango Tart

June 22nd, Friday:

  • Pork Soup (Pork, Potato, Tofu, Carrot, Burdock)
  • Bonito-dressed Vegetables (Cabbage, Carrot, Bean Sprout, Wakame Seaweed, Spinach)
  • Sweet Salt Grilled Mackerel
  • Rice
  • Milk

The bonito-dressed vegetables are dressed with kaeri, sesame seeds, salt konbu seaweed, fine flaked bonito, and sakura shrimp. “Kaeri” are the slightly older version of the dried baby sardines called chirimen.

Due to tests, I ended up not eating school lunch today. So I wanted to talk a little bit more about yesterday’s tart.

The school lunch center cooks most of the school lunch dishes itself and then transports it divided by class to each school in temperature retaining metal containers. However, there are some dishes made by an outside manufacturer and served packaged. Yesterday’s お米で mango tart was one such dish. It is a “Friends Sweets” made by the 日東ベスト株式会社 and made in association with FOOD ACTION NIPPON, a governmental action group. I think the tart is quite tasty and students generally agree: there is not likely to be any leftover. The crust is made with rice flour, which gives it a fine slightly granular feel as opposed to, say, a crust made with wheat and lard. Sticky rice is, in my opinion, by far the best grain in existence, so I prefer it. The filling consists of a custard like cream and a very sweet mango jelly. I personally would like it even better if the entire filling was mango, but then again, I come from a tropical island. Most people would probably find that much mango overpowering and prefer the more delicate custard-mango version.

Now, I am sure you are wondering: what is FOOD ACTION NIPPON? At least, that is what I was wondering the first time I ate the tart. Basically, they are a government-funded group that tries to encourage people to eat in a more traditionally Japanese style. When Japan was occupied by America after WWII, one of America’s main objectives was, of course, to convince Japan to give all its money to American corporations. One of the ways they accomplished this was an intense campaign to start eating tons of wheat and drinking lots of milk. This worked quite well, because Japan has had this weird mistaken idea since the Meiji period that all Westerners are somehow magically always correct and should be assiduously copied. Now, however, the many drawbacks of an American style diet are being admitted to, and thus the Japanese government is trying lead people away from that cake-ladened pathway of negligence and death.

Another benefit to eating more rice and fish as opposed to bread and beef is higher food self-sufficiency. I have heard many foreigners say that food self-sufficiency is “stupid”. The complete imperialistic thoughtlessness of such a statement makes me cry. It is true that in this globalized society, food self-sufficiency is not the most economically beneficial policy for Japan. If the world remains eternally at peace, Japan loses money by buying rice grown lovingly by its own Japanese farmers as opposed to the cheaper wheat mass-produced in America. But guess what? But an eternal peaceful world isn’t likely to be accomplished until at least several thousand kalpas have passed by. With out food self-sufficiency, if Japan ever happens to be cut off from trade with America or other countries, her people will starve. I think righteous people will agree that hedging against mass starvation in the event of a war or disaster is more important than merely saving some money.

  • 豚汁
  • 野菜のかつお節和え
  • ほっけの甘塩焼
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Chidjimi

June 21st, Thursday:

  • Tonkatsu Ramen (Ramen Noodle, Char Siu, Bean Sprout, Bamboo Shoot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Chidjimi
  • Mango Tart

Geshi (summer solstice) is one of the 24 seasonal divisions. It is the day with the longest daytime and shortest nighttime. According to the calendar it is summer, but actually it is right in the middle of the rainy (baiu) season, so it’s a time when farmers are busier than ever.

I would like to reproduce a dialogue from my student’s second year English textbook (Lesson 3-4). It is between a Japanese student and a Korean exchange student.

Kenta: Then I want to take you to an okonomiyaki restaurant.
Jin: Okonomiyaki?
Kenta: It’s like Chijimi.
Jin: Oh, you mean jeon. Then let’s go!

As the passage illustrates, apparently, the term “chidjimi” comes from the Korean dialect spoken in Gyeongsang Province, and thus normal Koreans call the dish “jeon”.
I have never eaten chidjimi, but it was generally agreed upon that today’s school lunch version tasted nothing like chidjimi at all.

  • とんかつラーメン
  • 牛乳
  • ちぢみ
  • マンゴータルト

Dressed Broccoli and Tuna

June 20th, Wednesday:

  • Hayashi Rice (Pork, Carrot, Onion, Shimeji Mushroom)
  • Milk
  • Dressed Broccoli and Tuna (Broccoli, Tuna)
  • Chicken and Pork Patty

Green perilla (aojiso) dressing started as a seasoning for seaweed, to make eating it delicious. However, now it is used in many different dishes.

Hayashi rice is similar to curry rice, but uses a demi-glace sauce rather than a curry based one. They both have the same feel to me, but many people have a distinct preference for one over the other. Today’s broccoli and tuna’s aojiso dressing has almost a tangy taste, which I enjoy. It makes the generally lackluster broccoli interesting.

When I was in school, we usually had assigned seats. How they were assigned depended on the individual teacher. Sometimes it was carefully planned: separating noisy talkers or pairing low-level students with high-level students. (By the way, I can’t recommend that. It is humiliating to the low-level student and a hinderance to the high-level one.) Sometimes the seats were assigned randomly. Not uncommonly, seats were assigned merely by where you happened to be sitting on the first day of class. When I had a choice, I chose the front corner seat. Teachers always kept an eye out for troublemakers sitting in the back of class, and often called on those sitting in the front of class. However, my favoured front corner seat was generally overlooked. Thus I could do my work in relative peace.
In Japan, students are often sat in four rows of 4 or 5 pairs, each consisting of a boy on the left and a girl on the right, although there are exceptions. I imagine this system was introduced not to prevent talkative friends from sitting next to each other (that isn’t a big problem here), but rather to accustom boys and girls to interacting with each other. But I don’t really know.

  • ハヤシライス
  • 牛乳
  • ブロッコリーのツナ和え
  • チキンとポークのハンバーグ

Chinese Corn Soup

June 19th, Tuesday:

  • Chinese Corn Soup (Corn, Egg, Green Onion)
  • Creamy Tuna Spaghetti (Spaghetti Noodle, Tuna, Onion, Parsley)
  • Fried Mash Beans
  • Butter Bread
  • Milk

The fried mash beans is made with lots of red kidney beans, which Hokkaido can boast of being Japan’s number one producer. It also has pinto beans, tiger beans, white beans, and kidney beans.

Chinese corn soup is, apparently, egg drop soup with corn in it. When I was child, my mother made me cook dinner once a week. I don’t have any fondness for cooking, and thus often used recipes from a book called, “Six Ingredients or Less”. It was true American style cooking: fast, easy, flavourless. I loved it. Anyway, one of my favourites was called “Chinese Egg Drop Soup”. It consisted of chicken bouillon, an egg, and frozen peas. However, my house often lacked frozen peas, because no one liked them. On the other hand, my mother adores corn, so we always had frozen corn. Thus, I put in corn rather than peas. I guess what I am trying to say is, corn seems like an essential part of egg drop soup. To label these Chinese soup as Chinese corn soup, seems redundant to me.
Here is another amusing anecdote, as Weird Al said in Albuquerque. I don’t like meat. I really don’t understand how anyone does. It’s gross. But that is beside the point. Since I never ate meat, my mother always insisted I needed to eat more protein. So I would open up a can of baked beans; there was my protein. Today’s mashed beans reminded me of that. I love my mother. 🙂

  • 中華コーンスープ
  • クリームツナスパゲッティ
  • 豆いっぱいフライ
  • バターパン
  • 牛乳

P.S. Today is June 19th, a very significant day. One more step to the dark tower….

Miso Soup

June 18th, Monday:

  • Miso Soup (Carrot, Chinese Cabbage, Burdock)
  • Simmered Sweet Potato and Chopped Konbu Seaweed (Hijiki Surimi, Sweet Potato, Konbu, Konnyaku)
  • Teriyaki Simmered Mackerel
  • Rice
  • Milk

The miso used in school lunch is made from only daizu, rice yeast, and salt from Hokkaido, without any additives. We use pure water that pours from springs in the mountains. Our miso is safe and without bitterness.

Today was an open English class, so I ate lunch at home. That means that, as usual, I ate furikake rice and a daifuku, followed by soy milk. But actually today was a little special in that I ate a hard boiled egg too. Since I didn’t eat school lunch, I couldn’t take a picture of it. I am sorry.
It was interesting to read the above about miso (the part in italics is always translated from the school lunch menu, BTW) and I highly approve. I can’t really be a very good judge, because I didn’t really eat miso much as a child, but I would say that I quite like the miso soup in school lunch (assuming it is still hot).

  • みそ汁
  • さつま芋と切り昆布の煮物
  • さばの照り煮
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳