Chocolate Gâteau

DSCN4400March 14th, Thursday:

  • Salt Ramen (Ramen Noodles, Pork, Bean Sprout, Carrot, Onion, Bamboo Shoot)
  • Milk
  • Onion Chip Salad (Cabbage, Cucumber, Ham, Onion)
  • Chocolate Gâteau
  • Kcal: 802

Gateau is often requested. The secret to its popularity is its soft texture together with the rich taste from the cocoa bean. Please enjoy it!

Today’s salad had a surprising vinegary taste. It seemed to be something like ohitashi dressed in an italian style dressing. Also, eating it today, it struck me that we never have processed meat in school lunch, which is probably a good thing. As a special treat today, we also had Ito-en tea. I love Ito-en because I used to drink their Oi Ocha every weekend while eating Kinoko-no-yama when I was in university (I had such a nice boyfriend back then!) I asked why we had Ito-en today, and apparently it was a graduation present to the school from the post-office. Yeah, that is how awesome our post-office is. And finally, who doesn’t love Okome de Choco Gateau!

Tuesday was the last day for my third years at my Higashiyama school. So as it was the last English class, I was able to hold a tea party for them. There being only six students in the third years also made it possible. There isn’t a strong tradition of tea in my tropical homeland, but despite this, I did my best to throw British style tea party for them.

I am not allowed to post pictures containing my students online, but here is a cropped photograph of this poor teacher explaining things over the

Here I am having Tea with my students.

Formal etiquette is something I have always had an interest in; I often used to read this 1960’s edition of Emily Post just for fun. That said I really didn’t learn any sort of etiquette beyond basic table manners at home. While of course my mother would scold us if we chewed with our mouths open or shoveled food off our plates, we didn’t use a knife at dinner, much less learn how to handle one, and eating our peas with a spoon was perfectly permissible. But once I travelled over seas, I realized that lacking the ability to eat in a proper Western manner marks one as a sort of ignorant person. Anyway, my point is that I think playing tea party is a very important part of internationalization too. Finally, I want to say that all the Japanese I have had dinner with have had impeccable table manners.

塩ラーメン
牛乳
オニオンチップサラダ
ガトーショコラ

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Yearbooks and Beansprouts

March 12th, Tuesday:

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  • Chinese Egg Drop Soup (Crab Flakes, Spinach, Carrot, Onion, Egg, Chicken, Bamboo Shoots, Shark Fin)
  • Spring Rain Salad (Glass Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Cucumber, Bamboo Shoots, Carrot, Wakame Seaweed, Cloud Ear Mushroom)
  • Breaded Shrimp
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Coppe Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 663

Moyashi (bean sprouts) are the sprouts of bean type plants like soybeans. They include vitamin C, which protects our body from stress and builds our power of resistance against illnesses.

Before I came to Japan, I couldn’t say I was very good friends with beansprouts. In the school lunch when I was a child, we would have a sort of noodle beansprout dish that I was always a bit dismayed at: mostly because there were more beansprouts than noodles in the dish!  Also, I think they weren’t cooked probably maybe, but I don’t clearly remember. Anyway, bean sprouts on a whole have a very poor reputation in America, but actually they are used in all sorts of delicious dishes here in Japan. They are also quite healthy and easy to grow at home, which make them a very wonderful plant. So bean sprouts and I have become friends once again today.

Oh and another note about today’s food: note the soup has shark fin in it! Maybe it will make my skin beautiful!

The third years got their year books today. In my homeland, all students have the option of purchasing the year book, and the bulk of year book contains portrait photographs of every student, which serves as a sort of record of all the pupils enrolled every year. In Japan, only the third years get yearbooks, and they contain just photoes and messages all about the third years. However, at the Entrance and Graduation ceremony, formal photographs are taken of all the students together, and that in turn serves as a record of the pupils enrolled. The tradition of taking a group photograph goes back to the start and public schooling/photography in Japan. Some of my schools have posted on the wall such group photographs going back to the Taisho period (1920s). It is pretty fascinating to look at them: how the number of students decreased, how the clothing and fashions changed, how the school building changed, and even how the features of the students and teachers faces changed as time progressed through the  frontier period, through the war and finally into the modern era.

A Year Book photograph from the Taisho Period! From my personal collection.

A Year Book photograph from the Taisho Period! From my personal collection.

The charming snow sculpture in front of the school made by the students. It is a mushroom character called "Nameko".

The charming snow sculpture in front of the school made by the students. It is a mushroom character called “Nameko”.

中華かきたまスープ
春雨サラダ
エビフライ
いちごジャム
コッペパン
牛乳

Chocolate Feelings

February 14th, Thursday:
DSCN4296
  • Shoyu Veggie Ramen (Ramen Noodles, Pork, Bean Sprout, Chinese Cabbage, Bamboo Shoot, Green Onion, Carrot)
  • Milk
  • Veggieburger
  • Chocolate Feelings
  • Kcal: 799
Chocolate is made from the seed of the cocoa plant (cocoa beans). Slab chocolate like we eat nowadays was first introduced in 1847, before that chocolate was drunk.
The name of today’s dessert is “Chocotto kimochi”, which literally means “a little bit of emotion”. But “choco” and “mochi” are written in katakana, which read together means, of course, “chocolate mochi”. So itis assorted of pun.
Today is St. Valentine’s Day and I received some chocolate. One was from one of my students (pictured) and the other was from the head of the Rokugo Post Office. Yeah for living in a small town!
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There were a couple characters I wasn’t sure about in yesterday’s translation of the curry recipe, so today I was able to ask the Japanese teacher at Rokugo about it. It turns out two were abbreviated characters (トキ and コト) and the other is apparently not understandable even to experts. So thank you Rokugo!
しょうゆ野菜ラーメン
牛乳
野菜のハンバーグ
チョコっときモチ

Eho Maki Sushi

February 1st, Friday:

DSCN4276

  • Clear Soup (Tamogi Mushroom, Carrot, Plum Gluten, Trefoil, Wakame Seaweed)
  • Simmered Chicken (Chicken Breast, Burdock, Bamboo Shoot, Onion, Carrot, Shiitake Mushroom, Konnyaku)
  • Egg for Hand Wrapped Sushi
  • Tuna and Mayonaise
  • Nori Seaweed for Hand Wrapped Sushi
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 841

This Sunday is Setsubun. Traditions that involve food include throwing beans, eating eho maki, and hanging a grilled sardine stuck on a holly branch to ward away bad influences.

I liked today’s lunch. To start with the Simmered Chicken had a light feel with many delicious root vegetables, so it was really a dish made for me. And in honor of setsubun we had handwrapped sushi! We placed some rice on the nori, and then layered the tuna and egg on top and rolled it up and ate it. The nori was a little small, you can see my attempt:

DSCN4277

So as said before, this Sunday is Setsubun or the day before Spring. Mamemaki, or throwing beans is the most common tradition. Where I live, usually whole peanuts are used, but (often candied) soybeans or even small wrapped chocolates are used. “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” or “Out the the Demons! In with Fortune!” is shouted. The windows should be opened during this as well, to, you know, let the demons out and fortune in. At the end, most people then eat the same amount of peanuts/beans as their years of age.

Eating ehomaki, too, is a now popular setsubun tradition, although if I recall correctly it was invented within the last 100 years following the “let’s commercialize holidays!” style Japan picked up from America. But eating giant makizushi while facing South-Southsoutheast isn’t so bad of a commercialization.

As for the sardine head tradition, I don’t know anybody personally who still follows it, but some old traditional families probably do.

すまし汁
炒りどり
手巻き寿司用玉子焼き
ツナマヨ
手巻き寿司用海苔

Okome de Apple Tart!!!

January 24th, Thursday:

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  • Char Siu Ramen (Char Siu, Bean Sprout, Bamboo Shoot, Carrot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Xiao Long Bao
  • Okome de Apple Tart
  • Kcal: 900

From Jan. 24th to 30th is “School Lunch Week”. Let’s eat lunch considering by what people’s efforts we are able to be served the school lunch we so thoughtlessly eat every day.

Today we had the always popular Okome de Tart! It is really delicious. The name of the tart in Japanese is “okome de kokusan ringo no taruto”, which literally means “Tart made with rice and grown-in-Japan apples”.

When we first received the lunch menu for this month, I could overhear some of the teachers talking about it. One of them said it was strange that the tart’s name specified that the apples were “kokusan” ie: grown in Japan. His comment was that, of course! the apples should be grown in Japan: not imported from overseas.

But the sad truth is over half of food consumed in Japan is imported. Something surprising is this is a fairly modern development. As recently as the 1970’s Japan was food self-sufficient.  I don’t really know how this figure changes so dramatically and so fast. But I thought it was interesting the natural thought for that teacher was that “kokusan” should be a given, not a rare and special trait.

☆~お・い・し・い~☆

☆~お・い・し・い~☆

  • とんかつラーメン
  • 牛乳
  • ショーロンポー
  • お米de国産りんごのタルト

Stranger’s Dish

January 23rd, Wednesday:

DSCN4227

  • Stranger’s Dish (Pork, Egg, Onion, Green Onion, Bamboo Shoot, Shimeji Mushroom)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Chinese Cabbage, Carrot, Bean Curd)
  • Sweet Wine-Dried Herring
  • Kcal: 835

Everyone, are you careful about using your chopsticks? Chopsticks (hashi) are a bridge (hashi) between ourselves and food, so using chopsticks well is fundamental to good table manners. Let’s be careful about correctly holding our chopsticks.

Today’s miso soup was really lovely. It had a mild taste with the neutral tasting cabbage and carrots, with lots of bean curd to make it taste delicious. As I’ve mentioned before, Stranger’s Dish is in contrast to Mother and Child Dish (Oyakodon) It has the same ingredients, except it uses pork instead of chicken. Pork, unlike chicken, is no “mother” to egg.

Today, I had a sort of interview test with my students. Especially at the school I went to today, the students are really very sweet, but also quite shy and don’t talk so much. So getting to talk to the students one on one in a structured setting like that was nice. But actually, such interview tests are only recently becoming common.

Japan is a land of tests. Most tests in Japan test not only material of a certain subject, but also one’s ability to study. This is because most tests use only material from a published study guide. Unlike American tests such as the GRE or SAT or FSOT, if you devote the proper amount of time to studying the study guide, there will be no surprises on such a test in Japan. Japanese tests are sometimes criticized as being unrealistic because of this, but actually, I rather prefer it. I suspect it is the only way to make a truly fair test. This Friday, I will take the Kanji Kantei, a sort of test about chinese characters. Because I studied the study guide a lot, I feel confident I will pass. Although actually, I am only taking Level 6, which is still Elementary School level. (・x ・)

  • 他人丼
  • 牛乳
  • みそ汁
  • にしんみりん干し

Potato Soup

December 11th, Tuesday:

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  • Potato Soup (Potato, Onion, Parsley)
  • Rice Noodle Stirfry (Bell Pepper, Rice Noodle, Pork, Shimeji Mushroom, Carrot, Bamboo Shoot)
  • Star Hamburger Steak
  • Butter Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 848

Bifun noodles are made from rice flour. The unsticky, long-grained Indica rice is used to give it its characteristic texture.

じゃがいものスープ
ビーフン炒め
星のハンバーグ
バターパン
牛乳

Qingjiao Rousi

November 30th, Friday:

DSCN4071

  • Slightly Thickened Egg Soup (Egg, Imitation Crab, Shiitake Mushroom, Trefoil)
  • Qingjiao Rousi (Pork, Green Bell Pepper, Bamboo Shoot)
  • Shrimp Crystalline Dumpling
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 841

Egg Usukuzu Soup is a soup that has a thin viscosity. There is also a simmered dish with the same name (usukuzu). 

Lately, it seem like we have been having Chinese-style lunches on Friday. Dishes like dumplings are generally served on Thursday (with Chinese noodles of course), so I was surprised to see it on today’s menu. Qingjiao rousi is a dish characterized by green peppers and meat. As awesome as crystalline wrapped shrimp sound, my favourite today was of course the soup. Mostly, because I really love soup. And I also really love imitation crab. Yum! Yum! “Ususkuzu” is literally “thin-starch”, so it means a soup whose broth is thickened slightly with kudzu starch. I was asking my friend about precisely what it was, and she mentioned that while they never ate usukuzu soup in her hometown in Okayama, she thinks of Kyoto when hearing the term. So it might be a somewhat locallized dish.

Baked Chestnut Croquette

November 29th, Thursday:

  • Veggie Shoyu Ramen (Pork, Bean Sprout, Chinese Cabbage, Bamboo Shoot, Green Onion, Carrot)
  • Milk
  • Baked Chestnut Croquette
  • Japanese Pear Jelly
  • Kcal: 791

The chestnut croquette was made using chestnuts, which are a symbol of Autumn. Besides sweet chestnuts, we used potatoes and sweet potatoes  to give it a slightly sweet taste. Also, since it is shaped like a chestnut, it makes  a very cute croquette.

I think I have talked about this before, but Japanese pears and western pears (La France Pears) are very different, the former somewhat resembling an apple in taste and appearance. But they are still delicious.

  • しょうゆ野菜ラーメン
  • 牛乳
  • 焼き栗コロッケ
  • 和なしゼリー

Early Mandarin

November 15th, Thursday:

  • Salt Ramen (Pork, Bean Sprout, Bamboo Shoot, Carrot, Onion)
  • Milk
  • Lots o’ Corn Patty
  • Early Mandarin
  • Kcal: 730

Satsuma Mandarins are generally shipped out in four different periods. September to October are the very earliest mandarins, October to December are the early mandarins. From January, regular mandarins make their appearance. So right now is the time for early mandarins.

塩ラーメン
牛乳
コーンたっぷりフライ
早生みかん