Haskap Jelly

March 21st, Thursday:

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  • Kashiwa Udon (Udon, Chicken, Onion, Carrot, Green Onion, Aburaage, Naruto Surimi)
  • Milk
  • Spinach and Beansprout Salad (Spinach, Beansprout, Ham)
  • Haskap Jelly
  • Kcal: 688

Long ago, Haskap was valued by the Ainu people as an elixir of youth. Haskap in the Ainu language means “Many on top of the branch.” It has a rich flavour that is both sweet and sour.

Saint Patrick’s day was last Sunday, something I completely forgot about until I checked my Facebook page and stared wondering why everyone was posting pictures of green things.  I like St. Patrick a lot–I mean, he drove the snakes out of Ireland and wears an incredibly awesome hat. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations however seem, like nearly all modern celebrations, superficial and rather meaningless to me unfortunately. That said, when I was child, for St. Patrick’s Day my mother would always make us green eggs and ham, green muffins, mint milk shakes, and pistachio pudding for dinner. I feel that dinner was representative of my mother’s cooking style: strange, but full of love?

In Japan, St. Patrick’s Day, unlike St. Valentine’s, is fairly unknown. (Although Buri-Chan talks about the St. Patrick’s festival in charming Matsue in her always interesting blog.) However, four leaf clovers are used all over the place as a cute and easy to depict symbol. In fact, my lunch menu gives us a four leaf clover as a sort of “My Plate” health symbol. Here I translated it for you!
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Balanced Nutrition Clover

Main Dish: Rice, bread, or noodles etc. that have lots of carbohydrates that give your body energy.

Main Side: Seafood, Meat, or eggs etc. that include a lot of protein, which help our bodies build our bones and muscles.

Second Side: Vegetables and fruits, including lots of vitamins and minerals, which keep us healthy

Soup (Drink): Besides supplying us with water, it supplements our nutrition with minerals etc. which we cannot do without.

かしわうどん
牛乳
ほうれん草ともやしのサラダ
ハスカップゼリー

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

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

Graduation Cake

March 7th, Thursday:

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  • Pork Udon (Udon, Pork, Naruto Surimi, Onion, Beancurd, Carrot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Beansprout Namul (Beansprout, Carrot, Spinach)
  • Graduation Celebration Cake
  • Kcal: 874

The graduation ceremony is soon! Let’s celebrate with feelings of congratulations and gratitude towards the 6th graders who have helped us so much and 9th graders for whom this will be their last school lunch.

Namul is a type of Korean dish, but it wasn’t spicy at all: rather it was blanched vegetables seasoning in a vinegary sesame dressing. It was delicious, as the girl next to me pointed out today. We also had cake, which was one of 日東’s Friends Sweets line. It didn’t list the ingredients on the box, but all the other Friends Sweet line are made from local ingredients/rice flour so this probably was too. It tasted pretty good, a little bit lighter than a standard Japanese cake. Most of the students liked it a lot, although one of them complained that it was too sweet.

I have an insatiable sweet tooth, but it pains me to confess, I don’t like cake so much. I love butter cream frosting. And the bread-like castella variety of cakes are very nice. But a typical white/yellow cake, especially when covered in whipped cream frosting, has nothing to recommend. Please give me a soft cookie, daikfuku, fruit pie, or nerikeri instead. When I was a child, my mother used to make my brother and I (we have the same birthday!) a cake, but once my brother moved out, I started asking for fruit pie instead, and every year we would have apple or some other type of pie.

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肉うどん
牛乳
もやしのナムル
卒業お祝いケーキ

Chocolate Feelings

February 14th, Thursday:
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  • 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

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

School Lunch, in the day

January 16th, Wednesday:

  • Bibimpab Bowl (Pork, Egg, Carrot, Parsley, Fern Sprout, Bean Sprout, Spinach)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Shrimp Dumplings
  • Kcal: 847

Carrots are the vegetable that appear the most in school lunch. They have lots of karotein, which we need for preventing colds. Eat lots and pass the time happily.

School lunch in Japan first began in Meiji 22 (1889) in Yamagata Prefecture at the private Chuuai Elementary School in Tsuruoka City, aimed at poor children. I don’t know that much about pre-war school lunch, but my impression is that a lot of students still brought home made lunches to school. After World War II, wide spread school lunch was instituted in Japan, and consisted of milk, bread, and a side dish. It was subsidized by the the cheap importation of wheat from America. Yah for spreading consumeristic imperialism!(苦笑)

In my hometown, we have school lunch too, of course. Back in the day, the education system was largely focused on teaching English to the kids born there, but to prevent cross-ethnicity worker strikes, providing school lunch for students to fraternize over was not a high priority. After World War II, however, school lunch was established and subsidized by importation of rice, flour, meat, and canned fruits from mainland America. (So we did better than Japan in we got to eat rice rather than bread.)

The goal of school lunch was, like in Japan, to give children at least one hot filling meal a day. Even today, the price of school lunch is kept down as much as possible. For students who cannot afford even that price, there is reduced and free school lunch program. The present author was on the reduced lunch menu, so I paid less than 50 cents everyday for school lunch. Pretty inexpensive, I think.

ビビンバ丼
牛乳
みそ汁
えびぎょうざ

Midwinter Soup

November 18th, Tuesday:

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  • Midwinter Soup (Kabocha Squash, Chestnut, Rice Cake, Adzuki Beans)
  • Chicken Vegetable Salad (Chicken, Wakame Seaweed, Cucumber, Cabbage, Bean Sprout, Carrot)
  • Cabbage and Mince Breaded Patty
  • Side Sliced Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 908

It is a tradition eating kabocha on Winter Solstice will help against bad luck and sickness. The kabocha we use were grown by everyone at Jukai Intermediate School.  Please enjoy it!

If you have read my “about” page, you will know that my favourite school lunch item is today’s touji shiruko (Midwinter Soup). They don’t serve it every year, so I am so happy I can eat again. Anyway, shiruko is a sweet adzuki soup with mochi in it, and on touji, kabocha is added to the soup as well. It is really quite sweet so while many girls like it, some of the boys finding it too cloying to eat. Today it was served with bread, which is a little unusual, but many of the students in my class said bread was better than rice. Eating bread with shiruko made it just like eating anpan. I don’t especially like anpan, so maybe I would have preferred rice.

The rest of school lunch was tasty too. The mince patty had a light taste of chives, which was nice and the salad was not a Western-style raw salad, but rather the Japanese-style salad consisting of blanched veggies and dressed in a white sesame sauce. Speaking of salads, I’ve finally realized that raw foods–be they meat, fish, or vegetables–and I are not meant for each other. Not only do I just not like foods raw, but they tend to upset my stomach as well.  So yeah, I was happy eating today’s Japanese-style salad.

A close up of today's Toji Shiruko. You can see some adzuki, mochi, and kabocha resting on my spoon.

A close up of today’s Toji Shiruko. You can see some adzuki, mochi, and kabocha resting on my spoon.

  • 冬至しるこ
  • 野菜とチキンのサラダ
  • キャベツ入りメンチカツ
  • よこ割りぱん
  • 牛乳

Chinese Spring Roll

December 6th, Thursday:

  • Yakisoba (Pork, Sausage, Carrot, Bean Sprout, Cabbage, Onion, Shrimp)
  • Milk
  • Chinese Spring Roll
  • Grade Jelly
  • Kcal: 780

Bean sprouts were eaten about 350 to 400 years ago in the North-eastern area and the Kyushu area. They started to be eaten through out all of Japan starting from the Taisho era.

When I was a student, my favourite school lunch was a sort of ramen like dish called Saimen. However, sometime during intermediate school, they stopped serving it and replaced it with a yakisoba like dish made with saimen noodles and a lot of bean sprouts. I dearly loved proper saimen, so this was quite a betrayal to me. For that reason, I still harbor a grudge against bean sprouts in my heart. But actually they are quite tasty.

焼きそば
牛乳
中華春巻き
ぶどうゼリー

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