Sayounara

March 22nd, Friday:

DSCN4374

  • Dumpling Egg Drop Soup (Egg, Shrimp Dumplings, Spinach, Carrot)
  • Western-Simmered Potatoes and Bacon (Potato, Bacon, Onion, Edamame)
  • Bread Chicken and Cheese
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 889

Today is the last lunch of the school year. Everyone, were you able to eat at least a little of bit of even foods you hate? Looking back over the year, try looking for areas in which you have grown!

Today is the last day of the school year. For that reason I didn’t eat school lunch. I considered posting a picture of the bento I brought instead, but given that it was nearly exactly what I ate last Monday, I thought this picture of sweet Spring sake I drank the other day was nicer.

I started this blog a year ago with the goal of translating with photographs the school lunch I ate everyday for a full year. I have learned a lot through thinking about and eating school lunch: trying new foods, considering the implications of my food choices, and developing new likes! I hope my dear readers could enjoy seeing a little bit of my daily life and reading my ramblings about school life in Japan.

Posting nearly everyday was a difficult task though, with a busy schedule, so while I will still be eating school lunch next year, I won’t continue posting everyday. However, I wonder is there anything you would like to read about or see pictures of relating to food and Japan?

しゅうまいかき玉汁
じゃが芋とベーコンの洋風煮込み
チーズチキンカツ
ごはん
牛乳

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Haskap Jelly

March 21st, Thursday:

DSCN4416

  • 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

Bread Roll

March 19th, Tuesday:

DSCN4414

  • Cabbage and Bacon Soup (Cabbage, Bacon, Carrot)
  • Spaghetti Napolitan (Spaghetti, Pork, Sausage, Onion, Bell Pepper)
  • Butter Broiled Salmon
  • Top Sliced Roll
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 723

The familiar Spaghetti Napolitan! Actually, this dish is a Western dish that was created in Japan. Napolitan refers to it being in a “Naples (in Italy) style” dish.

I felt today’s lunch was sort of “ma….”, but that might be because I don’t really like pasta that much. Well…. I did have a thriving passion for Knorr Alfredo pasta mix when I was at university, but that is really more akin to loving cup ramen than it is to liking pasta. By the way, I love noodles in soup, but it is just when noodles are dressed in sauce that I don’t think they are great.

Tuesday is always bread day! On bread days, the side dishes tend to be Western style dishes. You can see this easily just looking at today’s menu: a bacon, rather than fish or seaweed, based soup; the very western style Napolitan; and butter, rather than salt or koji, broiled fish. (I should mention though some people thought fish with Napolitan was a very odd combination.) Looking at the calorie count, today’s lunch is not so unusual, but on a whole bread day lunches tend to have a higher calorie count as well. However, I like school lunch bread rolls a lot, and while I adore rice and am happy to eat it everyday, occasionally having bread for school lunch is a nice change.

Anyway, the other day I was reading a book called “もっと変な給食” or “More Strange School Lunches” I found in one of the classrooms. It is mainly a collection of strange school lunches from all over Japan and sort of explanation about why the author found them weird. In between the school lunch collection are also some columns talking about issues relating to school lunch. I translated one of them for you:

Rice-based school lunches and bread-based school lunches are completely different.

Rice school lunches and bread school lunches are not the same. Not only are they different in how they influence our health, but it also has a strong connection to agriculture, the environment, and food culture.

Rice-Based School Lunch
Creates a low-fat menu
Rice has no additives
No worries about post-harvest agrichemicals
Supports local farmers
Raises food self-sufficiency
Protects Japanese food culture
Protects Japanese agriculture
Washing up requires less detergents

Bread-Based School Lunch
Creates a high-fat menu
Worries about food additives
Uses post-harvest agrichemicals
Dependence upon imported foods
Loweres food self-sufficiency
Erodes Japanese food culture
Undermines Japanese agriculture
Washing up uses more detergents

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キャベツとベーコンのスープ
スパゲッティナポリタン
鮭のバター焼き
背割パン
牛乳

Carrots and Self-Sufficiency

March 18th, Monday:

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  • Pork Soup (Pork, Potato, Tofu, Carrot, Onion, Burdock, Garlic)
  • Dressed Spinach and Tuna (Spinach, Tuna)
  • Sesame Teriyaki Chicken
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 937

Pork contains lots of vitamin B, which we need for producing energy. We want to eat it especially when we will be exercising a lot or when we tire easily.

Through a sort of confusion of the schedule, I had classes today, but didn’t eat school lunch. But above is a photo of the school lunches in the teacher’s room, kindly already served into dishes by Higashi’s office lady.

Japan is pretty good about labelling where food products come from. For example, at my market, the prefecture where the fresh vegetables and fruits are grown is listed on the same tag as the price. With processed products, many of them are labeled with the prefecture or country their ingredients come from. This is very nice for a variety of reasons. If you are concerned about GMOs, chemical fertilizers, radiation, or food self-sufficiency, this information is useful for making educated decisions.

Just knowing the prefecture the food is from is nice, but on some vegetables they actually have a bar code. Going to the bar code’s URL, you can see all sorts of information about the food you are buying. You can see the page for some carrots I bought here. It includes pretty much everything I could want to know about those carrots. It gives the type of carrot, where they were grown, what fertilizer was used and how often, pesticides used and how much and often, when they were planted and harvested, who packed and transported the carrots, and more. It even includes pictures of the carrot field and the family that grew the carrots. It’s really amazing!

These are the people that grew my carrots!

These are the people that grew my carrots!

Technology is a really wonderful thing. I feel we should always keep working to improve and uncover new technology. The hard part though is having the wisdom to use technology for good things and not bad things. Maybe this is rather insignificant, but I feel my bar coded carrots are an example of the wonderful good things with which technology can help us.

The bento I ate today instead of school lunch

The bento I ate today instead of school lunch. On the left is rice and mixed grains topped in cucumber and daikon pickles. To the right is kinpira burdock and simmered sweet potato.

豚汁
小松菜とツナ和え物
若鶏のごま照り焼き
ごはん
牛乳

Miso Soup

March 15th, Friday:

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  • Miso Soup (Carrot, Cabbage, Burdock)
  • Stirfried Bean Curd and Sliced Konnyaku (Konnyaku, Pork, Aburage, Shiitake Mushroom)
  • Salt Yeast-Broiled Greenling
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 799

Tsuki-konnyaku (Sliced Konnkyaku) is like block konnyaku but it is pressed out in strips. It’s flavour can be quickly noticed while still retaining the texture of konnyaku. It is often used in stirfry.

Today’s Aburage and Konnyaku Stirfry was quite popular among my students. They seemed to enjoy the fish too. Actually, today’s fish was quite nice, without many bones and really easy to separate from the skin and eat. There were many teacher’s absent today, so you can see from my plate above everyone got nearly two helpings. I can’t eat that much of course–or well I could, but I’d probably feel sick afterwards– so after carrying my lunch up to the classroom I traded my okazu tray with a more normal serving.

みそ汁
油揚げとつきこんにゃくの炒り煮
ほっけの塩麹焼き
ごはん
牛乳

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

Veggie Curry

March 13th, Wednesday:

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  • Vegetable Curry and Rice (Potato, Carrot, Onion, Green Bean)
  • Milk
  • Tuna Daikon Salad (Tuna, Daikon Radish, Cucumber)
  • Pork Sausage
  • Kcal: 1061

The flavor of daikon depends on the section of it. The upper part nearer to the leaves is sweeter, while the lower part has a more spicy taste. In salad, the thick upper part closer to the leaves is more often used.

野菜カレーライス
牛乳
ツナと大根のサラダ
ポークウインナー

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

Mugicha (Wheat Tea)

March 11th, Monday:

DSCN4349

  • Miso Soup (Tofu, Wakame Seaweed, Green Onion)
  • Meat and Potatoes (Potato, Pork, Onion, Shimeji Mushroom, Carrot, Edamame)
  • Thick Rolled Egg
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 844

It is said “For scent, Pine Mushrooms; for taste, Shimeji”. Very few shimeji mushrooms have a poor taste. Because they are so tasty, they are used in many kinds of dishes.

I didn’t eat school lunch today, due to the graduation ceremony.

I’ve mentioned this before, but with every school lunch, milk is served. However, and I think this only started a couple years ago, a student’s parents can request wheat tea (mugicha) in place of milk, if the student has some intolerance to milk. A week or two ago, there was such a student absent due to the flu, so the students in charge of lunch that day gave his mugicha to me! You can see it is pretty small, only 100 mililiters, and of course unsweetened and without any additives. On the front is a woodcut picture of a mommy in kimono nursing her baby boy. I suppose the idea is that mugicha is as nourishing as mother’s milk?

Also, mugicha has no caffeine  which can be helpful. When I did a tea ceremony demonstration at one of my school, a couple of the students could not drink matcha due to religious reasons. In that case, we substituted mugicha, so they could participate just like the other students.

Picture of the adorable hijiki furikake we had a last month. Little Hijiki is so strong! Look at him lifting those weights!

Picture of the adorable hijiki furikake we had a last month. Little Hijiki is so strong! Look at him lifting those weights!

The backside of the package. It informs us that hijiki has lots of iron and is a traditional food of Japan. I can only conquer with the greatness of this delicious sea plant!

The backside of the package. It informs us this hijiki furikake (that is, tsukudani) has lots of iron and is a traditional food of Japan. I can only conquer (concur?) with the greatness of this delicious sea plant!

みそ汁
肉じゃが
厚焼き玉子
ごはん
牛乳

Graduation Cake

March 7th, Thursday:

DSCN4360

  • 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