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

Yearbooks and Beansprouts

March 12th, Tuesday:

DSCN4382

  • 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

Chinese Food

February 22nd, Friday:

DSCN4313

  • Chinese-style Vegetable Soup (Chicken, Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, Bamboo Shoots, Shiitake Mushroom, Carrot)
  • Bansansu (Cucumbers, Ham, Carrot, Harusame, Egg)
  • Grilled Dumplings
  • Sesame Hijiki
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 778

Bansansu is a thinly cut vegetable, ham, and glass noodle salad. It is dressed in shoyu, vinegar, beet sugar, sesame oil, and mustard paste. It has a Chinese taste.

So today’s lunch is obviously a Chinese style lunch. I tried looking up what Chinese dish “bansansu” originally comes from, but I didn’t easily find an answer. One of the first results though was a recipe for “school lunch basansu“, which the writer recreated from her memories of the bansansu she enjoyed eating in school lunch. I also found the blog of an elementary school which explained that the word “bansansu” comes from Chinese  and means three ingredients (“san”) cut finely (“su”) and mixed together (“su”).

Higashi Miyagino Elementary School's Bansansu Lunch!

Higashi Miyagino Elementary School’s Bansansu Lunch!

Furano's Bansansu Salad!

Furano’s Bansansu Salad!

 

中華味野菜スープ
バンサンスー
焼きギョウザ
ごまひじき
ごはん
牛乳

Daikon Leaves! Yah!

February 20th, Wednesday:
DSCN4311
  • Pork Kim Chee Bowl (Pork, Egg, Chinese Cabbage, Carrot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Tofu, Daikon Leaves)
  • Potato Wrap
  • Kcal: 853

Potato Wrap is potato wrapped in a tea linen, flavored with butter, and steam baked in an egg cup. It is finished when it has a very simple and light taste. 

To be honest, I didn’t feel that today’s potato wrap was all the popular with the students at my school today. I of course didn’t have a problem with it but it did have bit of a ‘frozen food’ feel to it. However the kim chee was very popular, all the left overs being eaten.
I can’t recall having daikon leaves in lunch before. This doesn’t mean we haven’t, since I on a whole do not have a good sense of time and thus memory, but at least we haven’t had them very often. They tasted good though and it is nice to know that we are using more parts of the plant not just throwing out the perfectly good tops of the daikon radish.

豚キムチ丼
牛乳
みそ汁
じゃがいも茶巾包み

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

Furano Omucurry

December 30th, Wednesday:

DSCN4274

  • Furano Omucurry (Pork, Potato, Carrot, Onion)
  • Milk
  • Omelet
  • Furano Milk Julee(Acerola Julee, Pineapple, Tangerine, Peach, Nata de Coco)
  • Kcal: 941

In Hokkaido for School Lunch Week, we are having “Let’s eat local curry!” So this year we’ve had Furano Omucurry twice! For dessert, we have a jelly made of Furano milk, an original dish from Furano School Lunch Centre.

Today was an all day ski class, so I didn’t eat school lunch. But I just found out occasionally they can order school lunch even at the Board of Education! So I couldn’t eat school lunch, but at least I could take a lovely picture of it for you!

富良野オムカレーライス
牛乳
オムレツ
ふらの牛乳ジュレ

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

Miso Oden Yum! Yum!

December 18th, Friday:

DSCN4209

  • Miso Soup (Winter Mushroom, Tofu, Green Onion)
  • Curry Miso Oden (Squid Surimi, Quail Egg, Daikon, Konnyaku, Carrot)
  • Salt-Broiled Dull Mackerel
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 860

Oden is a type of simmered dish. The ingredients differ depening on the place and household, but include daikon, bamboo surimi, and boiled eggs. What do you like in your oden?

Francois Launet is a french artist whose internet name is “Goomi” (塵), whose Cthulhian art I’ve been a fan of since high school. Here is a comic of his I always bringing to mind when eating. Unfortunately, only

CthulhuRamen

 

But I really honestly do love miso oden.

みそ汁
カレー風味みそおでん
とろさば塩焼き
ごはん
牛乳

初給食

January 17th, Thursday:

DSCN4207

  • Kashiwa Udon (Chicken, Naruto Surimi, Egg, Carrot, Onion, Bean Curd)
  • Milk
  • Squash Dumpling
  • Yogurt
  • Kcal: 755

“Kashiwa Udon” is udon with chicken meat in it. An udon dish from Nothern Kyuushuu, chicken meat is called “kashiwa” there.

I like udon a lot. It has a delicious fairly light broth and the noodles are wonderfully soft and chewy. It is just a pleasent food to eat. The other day, I was reading a historical recipe that called for うどん粉 or udon flour. Looking at the market, all the flour was marked soft, medium, or hard protein: none of it was marked “udon”. So I turned to that infallible font of knowledge: wikipedia. And here is what I found out.

Soft flour was unknown in Japan before the Meiji period and it wasn’t used much until after the war. Hard flour, on the other hand, was mostly used in ramen making. The most popular wheat flour was medium flour (in haole language we call that “all purpose flour”) and since the most common wheat-using dish was udon, this is called “udon flour”.

Also of interest was the difference between “udon flour” and “meriken flour”. They are both medium flours, but udon flour is grown in Japan and whiter in colour, while merikan flour is an off-white and of course, imported from America.

かしわうどん
牛乳
かぼちゃもち
ヨーグルト