Miso Grilled Mackerel

July 20th, Friday:

  • Miso Soup (Onion, Cabbage, Carrot)
  • Eggplant and Pork Soy Sauce Stir-fry (Pork, Eggplant, Green Bean, Bell Pepper)
  • Miso Grilled Mackerel
  • Rice
  • Milk

Eggplants, even among the summer vegetables, are exceptionally good for cooling down the body. There may be many people who hate eggplants, but we recommend them as a food for people who can’t endure the heat.

I’m afraid I missed about a week’s worth of lunch translations, for which I am very sorry.  Having too much on my plate, so to speak, is a weakness of mine, and how I hate being so busy! Anyway, I like my work. On a whole, my middle schoolers are a delight to work with: even if they don’t like English, they are usually interested in me as a young foreigner, and I think that that is something valuable. Recently, I’ve also been doing an evening “English Conversation” (eikaiwa) class. Doing such a class is entirely different from my normal work. During my everyday work at JH schools, there is a lot of focus on making English fun. These students must learn English, whether they like or not, so I am here to help ease the pain that is learning English and help my students discover the wonder and beauty that is different cultures (ie: cultural exchange). Eikaiwa students (adults, I mean), on the other hand, like English. That’s why they  signed up for the class. Learning English is their hobby. I must confess I don’t quite understand this.

As a teenager, I did quite a bit dabbling in languages, mostly dead. In fifth grade, I taught myself through a stamp kit to phonetically read Egyptian hieroglyphs (a surprisingly useful skill). In ninth grade I kept an active correspondence with my friends and a certain English teacher, quite honestly, all written in the Tengwar alphabet. At one point I was working through an antiquated German textbook, and then my interest veered into Gothic (yes, the language of that forgotten germanic tribe). At university, I took two years of “Reading Latin”, and signed up for an extremely fascinating class of Ancient Egyptian. Given my diverse language dabbling, I’d think I’d understand perfectly my eikaiwa students. But I don’t. And here is why I think so: I want to learn to read and write. Nearly every language I have dabbled in significantly has been a dead language: a language no one speaks anymore. And naturally “English Conversation” students want to learn to converse, that is talk. It’s an interesting difference, I think. One that merits more thought. That is, assuming I am not the only creature under Heaven who likes reading and writing, but not talking…. :/

  • みそ汁
  • なすと豚肉の醤油炒め
  • さばのみそ焼き
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Tomato Omelet

July 11th, Wednesday:

  • Summer Vegetables Curry (Pork, Kabocha, Carrot, Eggplant, Zucchini, Bell Pepper)
  • Milk
  • Healthy Salad (Burdock, Carrot, Dried Sardine, Sesame)
  • Tomato Omelet

Zucchini has a thin long shape like a cucumber, but actually it is related to the kabocha squash. Not only the fruit but also the flower of this vegetable is eaten during the summer season.

There is no English class today, so I didn’t eat school lunch. I’m sorry. But actually, I despise dried sardines (chirimen jako), so maybe I am not that sorry.

By the way, while most haole people don’t associate curry with omelets, it is a very popular combination. In fact, “omukare” or omelet curry and rice is a specialty in my town here. So I stole the above picture from a local restaurant called The Pavilion of Cheerful Comfort (Shoraku-tei).

  • 夏野菜のカレーライス
  • 牛乳
  • 健康サラダ
  • トマトオムレツ

Vegetable Curry Rice

June 6th, Wednesday:

  • Vegetable Curry Rice (Potato, Eggplant, Carrot, Onion, Green Bean)
  • Milk
  • Mixed Fruit Jello (Block Jelly, Pineapple, Mandarin Orange, Jello, Nata de coco)
  • Spinach Omelet

Nata de coco is made from solidified coconut milk and is a traditional food of the Philippines. By sight, it resembles kanten gelatin, but you can easily tell it’s not by the characteristic gummy texture.

Although my beloved hometown is in the tropics and coconuts were bounteous throughout my childhood, I ate nata de coco for the first time in Japan. From what I understand, it first become very popular in Japan, and nowhere else, in 1993. Today, it is no longer a fad, but has an established placed as a dessert in Japan. Nata de coco is really quite delicious and I enjoy the texture, although I could see how some people might not. It seems to be made by fermenting the coconut milk. The name comes from Spanish, meaning “cream of Coconut”.

While, I didn’t eat nata de coco as a child, I did eat my fair share of coconut pudding. They don’t resemble each other in texture at all, but they are both desserts made from coconut, so I think it counts. Coconut pudding, which is made from coconut milk, water, and sugar and thickened with starch, is far better than it’s milk-based sister for two reasons. One is that it doesn’t leave that gross residue that milk-based products do in your mouth, and the other is of course that lactose intolerant people can eat it.

Furano Asparagus!!

May 23rd, Wednesday:

  • Furano Asparagus Curry Rice (Asparagus, Pork, Eggplant, Carrot, Onion)
  • Milk
  • Acerola Gelee Milk Gelatin
  • Net Grilled Hamburger Patty

The flavour of Furano asparagus is sweet and firm but tender. It’s deliciousness is born especially from the harsh weather of Furano. 

At lunch, student usually push their individual desks together to form a group (han) of 4 to 6 students. These han are given a name and a decorated poster for each is hung in the classroom. The school chores rotation is also distributed up by han. It is also not unusual to do group work or form teams based on the han. The han change members when the seating chart changes, every couple of months. The atmosphere of each han depends on the group. Some will eat in complete silence, but more often the students will chat with each other, and play jankenpo at the end to decide who will clean up what dishes and so on. Less commonly, students will leave their desks facing forward and each individually eat lunch. Outgoing students will chat with their friends while quieter students will merely eat their lunch and go back surreptitiously reading their book (since they technically are not allowed to read during lunch). During my own middle school days, I fondly recall sitting outside under the sheltering branches of a faikus tree everyday to share my bento with my best friend, quite different from Japan and probably most places. Anyway, in older photographs of Japan I have seen (cf. my banner photo), the students sit facing forward and individually when eating. I wonder when eating in han developed as a custom in school.

Girls eating bento lunches at school (1935), taken from Old Photos of Japan.