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

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

Chili Shrimp

March 8th, Friday:

DSCN4363

  • Miso Soup (Tamogi Mushroom, Tofu, Trefoil)
  • Chili Shrimp (Shrimp, Onion, Green Onion)
  • Sesame Vinegar Dressed Cabbage and Bean-curd (Cabbage, Cucumber, Beancurd)
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 874

Shrimp are said to live until their backs are bent, so they are a symbol of long life. Celebratory meals such as at new year’s are not the same without them.

Today’s lunch was the best! Note the complete absence of meat. The cabbage was surprisingly sweet, vaguely similar to the flavouring of inari sushi. I liked the chili shrimp too. It was slightly spicy, which means it wasn’t spicy at all by many foreigners’ standards, but even so, one of the teachers worried about what students who dislike spiciness were supposed to do. I personally don’t like spicy foods, and spicy foods by Western standards make me feel physically ill the next day or two after eating them. Really, I think spiciness is something you grow accustom to, so if you grew up in a country with spicy cuisine, you can probably enjoy a lot, but if you didn’t, then it is not good for you to eat it. Japanese food, on the whole, is not spicy at all and tends to have very subtle flavours. This perfect for someone like me, but I could see how some people might dislike that.

みそ汁
エビチリ
キャベツと油揚げのごま酢和え
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

Baked Pudding Tart

February 21st, Thursday:
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  • Kenchin Udon (Udon, Bamboo Shoot, Spinach, Shimeji Mushrooms, Bean Curd, Carrot, Daikon Radishes, Green Onion, Plum Gluten, Konnyaku)
  • Milk
  • Local Squash and Mincemeat Fry
  • Baked Pudding Tart
  • Kcal: 724
The much anticipated dessert of today, precisely because it is so rare, is Baked Pudding Tart! It is very often requested. Is the secret to its popularity the suitability between the tart shell and the baked pudding?
Udon is pretty much always delicious, which its yummy vegetables, light broth, and fat noodles. Nom, nom, nom. The kabocha squash Fry was rather sweet, so I was surprised to know it had mincemeat in it. It seamed mostly kabocha. And of course, the Baked Pudding Tart was chosen as today’s favourite dish during the student radio program during lunch.
Excepting elementary schools, I visit seven schools. However all these schools are under the same board of education so the school lunch is the same. But normal teachers must change schools every six years or so. I was speaking to one of my teachers about school lunch and she said that she felt the school lunch in this area was rather on the lower end of school lunch quality, she felt the lunches in Asahikawa and other districts were better. So I thought it was interesting to hear her opinion.

けんちんうどん
牛乳
国産カボチャひき肉フライ
焼きプリンタルト

Pork and Tofu

February 15th, Friday:

DSCN4300

  • Miso Soup (Wakame Seaweed, Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Pork and Tofu (Grilled Tofu, Pork, Shimeji Mushroom, Green Onion, Sliced Konnyaku)
  • Veggies Dressed in Sesame
  • Wakame Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 817

The spiciness of daikon changes depending on how it is cut up. If eaten sliced into sticks, it is sweet, but if grated, it is spicy, due to the effect of breaking the spiciness cell things.

Today’s Pork and Tofu brings up a slight but interesting difference between Japanese and Western culture. In the West, tofu is largely thought of as vegetarian health food, eaten not for its own sake, but as a meat substitute. Therefore, to have tofu and meat in the same dish seems a little strange to Americans and other Westerners I think. But in Japan tofu is of course its own food with all of its own characteristics, so adding it into a meat dish is quite natural.

Surimi (ie: imitation crab) is another Japanese food which has a similar reputation. Surimi is used in all sorts of dishes (yah for snack chikuwa!) but in the West it is almost entirely known as a crab imitation.

Anyway, I liked today’s vegetables too. They had a very healthy and delicious taste to them. As their name implies they were dressed in ground sesame: not a mayonnaise-sesame salad dressing, but just sesame. This was nice because while mayonnaise immediately has an appealing taste, it leaves a yucky feeling in the mouth after eating it.

Pork and Tofu

Pork and Tofu

みそ汁
肉豆腐
野菜のごま和え
わかめごはん
牛乳

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

Forbidden Five Spice

February 12th, Tuesday:

DSCN4283

  • Shrimp Ball Soup (Shrimp Dumplings, Chinese Cabbage, Green Onion, Shiitake Mushroom)
  • Spaghetti Carbonara (Spaghetti, Onion, Bacon, Parsley)
  • Tokachi Soybean Croquette
  • Apple Jam
  • Coppe Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 923

Five spice (goshin五辛) contains garlic, rocambole (nobiru), Japanese leek (rakkyou), onion, and Chinese leek (nira). Because it has a strong smell, it is said from ancient times to clear away pollution and prevent sickness.

Last week’s cold was actually Type A influenza. So it’s my first day back to work after being in bed for a week. Being all influenza-y for a week didn’t incline me to cook much at home, so it was quite nice to eat school lunch as a change from rice, chikuwa, and tosa nimono.

Anyway, tokachi is an area in Hokkaido which is famous for growing beans. I am most familiar with their delicious adzuki beans, but apparently they also grow soybeans. Today’s croquette was quite tasty I thought: not as oily as usual and with a nice soft flavour. Eating it, I thought maybe it was curry flavoured, but rather it must be the Five Spice they used mentioned above. Looking up “five spice” in English, you will find a different sort of spice mixture that seems to be used in China. This “five spice” refers to the buddhist “five spices”, which we are told we should avoid, because they encourage avarice.

In other food news, this morning on my Foreign Policy site, there seems to be a scandal unfolding about European frozen beef dishes containing up to 100% horse meat. 100 percent! And Western Europeans are not happy with finding out they’ve been feeding their children that. I don’t personally find eating horse meat or even dog meat any more horrible than cow meat. As you’ll recall, I don’t really approve of eating meat in general. What I think is most interesting about this news item is two things:

  1. This is a problem related to modern globalization. Something like this is not likely to occur when the food you consume comes from the same country you live in, much less local farms.
  2. People have really unreasonable biases when it comes to food. As the article states, “the British consumers who are outraged about having been fed Polish horse meat were perfectly willing to buy lasagna made from cows that were likely raised and slaughtered in brutal factory farms and felt few moral qualms about it.”

エビボールのスープ
スパゲッティカルボナーラ
十勝大豆コロッケ
りんごジャム
コッペパン
牛乳

Milk Straw Chopsticks

February 4th, Monday:

DSCN4282

  • Miso Soup (Cabbage, Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Sliced Konbu and Lotus Root Stirfry (Konbu Seaweed, Pork, Lotsu Root, Green Onion)
  • Many Veggies Meatballs
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 868

Today is Risshun, the first day of Spring. The first Southern wind after Risshun is called “Spring No. 1″(春一番)When will Spring actually come to Hokkaido, I wonder…

Today, I have a cold. But at least it’s not influenza. So many students were absent from my class today, that the remaining students couldn’t eat all the meatballs, despite having seconds.
The other thing interesting today at lunch was the student across from me forgot his chopsticks. Instead of borrowing from the teacher, he decided obtain two of the milk straws and ate his entire lunch with them. It was amusing, but he succeeded in completely cleaning his plate.

みそ汁
切り昆布とレンコン炒め煮
野菜いろいろ肉団子
ごはん
牛乳

Okome de Apple Tart!!!

January 24th, Thursday:

DSCN4228

  • 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