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

DSCN4413

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

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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

Hirami Lemon Jelly

September 6th, Thursday:

  • Chow Mein (Pork, Sausage, Tsuto Surimi, Carrot, Cabbage, Onion, Bean Sprout)
  • Milk
  • New-style Omelet
  • Hirami Lemon Jelly
  • Kcal:781

New-style Omelet is a normally round shaped omelet cut in half to make the shape of a fan. It is fried up with potatoes, bacon, and cheese.

  • 焼きそば
  • 牛乳
  • 変わりオムレツ
  • シークワーサーゼリー

Flan

July 5th, Thursday:

  • Salt Yakisoba (Pork, Sausage, Tsuto Surimi, Carrot, Cabbage, Onion, Bean Sprout)
  • Milk
  • Xiaolongbao
  • Custard Flan

Today’s dessert, flan, is made without eggs. So those with egg allergies can safely eat it. It tastes even more delicious when everyone can eat it together.

The above paragraph is slightly depressing to me, as I can’t eat flan, due to the milk. However, it doesn’t matter much to me because everyone brought bento lunches today.
As pictured above, I included “vanilla ice cream” flavoured soymilk in my lunch, which is even better than flan in my humble opinion. Milk products like flan, pudding, and ice cream leave a nasty stickness in the mouth after you eat them, but soya never does. So even if foods like ice cream didn’t make me want to die of pain for the next wo hours, I would still prefer soy.
In my tropical homeland, I bought soymilk by the half-gallon, 2 cartons every week. It came in four flavours I beleive: plain, vanilla, chocolate, and very vanilla. Here in Japan it comes in 1000 ml cartons, of which I buy 4. So I am still drinking a gallon of soymilk every week. It cames in four flavours too: plain, processed, coffee, and milk tea. The last is my favourite, but I am trying to be less decadent, so I usually drink the processed variety. Also, the latter uses Japanese soybeans, which I prefer over the Canadian soybeans the company who makes the milk tea flavour uses.
Soymilk is also sold here in small lunch-sized 200 ml cartons. These come in a large variety of seasonal flavours, all of which are delicious. Today’s “vanilla ice cream” is one, but I’ve also sampled “banana,”, “sesame”, “sweet potato”, “adzuki”, and “chocolate”. As an aside, the Japanese term for flan is “custard pudding”, which is rather confusingly shortened to just “pudding.”
Finally, since I know you all are dying to know what a charming foreigner like myself eats, here is what was in my bento: Along with my soymilk was steam rice, takuan pickles, half a boiled egg, burdock kinpira, corn’n’tuna, teriyaki meatballs, and yokan for dessert.

  • 白焼きそば
  • 牛乳
  • ショーロンポー(小籠包)
  • プリン

Pot au Feu

June 5th, Tuesday:

梅干御飯がうまい!

  • Pot-au-Feu (Bacon, Potato, Cabbage, Green Bean, Carrot)
  • Spaghetti Napolitan (Spaghetti, Pork, Sausage, Onion, Green Pepper)
  • White Fish Fry with Tartar Sauce
  • Pumpkin Bread
  • Milk

Today starts boushu (lit. grain-in-ear), which is one of the 24 seasonal divisions when arista grains such as wheat and rice are planted. During this time, the farmers are very busy with planting seeds and other tasks.

At the school I went to today, there was no school lunch, so everybody brought their own bento. I forgot until the last minute, so I ended up with the only food in my house: umeboshi rice, carrots, and banana chips. Not true– I also had some takuan, but it wasn’t cut up yet, so I didn’t bring it today. One student related how nice it would be to bring bento everyday. Another student, who had to actually make her own bento today, disagreed. Think of the poor mothers who would have to make the bento everyday! In the teacher’s room, I overheard another comment: A bento made yourself never tastes that good. So people have many different opinions on the matter.

The 24 seasonal divisions are solar based periods matching the agricultural cycle. China, and thus Japan, previously used a largely lunar-based calendar, which lacked accuracy as far as agriculture went. So these seasonal divisions were created to better guide the farmers in their work. Setsubun, the well known holiday often translated as “The Coming of Spring”, is technically the day before four of these seasonal divisions: Shunbun (Spring’s start), Geshi (Summer’s start), Shuubunn (Autumn’s start), or Touji (Winter’s start).

Yakisoba

May 17th, Thursday:

  • Yakisoba (Pork, Sausage, Tsuto Surimi, Carrot, Cabbage, Onion, Bean Sprout)
  • Milk
  • Chinese Egg Roll
  • White Peach Jello

The roots of yakisoba lie in the Chinese “Chow Mein”. Chow mein is a general term for fried Chinese noodles and it’s said there are over a hundred varieties.

Today’s yakisoba was popular among the students, but I have to say it was, as usual, too greasy for me. In relation, I would like to share a quote from the Cambridge World History of Food

“Lack of meat and dairy products in the Japanese diet produced an aversion to oily tastes, so that even vegetable oil was not commonly used for cooking. Tempura, fish or vegetables fried in a vegetable oil, is one of the best-known Japanese dishes today, but it became popular only after the mid-eighteenth century.”

I think this is still true for many Japanese people. However, school lunch was first instituted on the Western model with the ambition of building up the physical stature of the Japanese people, and this influence is still seen in the milk, meat, and oil focused menu. When children were under-fed at home, a high calorie school lunch was very important. Now, with Japan’s first world affluence though, it seems unnecessary. Of course, children tend to like things high in fat and dislike vegetables, so that probably contributes too. As an aside, the danger of buckwheat allergies in children makes the real soba that I desire to eat in school lunch remain but a dream.