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

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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

Crab Salad

March 6th, Wednesday:

DSCN4357

  • Pork Rice Bowl (Pork, Onion, Bell Pepper, Shimeji Mushroom)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Japanese-style Salad (Octopus, Cucumber, Wakame Seaweed, Imitation Crab)
  • Kcal: 822

The condition of when someone or something is sought after by many people is said “hippari-dako (stretched octopus)”. This comes from the fact that when making dried octopus, their legs are pulled out in all directions to dry them.

I am not sure what was so Japanese about today’s salad, given it was dressed in mayonnaise, but it was full of crab-mayo deliciousness. That said, it wasn’t all that popular with the students. I think a lot of them were put off by the looks of it. Also, students who dislike cucumbers are surprisingly common.

豚丼
牛乳
みそ汁
和風サラダ

Mahimahi

March 4th, Monday:

DSCN4350

  • Miso Soup (Onion, Cabbage, Carrot)
  • Simmered Hijiki and Atsuage (Hijiki Seaweed, Atsuage, Carrot, Green Bean, Konnyaku, Chicken)
  • Breaded Teriyaki Mahimahi
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 814

Hijiki is a a food lots of Calcium and Iron, for which we need to build strong bones and prevent anemia. It also has a lot of zinc, which prevents distortion of our sense of taste.

Hijiki and atsuage is yummy! Today, I told my students that we call the fish today, “mahimahi” and they thought that was pretty amusing. Like Hawaiian, Japanese has many words made of repeating sounds, but most of them are onomatopoeia, so a word like “mahimahi” sounds a bit strange as a fish’s name. That said, it was tasty.

Anyway, I was reading a book about Moribe, a Japanese philosopher back in the day who stressed the importance of not abandoning Japanese classics in favour of Chinese\Western books. He argues that, in Japan, Japanese classics should be considered the base of knowledge but that foreign books are nice for supplementing them. And he compares this eating etc:

“Rice and fish are enough to fill one’s belly, but how much more satisfying it is to have vinegary dishes and seasoned vegetables. In much the same way, a man who already has a wife is still happy upon acquiring a concubine.”

I think this is an interesting quote, because it illustrates that in Moribe’s time, rice and fish were considered the basis of diet, and vegetables were considered more of a delicious addition, like dessert. Perhaps that mindset still as influence today, and explains why vegetables are better received by most Japanese children?

I love you Moribe!!!

DSCN4352

みそ汁
ひじきと厚揚げの煮物
シイラ照焼味フライ
ごはん
牛乳

Catching Colds

March 1st, Friday:

DSCN4341

  • Midakusan Soup (Potato, Tofu, Konnyaku, Burdock, Carrot, Onion)
  • Simmered Daikon and Mincemeat (Daikon Radish, Pork, Edamame)
  • Salt-Broiled Pentacerotidae
  • Wakame Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 779

Shiitake that are dried in the sunlight become “Dried Shiitake”. When drying them in sunlight, their scent and flavour as well as their nutrition increases. Since they get all wrinkled up when drying, that is very strange.

I am a little confused why kyuushoku dayori above talks about shiitake, since today’s dish didn’t seem to include any mushrooms, shiitake or otherwise. Although the soup broth may have been shiitake based?

Anyway, the other day I was reading some of the papers posted in the classroom. It is common for each student to write their goals for the term at the beginning and then hang them all along the walls of the class. In this class room, the students each wrote two things they wanted to do (say good morning to fellow students, raise their test scores, etc.) and two things they wanted to avoid (forgetting things, bullying others etc.). One of the students wrote for the latter than he wanted to not catch a cold.

I thought this was interesting because–to me–catching a cold is not really something you have a lot of control over. Yes, you can wash your hands and gargle, but I don’t know, I seem to always catch the cold anyway. But actually, I think this sort of statement is an element of a broader way of thinking in Japan. For example, in America I think, if you are late but you have a good excuse, then you are forgiven since it wasn’t your fault. But in Japan, even if you have a good excuse, you are still held responsible for being late. So I think it is the same with catching a cold: even though it is not your fault, you are still responsible. I am reminded of a quote by Yoshida Shoin:

飲食男女の欲を縦にし、疾病を生じ、懶惰に陥り、気根を弱くしては、武士道が闕くるなり
Desiring food and drink or fine company, yielding to sickness, falling into idleness, or failing in willpower is the waning of bushido.

Getting sick is included along side vices like being lazy, a glutton, or a womanizer…【・_・?】

This way of thinking is has its merits and faults. On the good side, we can control a lot more things in our life than we think, and this way of thinking encourages responsibility and industriousness. On the bad side, it puts a great deal of pressure on people for things that they might not be able to control and this can lead to suicide. I imagine the important thing is to still hold people responsible, but never forget to temper it with compassion.

Wakame Gohan

Wakame Gohan

みだくさん汁
大根のそぼろ煮
つぼ鯛の塩焼き
わかめごはん
牛乳

Plummy! Simmered Saury

February 25th, Monday:

DSCN4319

  • Scallop Soup (Scallop, Tofu, Carrot, Chinese Cabbage, Burdock)
  • Simmered Dried Sliced Daikon (Dried Sliced Daikon, Satsuma-age, Hijiki Seaweed, Carrot, Green Bean, Sliced Konnyaku)
  • Plum Simmered Saury
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 846

Tofu 「豆腐」 is a food handed down from China.  The character fu 「腐」does not mean “rotten” in China, but means “something gathered from a liquid to make something firm out of something soft”.

To explain what the kyuushoku tayori means by the above, I should say that 腐 means rotten in modern Japanese, so the characters for tofu seem to literally say “rotten beans”, which does not sound the most appealing.

Anyways, the saury fish today is not that beautiful and rather hard to eat, but being plum-simmered gives it a really nice taste. I say this as a very picky eater. So frightening to behold, but delicious. I like hijiki and satsuma-age and konnyaku so much, so I really liked the simmered daikon, but judging from my students plates, the saury was far more popular than the daikon….

Other exciting things today was one of the boys split his entire soup all across his lap and we got to eat ぼっけもんsweets by 風月堂 from Kagoshima prefecture, since the superintendent brought them back as omiyage! I ate it before I could take a picture. I’m sorry.

  • ほたて汁
  • 切り干し大根煮
  • さんまの梅煮
  • 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

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

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

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