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

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!
DSCN4415

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

Carrots and Self-Sufficiency

March 18th, Monday:

DSCN4409

  • Pork Soup (Pork, Potato, Tofu, Carrot, Onion, Burdock, Garlic)
  • Dressed Spinach and Tuna (Spinach, Tuna)
  • Sesame Teriyaki Chicken
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 937

Pork contains lots of vitamin B, which we need for producing energy. We want to eat it especially when we will be exercising a lot or when we tire easily.

Through a sort of confusion of the schedule, I had classes today, but didn’t eat school lunch. But above is a photo of the school lunches in the teacher’s room, kindly already served into dishes by Higashi’s office lady.

Japan is pretty good about labelling where food products come from. For example, at my market, the prefecture where the fresh vegetables and fruits are grown is listed on the same tag as the price. With processed products, many of them are labeled with the prefecture or country their ingredients come from. This is very nice for a variety of reasons. If you are concerned about GMOs, chemical fertilizers, radiation, or food self-sufficiency, this information is useful for making educated decisions.

Just knowing the prefecture the food is from is nice, but on some vegetables they actually have a bar code. Going to the bar code’s URL, you can see all sorts of information about the food you are buying. You can see the page for some carrots I bought here. It includes pretty much everything I could want to know about those carrots. It gives the type of carrot, where they were grown, what fertilizer was used and how often, pesticides used and how much and often, when they were planted and harvested, who packed and transported the carrots, and more. It even includes pictures of the carrot field and the family that grew the carrots. It’s really amazing!

These are the people that grew my carrots!

These are the people that grew my carrots!

Technology is a really wonderful thing. I feel we should always keep working to improve and uncover new technology. The hard part though is having the wisdom to use technology for good things and not bad things. Maybe this is rather insignificant, but I feel my bar coded carrots are an example of the wonderful good things with which technology can help us.

The bento I ate today instead of school lunch

The bento I ate today instead of school lunch. On the left is rice and mixed grains topped in cucumber and daikon pickles. To the right is kinpira burdock and simmered sweet potato.

豚汁
小松菜とツナ和え物
若鶏のごま照り焼き
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

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.

DSCN4361

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:
DSCN4312
  • 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

Meiji Period Curry!

February 13th, Wednesday:

DSCN4288

  • Old Fashioned Curry and Rice (Grilled Chikuwa, Potato, Carrot, Onion)
  • Milk
  • Boiled Vegetable Salad (Broccoli, Cabbage, Red Pepper, Yellow Pepper)
  • Spinach Omelet
  • Kcal: 989

When meat was not eaten as much as it is today, ground foods were used as an ingredient in curry.  Most representative of these are fish sausage and chikuwa. Having listened to the children of olden times, what do you think?

I like chikuwa a lot, so I enjoyed today’s curry more than usual. Curry itself is a rather heavy dish I think, so using chikuwa rather than makes it a little light I feel. Not that it seems to have any less calories. Today’s salad was decent, but without much flavour. It was dressed in sesame and made of “western vegetables”, as broccoli etc. are sometimes advertised as here.

So, today was “old-fashioned” curry, so I thought I would post a recipe I translated from a Meiji period (1873) cook book I translated:

curry

○「カレー」ノ製法ハ葱一茎生姜判箇蒜少許ヲ細末ニシ牛骼大一匙ヲ以テ煎リ水一合五タヲ加ヘ鶏海老鯛蠣赤蛙等ノモノヲ入テ能ク煮後ニ「カレー」ノ粉小一匙ヲ入煮ルコト洋一字間已ニ熟シタルトキ塩に加ヘ又小麥粉大匙二ツを水ニテ解キテ入るヘシ

As for the method for making “curry”, you should cut finely one stalk of green onion, half a ginger, and a little bit of garlic. Add 1 and a half gou water with one large spoon of ox bone added to it. Add chicken, shrimp, sea bream, oyster, or red frog and boil well. Then, put in one small spoon of “curry” flour and simmer for one Western hour. After it is well cooked, add salt and two large spoons of wheat flour to the water, so it is dissolved.

To be honest, this recipe seems a little to difficult for my poor cooking skills, I can recall only lumpy less than successful results from my days when I still attempted to make things like flour thickened sauces. But I do like cooking from historical recipes. For example, I did make a delicious castella cake from the Meiji period recipe recorded by the Kaientai:

BakumatsuCastella

 

ちょっと昔風カレーライス
牛乳
ボイル野菜サラダ
ほうれん草オムレツ

Goa’uld Salad

January 28th, Monday:

DSCN4271

  • Miso Soup (Onion, Carrot, Cabbage)
  • Spinache and Jaco Salmon Salad (Salmon, Spinach, Chinese Cabbage)
  • Japanese-style Meatball
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 694

Meat contains lots of protein which we need to build our muscles and bones. It cannot be done without to make a healthy body while we are growing. It also is useful for recovering from fatigue and preventing anemia.

I don’t really eat meat (outside of school lunch), so obviously I don’t really see its necessity in one’s diet. In fact I grew up not eating meat (pork and beef, but we ate chicken), and haven’t suffered worse for it. Actually, I am a little short for a haole person, but that is a fact which ① I am immensely grateful for and ② is probably genetic because my grandmother and aunt are both shorter than I. That said, some source of protein is important.

Something I am concerned about is the unsustainablity of the modern world’s eating habits. This includes eating so much meat, over eating in general, eating non local/out of season foods, and throwing away uneaten but still perfectly good foods.

For this reason, I feel really bad that not only did I leave half my rice uneaten as usual (for I really can’t eat that much food!) but also hardly touched my Spinach Jaco Salad, for the merely selfish reason of I hate Jaco. Now, Jaco look weird and have a strong taste, but that would not be enough of a detest them as I do. The true reason I hate Jaco–and I think this is a very good reason and one that fully justifies my reluctance to put them anywhere near my mouth–is that they look like goa’uld.

Goa’uld are lovely little parasite aliens that enter their hosts through the mouth or neck and burrow themselves into the brain. My Japanese students may be innocently unaware of these malicious creatures and therefore able to stomach mouthfuls of goa’uld like Jaco… but I cannot. The psychological strain is simply too much. And if you compare the photoes below, you too will begin to wonder how long the Japanese will remain free from the Goa’ulds parasitic control.

Goa'uld Parasite

Goa’uld Parasite

Goa'uld Babies

Goa’uld Babies

Actually, I have a theory. The Japanese started eating Jaco goa’uld babies long ago in order to develop a resistance against full grown goa’uld parasitism, and that is reason the host of the only Japanese-ish goa’uld overlord is clearly not of Japanese descent:

Goa'uld Overlord "Amaterasu"

Goa’uld Overlord “Amaterasu”

みそ汁
小松菜とジャコの鮭そぼろあえ
和風肉団子
ごはん
牛乳

School Lunch, in the day

January 16th, Wednesday:

  • Bibimpab Bowl (Pork, Egg, Carrot, Parsley, Fern Sprout, Bean Sprout, Spinach)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Shrimp Dumplings
  • Kcal: 847

Carrots are the vegetable that appear the most in school lunch. They have lots of karotein, which we need for preventing colds. Eat lots and pass the time happily.

School lunch in Japan first began in Meiji 22 (1889) in Yamagata Prefecture at the private Chuuai Elementary School in Tsuruoka City, aimed at poor children. I don’t know that much about pre-war school lunch, but my impression is that a lot of students still brought home made lunches to school. After World War II, wide spread school lunch was instituted in Japan, and consisted of milk, bread, and a side dish. It was subsidized by the the cheap importation of wheat from America. Yah for spreading consumeristic imperialism!(苦笑)

In my hometown, we have school lunch too, of course. Back in the day, the education system was largely focused on teaching English to the kids born there, but to prevent cross-ethnicity worker strikes, providing school lunch for students to fraternize over was not a high priority. After World War II, however, school lunch was established and subsidized by importation of rice, flour, meat, and canned fruits from mainland America. (So we did better than Japan in we got to eat rice rather than bread.)

The goal of school lunch was, like in Japan, to give children at least one hot filling meal a day. Even today, the price of school lunch is kept down as much as possible. For students who cannot afford even that price, there is reduced and free school lunch program. The present author was on the reduced lunch menu, so I paid less than 50 cents everyday for school lunch. Pretty inexpensive, I think.

ビビンバ丼
牛乳
みそ汁
えびぎょうざ

Okome de Christmas Cake! (#^_^#)

December 21st, Friday:

  • Wakame Soup (Green Onion, Onion, Wakame Seaweed)
  • Sauteed Veggies and Bacon (Egg, Cabbage, Spinach, Carrot, Bacon)
  • Pine Spicy Chicken
  • Okome de Christmas Cake
  • Kcal: 800

The last school lunch of 2012 is the Christmas Menu. This year’s Christmas cake doesn’t use eggs, milk, or wheat, so those with allergies can feel safe to eat it.

Japan has whole-heartedly embraced the commercial Christmas celebration as sold by America. I can’t really approve with sickeningly sweet distortion of a holiday it has become here or there, but Japan means well. Two “Japanese” Christmas traditions are to eat chicken (ie, Kentucky fried) and cake, and you can see this reflected in this lunch menu.

Cool thing about the cake this year is it is ‘okome’ which as I have explained before means it is made with rice flour and other local ingredients. Merry Christmas!

わかめスープ
野菜とベーコンのソテー
もみの木チキンスパイシー
お米deクリスマスケーキ
ごはん
牛乳