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

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

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

Daikon Leaves! Yah!

February 20th, Wednesday:
DSCN4311
  • Pork Kim Chee Bowl (Pork, Egg, Chinese Cabbage, Carrot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Tofu, Daikon Leaves)
  • Potato Wrap
  • Kcal: 853

Potato Wrap is potato wrapped in a tea linen, flavored with butter, and steam baked in an egg cup. It is finished when it has a very simple and light taste. 

To be honest, I didn’t feel that today’s potato wrap was all the popular with the students at my school today. I of course didn’t have a problem with it but it did have bit of a ‘frozen food’ feel to it. However the kim chee was very popular, all the left overs being eaten.
I can’t recall having daikon leaves in lunch before. This doesn’t mean we haven’t, since I on a whole do not have a good sense of time and thus memory, but at least we haven’t had them very often. They tasted good though and it is nice to know that we are using more parts of the plant not just throwing out the perfectly good tops of the daikon radish.

豚キムチ丼
牛乳
みそ汁
じゃがいも茶巾包み

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

Pregnant Susuhamu

January 21st, Monday:

Photo-0309

  • Pork Soup (Pork, Potato, Tofu, Carrot, Onion, Burdock)
  • Shore Simmered Soybeans (Hijiki Seaweed, Satsuma-age, Carrot, Sliced Konnyaku, String Bean, Soybean)
  • Susuhamu with Child Fritter
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 812

Burdock is a vegetable with lots of dietary fiber.  We can’t digest the dietary fiber in burdock and it passes through our body, making clean our stomach and intestines. Burdock is a master at cleaning our stomachs. 

Can I be honest with you? I am all squeamish about eating fish which still have their heads, tails, or even many bones. So the susuhamu isn’t in my picture because another teacher kindly ate my portion for me. It’s childish to be all “it looks weird, I won’t eat it”, but oh well, I’m foreigner so its okay right? But I ate all of my delicious hijiki and soybean simmer!

In my island home and in Japan too, milk is served with every school lunch and students are encouraged by teachers and posters to drink their milk, especially in elementary school. In junior high school, a lot of students no longer drink the milk, because they don’t like it or it makes them sick. However, I think due to the meat and dairy heavy diet in schools and often at home too in modern Japan, Japanese people are on a whole getting taller and taller.

Is being tall a good thing? In modern fashion magazines and the opinion of most modern people (especially in the West), yes. But this is a really new opinion in Japan. It is an opinion that has been copied blindly from the West, I feel. In fact, I would like to argue that being tall is evolutionary disadvantages for an island country like Japan.

On islands, resources are somewhat limited. Likewise, there are not many natural dangers that require a large body to fend off. So on an archipelago like Japan, being smaller in size–thus requiring less resources–is to a person’s advantage. This can be even been seen in some animal populations in Japan, such as the Honshu fox or Ryukyu deer. You might argue that being bigger has its advantages now that Japan must compete with the taller, larger Westerners. But when Europeans and Japanese men were compared at the start of the Meiji period, the Japanese were able to better run long distances, endure extreme conditions, and so on than the Europeans, and with less food and resources (cf. Hearn).

So I think we should be careful to avoid blindly copying ideas when they might not necessarily be the best depending on the situation.

  • 豚汁
  • 大豆の磯煮
  • 子持ちししゃものフリッター
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Miso Oden Yum! Yum!

December 18th, Friday:

DSCN4209

  • Miso Soup (Winter Mushroom, Tofu, Green Onion)
  • Curry Miso Oden (Squid Surimi, Quail Egg, Daikon, Konnyaku, Carrot)
  • Salt-Broiled Dull Mackerel
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 860

Oden is a type of simmered dish. The ingredients differ depening on the place and household, but include daikon, bamboo surimi, and boiled eggs. What do you like in your oden?

Francois Launet is a french artist whose internet name is “Goomi” (塵), whose Cthulhian art I’ve been a fan of since high school. Here is a comic of his I always bringing to mind when eating. Unfortunately, only

CthulhuRamen

 

But I really honestly do love miso oden.

みそ汁
カレー風味みそおでん
とろさば塩焼き
ごはん
牛乳

Ginger Fry

December 10th, Monday:

DSCN4075

  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Tofu, Green Onion)
  • Vegetable Ginger Stirfry (Pork, Onion, Cabbage, Carrot, Shrimp, Ginger)
  • Breaded Shrimp
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 849

Do you know what miso is made from? Miso is made from soy beans. Soy beans can be made into many foods besides miso such as natto, tofu, and shoyu.

My students were so nice to me today. Knowing I don’t like meat, they did their best to serve me only the vegetables of the Ginger Stirfry

みそ汁
野菜の生姜焼き
エビフライ
ごはん
牛乳