Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Take Over Wednesday: Strange food in a strange land

Hi, it's Adam here again. Cheree has let me once again take over her blog to share a bit about life in Japan.

Living in Japan you tend to run across some pretty weird stuff, especially when food is concerned. Being such a small country the local diet consists primarily of rice and fish. Meat is pretty hard to come by, so every month around payday folks here have 肉晩 (nikuban) which is a special night when they have a special meal of meat. Being from Australia, a country notorious for high prices and high meat consumption, I tend to buy meat whenever I feel like it. Telling them you come from a country that doesn't eat rice and has meat every night will guarantee you blow some minds.

If I have a choice I tend to avoid some of the more funky food stuffs, although I have eaten horse (when in Rome and whatnot), there are times when avoidance is not an option. One of those times is 給食 (kyuushoku), school lunches. I teach in elementary schools so it's a lottery what I'll get for lunch. Some days, it's tasty delicious curry, other days unidentifiable strips of what I'd assume is some kind of plant, strange but still edible. But then comes the days when you strike out.

Something that is infamous among foreigners is the dreaded natto. Officially called 'fermented soybeans', but personally I call them 'rotted soybeans'. With a smell and texture like dog vomit, you can't fault people for disliking the stuff. I can eat it if I have to, but once you get past the horrific smell and spiderweb like stickiness the flavour is kind of meh. Apparently, you can get used to it, but I don't see why you would.

And then you come to what I like to call the 'sadist specials', dishes that push me to the very limit, that given a choice I'd walk away and never look back. One such dish consisted of whole small fish deep fried and served up, heads and all. Out of politeness I pushed past my squeamishness and tried to eat what I was given, but after a few bites I made the mistake of looking at my food. Once I saw the eggs, I knew I was in for a big old plate of NOPE. I've only run across it once since (today, unfortunately) and this time they didn't even bother battering them. Yeah, not something I look forward to.

I'm not that big on eating food that I can still see the animal in. When I see whole tentacles thrown into the dish I tend to want out immediately. I guess I just have too active an imagination to deal with it. At one time I was invited to a 飲み会 (nomikai), a drinking party, with the teachers and the featured centre piece on the table was a whole gutted fish that was still twitching. The teachers all found it funny when I refused to look at it, commenting on how I'm such a gentle soul just because I didn't want a gasping fish staring me in the face while I was eating. They found it neat, I found it incredibly disturbing.

There are many foods here that you'd never think edible elsewhere, like drinkable yogurt, always next to the milk in the exact same packaging, how I hate it so, but then you have the food that is simply amazing. As I mentioned last time, Karaage-bou are simply awesome. You just need to take the good with the bad. Somethings you'd think you'd hate, like jellyfish, but in turn find you actually like. You just need to keep an open mind and try as much as you can.


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