Friday, January 20, 2012

Now THAT is a bento

A bento (弁当) is a Japanese boxed lunch. Living in San Francisco with its notable Japanese population, you did see some places selling bentos but they had nothing on this baby. We have here (in clockwise order starting from the top right): fried shrimp with tartar sauce, sashimi (tuna, yellow fin tuna, and squid), carrots/boiled shrimp/mushroom/ and a type of tofu that is, while being delicious, not entirely unlike eating a profoundly absorbent sponge, pickled cucumbers, sushi, teriyaki chickien/shrimp manifestation #4/broiled eel, and a piece of melon in the middle.

Now, that all may be great, but for this masterpiece of variety and shrimp, please be prepared to part way with about ¥4,000 to ¥5,000 (close to $60 at current exchange rates).

You typically see these babies at funerals or other events of great import.

These are more typical of a kid's daily boxed lunch. But clearly their parents don't love them because they didn't get up at 2:30 in the morning and go bat-shit crazy with a piece of seaweed and some scissors to create this:

Yeah - it is all edible. This shits all over those brown-bag lunches where your mom put in an extra cookie. Face it. Your parents just don't love you.

Please immediatly ship 130,000,000 English/Japanese Dictionaries to Japan

Welcome to Tits Cafe. Today's special is crushing disappointment if you took this name literally.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

This dish features some of the aforementioned items I was unable to identify.

There are obviously carrots and peas in a pod. The gray flower-shaped items were koyadoufu
(高野豆腐) which is a type of tofu I have never encountered. The green/white/orange pieces in the bottom right are all pieces of konnyaku (蒟蒻) which is inexplicably translated as "devil's tongue" making it sound profoundly evil. Although in fact it is merely a potato-based gelatin which is as far from Satan as I can conceive for a food product. The unknown object was the quarter circle items to the top left. Those are pieces of ebi-imo (海老芋) which means shrimp-potato. So-called because when unprepared, they have crescent-shaped black curves on their skin that resemble the shell of a shrimp.

Moving on...

This is a red sake made from red rice (赤飯).

I was told it tastes like wine in one of the more inaccurate statements I have ever been lucky enough to hear in my life. However, it was rather tasty so I shouldn't complain.

More to eat on New Year's Eve

When we get down in America, we get down. When there is a party or event to be had, we go balls-out when it comes to food. We wrap shit in bacon, we deep fry things that are technically speaking, a cookie, we invent new animals because apparently nature failed to supply something savory enough (see: Turducken - A turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken)

Turducken: Because God completely failed to predict the American palate - omniscient my ass

And even after creating that poultry-based version of the Human Centipede we somehow decide that that still isn't enough so we wrap a turducken in bacon to create a turbaducken:

When your holiday meal is one participant up on the monstrosity created in "Human Centipede (First Sequence)" you know you are on to something truly special

Now let us take a moment to consider the Japanese New Year's meal. We have already seen that it starts with a bit of soba (which is a buckwheat noodle for the record).

Next we move on to the main course:

We put a chicken in a duck in a turkey. Here it is tuna, squid, and small portions...with no bacon. We can now officially stop doing news broadcasts wondering why we are so fat and just look at this picture.

Here is the main dish we all get...

7 things not to bring to a tailgate outside San Francisco.

More more more...later later later...

Toshi Koshi Soba

年越しそば (Toshikoshi soba - lit. beyond the year soba) is a common dish to eat on New Year's eve. The reason for soba is that it is long and thin - which is how your life should be. Long and not too strenuous. The opposite would be a fat and thick life, for which we turn to James Dean as our model.

The noodles represent your ideal way of living

He represents the opposite of soba noodles.

New Year's Countdown

Well, it's that time of year again - 御正月 (Oshougatsu - New Year!) The time of year where we look back and reflect on all that has passes in the past year: The great earthquake in Hokuriku, the epic collapse of the Red Sox in September, and the passing of Kim Jong-Il (or as reported in the North Korean news "Dear Leader Heroically Slain Single-Handedly Defending Our Glorious Paradise Against a Horde of 50 Meter Ameri-Bots")

And New Year's means eating and drinking until both activities seem repulsive to you at which point you continue to do both.

It all started with a trip to the Nishiki (錦) Market in Kyoto. This market is open year-round, but becomes more clogged that Uncle Phil's arteries after 55 years of triple cheese burgers around New Year's.

This picture completely undercuts my above statement, but you can just make out where the crowd starts beyond the shoe store, and you can see that there this isn't exactly a wide open passage that allows for throngs to easily maneuver.

Now after 8 years in Japan, I thought I had a pretty good handle on most of the culinary offerings of Japan, but my "I know what that is" ratio dropped to about 1:2 at this market. There was 海鼠 (namako - sea cucumber, though the kanji literally read as "sea rat"). There were half-quails roasted, white miso, pickled EVERYTHING, fish heads, dried fish on sticks, cod roe, pollack roe, herring roe, duck, sweets, $800 pots and pans, every form of seaweed known to human kind, green tea of all kinds, black bean tea, and my favorite - Octopus lollipops (Where the head was made of a boiled quail egg and the legs were the legs of a miniature octopus.)

This is the treat that kids were clamoring for at the market, while in the US our kids beg for cotton candy and orange soda...and guess whose kids will get early-onset diabetes, and whose will live to 142...just guess.

More as the night goes on...

Pornography and Marijuana: All you need to know about dressing for school

Middle schools in Japan go all in for the uniform (as most pedophiles will attest to). The uniform isn't just a ordination of what you can where, it is also a list of prohibitions against what you can not wear. For example, despite the sub-zero temperatures we have recently experienced, the middle school students at one school I work at are forbidden from wearing hats. Mind you this is not just in class, but extends to the walk from home to school. Now, the idea that cold weather will make you sick has been thoroughly debunked. However it is a well stated scientific fact that cold weather is cold. So while perhaps it isn't causing any adverse effects health-wise, it does seem a pointless stipulation to prevent kids from being warm while walking to school.

All this goes to say, that kids have very little latitude for self-expression when it comes to being around their peers at school. One place that students do have free reign is in their pencil cases and their socks. And the children have chosen...let's say...poorly.

On the pencil case front, while there are plenty of sports-themed and cute-themed, and inexplicably-humanized-object-themed pencil cases to chose from.

This pencil case answers the long-asked question: Just how close can you get to copy-right infringement before Disney will send Mickey over to personally cram a cease-and-desist order up your ass? The answer is "A handful of letters, a definite article, and a red shirt."

However, one of the more popular symbols on the pencil cases of many students is a nice big marijuana leaf. Not that it comes on the pencil cases as-is, but is usually applied afterwords as a sticker. Now before you just assume that these kids are all getting higher than the Sky Tree after school, it should be pointed out that they more-likely-than-not have absolutely no idea what the sticker is. My guess is that they think it is a Japanese maple leaf:

guess which one gets you high: that's right, the maple leaf, because I get high on life man...

Let's move on to socks. Now this applies to the girls, where one of the most popular embroideries you will find on middle school girls' socks is the Playboy bunny. Again, I think they have no idea that their hard-earned sock-yen are going into the pockets of this man:

That's right Mariko, your socks paid for the pills I will take that will allow me to do unspeakable things to these three later. Thanks!