Sunday, October 30, 2011

all about food

I have found myself lately lacking the motivation to post. 
There is a huge combination of factors, but one is the feeling that my day to day is just too day to day--too quotidian to be of interest. When I explained that to my little sis, she asked some questions as prompts and one of them was about food. "food..." she asked. "...what do you miss from the states, what can you get there, what are your favorites, what do you usually have for dinner?"  Oh such good questions. Food is love and joy and the weary boredom of the supermarket. Yeah, I can say a bit about food.

So, what do I miss in the way of food from the states?  The very first thing that comes to mind is cereal and twizzlers (black, red, chocolate--all of them). I miss having a cereal aisle that you can get lost in and that it takes like 15 or 20 minutes to choose what kind you'll eat tomorrow because there are just that many to pick from.

The biggest reverse culture shock I get when I go back to the states is in the supermarket. It is pure stimulus overload and I want to buy and eat all the cool things that I cannot get my hands on (easily) here like lime chile tortilla chips and bags of rocket and frozen dinners (which I know are not that good, but how easy life would be...!). I miss the spice aisle with all is possiblities--our choices are pretty limited here with simple garlic, basil, thyme and their other italian cousins and red pepper. There are some cool Japanese spices like Seven spice red pepper (not that hot), and a little guy called "Yuzu Kosho" --yuzu is a citrus and kosho is pepper, and this packs some heat which is usually sorely lacking in the other seasonings that we can get. I use it in noodles and with meat.

So, anyway it is the supermarkets in the US that make me swoon. I know that if/when I leave Japan there will be things that I would/will miss. Things like really fresh tofu and soba noodles. But right here, right now I miss variety and choices.

What do we eat?
lots of white rice.
oooh the shame!
I cook brown rice sometimes because I like its texture and know that it is healthy. Still, I have a husband who is Japanese and of a certain age and brown rice to him is like serving up squirrel; it was what people ate when they were poor and desperate. White rice was for the rich and royal (and gave them beri-beri too, but who cares about that little detail?). He has to have white rice once a day or he doesn't feel like he has eaten.  We eat some kind of main dish like ginger pork or spicy eggplant and miso soup and white rice many, many times each month. We don't eat a lot of fish or seafood because I, being land-locked Utah raised, never learned to deal with scales or bones and Shuji, amazingly enough, does not care for ocean creatures much--except for salmon (which I see as a river fish anyway...) We also top our white rice in traditional "donburi" ricebowl fashion. Teriyaki chicken with leek and savory chicken and egg with onion are two favorites.

We eat a lot of tofu in the summer because it is so good and cold and fresh. We eat it "as is" with grated ginger, soy sauce and chopped green onion. We eat a lot of noodles in the summer too. Somen noodles are good for hot days when we don't want to cook and are dipped in a savory ginger laden sauce.

We eat a lot of veggies--whatever is in season. Mostly there is eggplant, napa cabbage, bok choy, leeks and at least three kinds of mushrooms--maitake are my faves-- for a variety of stir fry or as a topping for chow mein. We also use "kabocha" pumpkin to make soups or stir fry with garlic and soy sauce. We eat quite a bit of okra, but it is expensive by US standards--as is pretty much everything here and amazingly I can get zucchini so we use it a lot in pasta sauce or steamed, baked or brownied--i make a lot of cookies because the snack aisle is seriously lacking too.

There are really only two kinds of potatoes here and neither of them are the great-for-baking Idaho kind. In fall and winter I make a lot of chicken, veggie, bean soups and stews with my slow cooker. I bake bread--well the bread machine does and so we eat a real mix of traditional Japanese recipes and "Western" food. Shuji loves fajitas (I am going to have to break down and make enchiladas pretty soon because I cannot just go to down to Taco Time or the local good Mexican restaurant to get my fix--tamales-oh god, are something that I have put behind me) and barbecued or pulled pork. I can get tortillas, cheese, salsa, pretty much anything from a store called FBC (foreign buyer's club) and there is a service called "the flying pig" that can send us food from the two or three Costco stores in Japan. But ordering is expensive and a pain--because you have to plan in advance and one does not always want to plan dinner that far in advance. We get our oatmeal from the flying pig and that is what we eat every day for breakfast. It is boring, but it keeps our cholesterol levels low. (and makes great cookies as all good Utah girls know.)

So, I guess we are pretty healthy with what we eat. We only eat out maybe once a month, Indian food or eel or things like tempura that we don't make at home. Sometimes we get pizza (Pizza hut, they will top your pie with tuna or squid, but you can't get ham & pineapple) or take out from the local "bento" place. They make boxed lunches (that include white rice!) and if meetings run late they make a decent dinner. Miyazaki has pretty good ramen too, but eating out is also pricey and even though neither of us have high blood pressure, I worry about what all this salt in our diet (soy sauce in everything!!) is doing to my/our stomach(s).

I could go on, but will stop here. I am sure I have tried your patience this far. So, there you have it: FOOD--what I eat and what I miss. Time to get up and go push the button on the rice cooker--vegetable stir fry and yep, you guessed it--white rice for dinner tonight.

copy cat--been there, done that

22 things 
--that i feel pretty good about having done

1.  climbed mt. fuji (before it got all cool to do)
2. broke up with my 5 year high school/uni boyfriend because I knew i was becoming a stepford wife
3.  rode an elephant in Thailand, slept in a hammock on the River Kwai
4. read whole books in japanese and french
5. went to see "Paris Texas" with my brother in Paris, France
6.  kayaked some scary rivers (class 3 & 4)(west coast, east coast & Japan)
7. hiked in (up) and tented overnight--have not done this enough, but am glad that I have done it.
8. walked up a river/canyon when I knew there were leeches
9.  lived w/in the same zip code for 20 years
10. got my master's in under 2 years while working full time
11. learned to drive on both sides of the road--really scared some poor woman down by my old post office--sorry! before i got the hang of it.
12. got married in Vegas and honeymooned at the rental beach house where my grandparents moved before they bought their retirement house
13.  worked at a Goodyear tire store for 5 years in high school and college
14. dated a rodeo rider
15.  got a job at a very good uni that is hard to get into as an "unknown/darkhorse" just out of her master's program-that's part of what got me this job and my "associate professor" status
16. spent three summers at my aunt's in AK doing odd jobs for her father-in-law, painting, gophering and doing grunt work to earn enough to pay for my way back again each summer
17. called the cops on my mom's third ex when he broke his restraining order
18. seen a sea turtle while stand-up-paddle boarding on the ocean
19. typed 2 academic books for an author when i was in college for some extra money. did it on an early mac using a program called "pagemaker" and it included the recreating the original graphs and charts from scratch
20. got a job offer at 2 UT high schools to teach general English, etc. (starting pay 16,800) opted for better pay (roughly 26,000) and less work (teaching conversation) in an exotic setting (ha! Wakayama!) and thus started my "career" of teaching at 20. celebrated my 21st birthday in japan by climbing the above-mentioned Mt. Fuji and spending the night at a temple on Mt. Koya.
21. watched summer fireworks from the top of a mountain overlooking the sea
22. Showed my Japanese husband how to use the ATM make a wire transfer (they are really complicated here and can do so much more than just let you get at your cash) at our local Japanese bank

so those are 22+ things that are kind of worth mentioning. And I do like the idea of 22 things that one has done rather than 22 things that one has not done for a kind of "yep, this is who I am" sharing post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Questioning--Is this who I was supposed to be?

It is easy to look up and wonder. It is easy to look around or down and wonder.
It is easy to look with envy at someone else's greener seeming grass.

In the process of some reading for a continuing education course I am planning I ran across the following blurb:

[Ms. A.--definitely not her real name] "works at TESOL and has her Masters in ESL administration. She has managed a school in Vietnam, trained teachers in South Korea, implemented school reform in Qatar, run a circus train classroom for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and taught 8th grade writing in Maryland. Prior to all that, Sarah was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. She is also a certified ashtanga yoga instructor and has managed an eco-lodge in Chugchilan, Ecuador.

I love my husband, like my job most of the time and sometimes feel like I am making some kind of difference for a few people. But wow! All of those near miss coincidences: I was going to go the Peace Corps route before I chose to come and work in Japan. (I chose the security of a steady paycheck over the chances of malaria and dysentery.) I occasionally do yoga and have been to the circus, but "managed" and "run" are not verbs that really go with my life. --except for maybe "managed to stay married" and have "run" out of oatmeal for breakfast because I forgot to order it from the international food store.

Ah, well...Envy is what I felt when I read all that this woman had accomplished. And knowing that at the heart of my jealous feelings was a seed of truth that I just lack the drive and desire to go that far.

Sigh. Off to "manage" a team taught Intro to Sociology class for 26 lovely freshmen.
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