Archive for May, 2011

May 30th, 2011

Food Fight

Once in a while, you encounter something just so brilliant you want to share it with the world. I’m not talking about babies/cats/dog doing something silly/cute/dumb, I have another obsession–food. Food videos are usually not that entertaining. They are there to teach people how to cut their Thanksgiving turkey or how to eat with chopsticks. So, when I saw this, I was almost jealous. Why couldn’t I have made something like this? The answer was obvious–I don’t know anything about animation. This is short video is a brief history of (American-centric) wars, but using food! America is represented by burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets; Japan by sushi; Russia by beef stroganoff, and so on. It’s just brilliant. Here’s the link:

Just in case you need to clarify the character, a cheat sheet is provided by the creators.

May 30th, 2011

Souvenir

My mother is a 5’2, 90 pound, typically skinny Japanese lady in her late 60s.  For as long as I can remember, the only things she loves to eat (and often times only things she actually are) are bacon and any kind of cured meat, Skippy Peanut Butter, Velveeta Cheese and endless varieties of salted nuts.  Whenever my dad took me to a Tokyo Giants baseball game, she didn’t ask for a souvenir hat or pennant; she asked us to bring home 5 hotdogs.  She would toss the buns and eat all 5 wieners.  Born at the end of World War II, she loves American food more than Japanese food.

When the war ended, America introduced many new ideas to Japan, from democracy and women’s rights to the western diet, which included lots of milk and meat.  My mother, who was born and raised in Yokohama, where many Americans resided at the time, was exposed to some of the best and worst of American culture–you be the judge. To this day, whenever I go home to Tokyo, I try to satisfy some of her cravings.  Her favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, Cheez Whiz, and Skippy Peanut Butter.

Sure, there are jars of peanut butter in Japan, too, but according to her, they are are too sweet, and Skippy  jar in Japan is a quarter of the size of the Costco giant found here in the states.   These big jars are still overwhelming for me as well.  I had never been to Costco until 5 years ago, which makes sense, because I’ve mostly lived by myself, and  had no use for a brick of toilet paper or surplus sized anything.. But for any Japanese person, who has lived without massive wholesale markets, these places are fascinating .  My husband gave me a Costco card when we got engaged and it was, sadly, a very exciting moment of my life.  My biggest discovery was that their fresh seafood tends to be better than that from Whole Foods.  In 1999, the first Costco opened in a suburb of Japan and now, there are 9 stores across Japan, but I haven’t seen one near the Tokyo metro area, where a lease probably costs quite a fortune, and quite frankly I haven’t seen a Costco-sized vacant lot in Tokyo in my whole life.  Which is probably a good thing. It’s hard enough buying gifts for parents– at least I have a few go-to souvenirs for my mother that she can’t find for herself!

May 29th, 2011

Bagel

Growing up in Japan, finding a bagel was about as easy as finding that tree grows money.  When we visited New York City on a field trip, one of the breakfast stop was at a bagel shop, where I ate my first one, it was love at first bite.  With the addition of slathered-on cream cheese, I was hooked.  Today’s Tokyo boasts a few chains where one can find this delicacy, but comparing their version to the real New York bagel is like comparing frozen pizza to wood-fired oven pizza.  This is surprising, considering that the Japanese are known for perfecting products; even in the bread world, where Japanese baguettes could stand up to Paris’ best.  From this, I wonder why the Japanese bagel hasn’t reached perfection.  People say it’s all in the water, so perhaps that could be it.
My husband who is both a bread snob, and Jewish, always has a bagel on his to-do list after arriving in New York from Los Angeles.  Once again, is it the New York water or is it some long lost bit of know-how whose secret is kept by a select group of Manhattan bakers? Larry King has recently tried to bring the best of the East Coast to the West by opening a new bagel shop in Beverly Hills using “Brooklynize” water…
I love a dense, chewy sesame bagel slightly toasted, with  a schmear of cream cheese and tomato.  But with over 600 calories and 20-plus grams of fat, it won’t be a part of my daily menu until a designer creates a fashionable line of stretch pants.  When it’s time to treat myself with the best, I want only a doughy delight that will rise to the occasion.  For that, I head to Murray’s Bagels in the West Village in New York City.

I have to give the Japanese credit for trying to popularize the bagel, but they still need a bit more research and development to recreate the magic of something as special as Murray’s.  They could also use a bit of work on their English grammar, as the picture below shows a Japanese bagel shop in Roppongi, which I’m assuming, is trying to convey the idea that they offer a bagel of the month.