Archive for ‘Peanut Butter’

July 26th, 2011

PB & J 3

Most of my Japanese friends love American culture with one glaring exception: PB&J.  Whenever I mention that my favorite snack is celery with peanut butter, I’m greeted with the comment that I’m way too Americanized.  They are probably right about that. But regaining my Japanese identity is as easy as grossing out my anti-fish loving husband by eating dried anchovies as a snack.

The variations on the traditional PB&J would confuse my friends even more.  Mendocino Farms, a gourmet sandwich shop in Los Angeles, offers a Bacon & Housemade Peanut Butter Sandwich on grilled panini.  Based on its price of $8.75, I’d have to say that this is one of the more sophisticated versions of this sandwich that I’ve encountered.  Along with applewood smoked bacon & homemade PB, it has caramelized bananas, crushed honey roasted almonds and green apples.  I actually do love this sandwich, mostly because I love the bacon, whose saltiness paired with the sweetness of the banana compliment the rather bland PB.  Maybe if I start out by stating that PB&J with bacon was Elvis’ favorite, I might get a few of my Japanese friends to take a bite.

PB&J has come a long way from the kid’s sandwich of choice.  There are PB&J ice creams, donuts, and cookies, but a PB&J burger?  Sounds strange, but what could be more American than combining these two signature classics?  It would never happen, you say? Apparently, you’ve never been to Mo’s restaurant in Burbank where the “Foggybottom Burger” sits prominently on the menu.  At first, it seems like a traditional burger with its nicely cooked patty and fresh buns, but the addition of peanut butter and sour plum jam set it apart from the rest.

When you assemble these ingredients and take your first bite, you taste nothing but the peanut butter, however, by adding sliced pickles, somehow it works (surprisingly).   Our waiter said all his customers are skeptical before they order, but once they’ve tried it, his feedback is 100% positive.  Love it or hate it, it’s an experience, to say the least.

While the thought would surely turn off the typical Japanese palate, it’s worth a try.  After all, turnabout is fair play: to most Americans, the thought of eating raw fish seemed crazy thirty years ago, and today, there’s a sushi restaurant on virtually every corner of Main Street U.S.A.

June 30th, 2011

PB & J 2

In an attempt to sneak in tofu into my husband’s diet, I rely on my secret weapon, “tofu bread” from the Japanese grocery store.  For those anti tofu texture/flavor folks, don’t worry, this tofu bread is actually really good.  You won’t notice it’s actually made with tofu unless you see the package.  With or without tofu, if you haven’t tried Japanese sandwich bread, I recommend you try some soon. The slices are bigger, softer and bit sweeter than the typical American brands, like wonder bread (but, unfortunately with a shorter shelf life).  You can generally get similar styles at Chinese or Korean bakeries, as well.   Japanese bread is one of the very few things my husband actually enjoys.  He survives our Japan trips by hitting the bakeries stocking up with 2 baguettes that he parcels out throughout the day.

PB & J is actually a popular dish in the breakfast rotation at our house.  I make it using the tofu bread and freshly ground almond butter. Instead of jelly, I use banana and honey.

1) Spread almond butter and sliced bananas2) Drizzle honey or maple syrup3) voila!My husband says PB & J needs to be cut into squares (cut into 4 pieces), it makes sense considering this is typical children’s meal.

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!