Thursday, June 24, 2010

Food In Japan

Alright, I'm going to try to do two blogs today, one about food and one about the last part of our time here. But the food blog is going to be way easier to do, so it comes first.

The thing about food here is that sometimes it seems so normal you let your guard down, and then sometimes it is the weirdest thing you can imagine. Earlier this week John and I went to an awesome American style pizza place where we got greasy pepperoni pizza and legitimate ceasar salad. It was so good! But you have to be very careful with pizza, mayonnaise and corn are both normal pizza toppings here.

John already told you about the cheddar cheese disaster. We had both been craving it, and it's not served anywhere. But I found some in the stores. Generally it comes in a block about the size of a deck of cards and costs 900 yen ($9-10.) I almost bought some, but then I saw they had kraft brand, which I bought because I recognized it. Seriously, do you see any warnings that this is not real cheddar cheese?

But this is what we found inside:

It's American cheese. Who on earth would want to eat a wedge of American cheese that thick?

Another thing Japanese people love is packaging. Everything is packaged! And then when you buy it, they might wrap it again, put it in a bag, tape the bag shut, and then give it to you. For example, these apples have been put in individual cushioned holders, placed two in a box, and then the box was wrapped in plastic.

An individually packaged lime

My personal favorite the "Monkey Banana"

Complaining and making fun aside, a lot of the food here is really good. Freshness is very important here, so the food is always very high quality, and the presentation is usually beautiful! Even if the food doesn't taste great it always looks delicious. At lunchtime many people buy prepackaged meals (called bento) that are usually very good. Several options I have tried are rice with a scrambled egg on top with curry beside it, slices of chicken with a sort of egg salad dressing with rice and vegetables, or cucumber and egg sandwiches. All of them have been pretty enjoyable. John normally gets sushi with salmon and pesto on it for lunch.

One thing that really surprised me here was the number of bakeries. Japanese people love bread and pastries! You find them nearly every block with usually more choices than you would find in a bakery in the US. On one of my first days here Ali, Hunter, and I got cupcakes in Tokyo Station that were amazing! Mine had a decorative piece of royal icing on top, vanilla icing, and raspberry and rose jam filling. Delicious!

It was called a "veil cupcake" because of the white decoration on top

The craziest thing John and I have eaten here, was in Kyoto. John ordered meat sashimi, which is thin slices of raw beef. They have to use extremely fresh meat in order for this to be safe (and every cow in Japan is tested for mad cow disease), and I was pretty scared to try it. Surprisingly, it was really good. There wasn't a whole lot of flavor, but it was extremely tender, and really not bad at all.

One thing I notice here is that I'm always thirsty. Drinks here are very expensive, and tiny! You might pay $4.50 for an 8 oz. coke. Now, I realize that a lot of things in America are comically big, but look at how small this glass of water is.

And forget about trying to get a refill

I had to ask 3 times just to get that glass of water in the first place. Alcohol is even more expensive. The cheapest beer on tap in most places around here is 900 yen (which is about $10 right now). And cocktails can easily be more than that. Strangely though, liquor in a liquor store is much less expensive. We bought a bottle of bombay sapphire for $18!

Well, I've got to run and mail some postcards and turn in our train passes. But I'll try to do another post today to wrap up our time here. Thanks for reading!


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