Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time to Go

My favorite meal of all time is the traditional Thanksgiving meal. I will be back in time for it this year but I decided to sneak in an extra one before I go. Thanksgiving has been my favorite meal since I was a kid even though my mother wasn’t a very good cook.

Growing up in Canada Thanksgiving came a month earlier than it does in the US so it was also tradition to have the same turkey dinner on Christmas day as well so I was able to enjoy it twice is a relatively short period of time. In the US there isn’t enough of a break from Thanksgiving to Christmas to make it an event meal and we often cook prime rib for Christmas.

Before leaving for Japan I was thinking that I would be eating a lot of rice and a lot of noodles for the next 3 months so I’d better get in some spuds before the trip. My girlfriend actually suggested the turkey dinner so that’s what we are going to have.

The problem is that I usually over eat when there’s a turkey dinner involved and I don’t want to be over eating the night before I’m going to be traveling. It’s a good idea to think about those sorts of things before you go on a trip that includes a long travel day. So I’m going to show a huge amount of self control and take it easy on the food intake the night before.

I was interrupted while writing just now by a Skype call from my friend in Japan. We were just talking of the final details of meeting at Shinjuku station. Another friend of ours who also works at La Rochelle Restaurant, Iron Chef Sakai Hiroyuki’s, (see my author page at for a link to the restaurant) is going to be with me when I go to the apartment. The appliances in the apartment have Japanese instructions written on them so she’s going to show me how they work. I had worried about that and this will be a big help.

There are two appliances I hope are in the apartment and if they aren’t I intend on buying them. One is a rice cooker and the other is a hot water dispenser. They are both self-explanatory in function but I’ve never owned either of them and I’m guessing that the instructions will be in Japanese. My kanji dictionaries should come in handy at that point.

I plan on cooking a good number of my meals so I will need to make rice and I will be drinking a lot of tea, rather than coffee, while I’m there. The coffee scene in Japan has changed quite a bit since we first went in 2005. I don’t recall seeing too many locations of the giant American coffee chain that year but now they are everywhere. There are also a number of small coffee and pastry shops that are of Japanese origin but I’m going to try and reduce my coffee intake.

One Japanese chain offered a Macha Latte one year. My son and I tried one and it was extremely delicious. It was hard not to drink it fast. Since then I look for all types of food items that are Macha flavored. A Macha Latte is a strange fusion. Macha is a form of tea and a Latte is a coffee drink so you kind of get a two-for-one deal.

Macha is the only form of tea where you actually consume the tea leaves. The leaves are ground to a fine powder using large rock stone mills. The powdered tea is then packaged and the packets placed in ceramic jars and buried for a few months or years, depending on the quality. The powder form also makes it easy to add to other food products like ice cream and cakes.

Of course to drink it the way it is meant to be consumed you place scoops of the tea in a tea bowl, add hot water and then whisk it to a froth and then drink it and thus swallow the actual tea leaves.

Macha can be quite expensive so I won’t be drinking it daily. I plan to drink green tea most of the time I’m in the apartment. It may take a while to get over the need for coffee as the morning starter but I’ve done that before. My other concern is what am I going to do for breakfast. I don’t usually eat much for breakfast and in Japan breakfast can be quite a hearty meal.

While staying at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku we often get free breakfast meal tickets. There are a variety of restaurants offering different styles of food, including western, but I usually go to the restaurant that serves a Japanese breakfast. To me it looks like dinner. There are usually two types of fish, potatoes, taro potatoes, noodles, miso soup and rice porridge. The thing that amazes me the most is the salad bar. There are many salads to choose from and plenty of pickles as well. Not what you would see in America and I’m sure it’s not what you would see served for breakfast in a typical Japanese home.

Salad may be typical however. On a trip to Kochi City on Shikoku we ordered breakfast in the hotel restaurant and were served a bun and a salad. That's it and, I think it was called a continental breakfast. I may look for some cereal and milk to get started but breakfast is one of those things in Japan that I don’t know much about so I’ll try to figure out what is a typical Japanese breakfast as I go. Miso soup with a scoop of rice does sound appealing to me.

So, my final day preparation has begun. The cloths I’m taking have been isolated and are ready for the suitcase. The books I’m taking include my Japanese to English and English to Japanese dictionary, my Kanji learner’s dictionary, a vocabulary builder and a Core Words and Phrases dictionary. They will be needed.

During my conversation with my friend this morning his girlfriend said to me, kyosukete (that’s what I figured it was spelled) and they explained it means be careful and they say it the way we say, “Have a safe trip.” I asked them to repeat the word a few times and thought I had it right. After the call I looked it up in my dictionary but couldn’t find anything like it. I then looked in my vocabulary builder and in the Feelings section, sub section Expressing Emotions, I found it but it is spelled, Ki o tsukete. I was close but close doesn't help so much in a dictionary.

I always tell Japanese people that their language is beautiful (kireina) but also difficult (muzukashi) and they always nod and say, Even for me. (Watshi mo.)

I will of course review my book selection a few times before I pack.

After I finish writing I’m off to cut the lawn for the final time this year and then I have to start cooking the turkey.

Next time you hear from me I will be in my apartment in Japan. Talk to you then.

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