Tuesday, March 06, 2007

minor miracles and mundane mischief

I've been astounded by the quality hothouse Japanese produce that gives us a consistent stream of beautiful large clean carrots without dirt. If I'm lazy, I don't even have to peel 'em! And that's not to mention my glee at gnashing the perfectly formed and forever fresh cukes and sumptuous strawberries all winter. At a price of course, but hey I'm now a firm believer in the you-get-what-you-pay-for cliché. Just don't make me think about GMOs and chemicals because organics are next to impossible to find here (and totally unaffordable).

On a non-food note: since we arrived, Alain's talked about starting a list of little conveniences discovered daily, like train window armrests (why don't they do that in Canada?), foldable plastic vases for the office and other smart little Japanese attention-to-detail inventions that we've now begun to take for granted, I think.

Of course there are down-sides to that obsessive attention-to-detail, or so this environmentalist opines. The over packaging of food drives me totally berserk. Fruit and vegetables are very rarely to be found in their naked form. Some are even cupped in protective stretch weave-foam, then put on a styrofoam tray and then wrapped in plastic. We've bought cheese that was wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, then sealed in a box. Crackers and cookies are usually individually wrapped, then placed in a clear plastic tray to hold them in place and then enveloped in a bag. Arrgghhh! The worst of the torture is having to throw all this stuff into our "non-burnable" garbage bin (as opposed to the organics and paper in our other bin, which is incinerated) since it is not recyclable here in Tokyo--only PET bottles and #1 plastic are.

And that same freshness obsession has tainted my new favourite snack, which I've had to give up in a quest to end my migraines. Sembei, or Japanese rice crackers, contain nitrates, a common migraine trigger. I just do not have the words to cover a) the variety of kinds available nor b) how addictive those light crunchies are. Sembei, I miss you!

Lastly, I must say that living here has opened my eyes to how prevalent stereotypes can be. I'm beyond tired of hearing non-Japanese making blanket statements about Japanese people (how they're shy, reserved, quiet, serious). Grrrr!


oh man, carol-san, senbei is the best EVER! in fact, that's the first word i ever learned to write in japanese!

my exchange students eri and kana brought some from yokohama, and i forced them to write that word down for me. when i went to japan a few months later, my host family asked me what i'd like to eat, and i happily shouted "senbei!" and wrote it on a piece of paper.

when they took me to the grocery store and placed a bag of senbei in my hands, i hugged it to my chest and sighed "sugoi!" and "oishii!" they laughed so hard, but i was euphoric! they gave me a huge package of it to take home!

have you had daifuku mochi? i can't remember if i asked that already. that's an amazing dessert! oh man, i miss japanese snacks!

hey, do you facebook, by the way? that thing is ADDICTIVE, and i'm collecting people like pokémon or something!
awww, over-packaging makes me sad

Just a quick note about the organics in Japan. I spoke to a fellow at one of the organic stores here in vanc. They used to export organic cereal to Japan, but then Japan changed their criteria for labeling foodstuff as "organic" there. The standards were so high that it was near impossible to comply. The reason I bring this up is this: could there be organics in Japan that are really good, but they can't be labeled as such? Might be worth checking out, eh?
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