Tuesday, May 30

Natto Not Suki

Today, gentle readers, I passed a giant milestone in Japanese Living. Accompanying the delicious pumpkin and pork dish (really, it was delicious!), veggies and rice was a small cup of... natto. For those of you who don't know what natto is, and missed the previous reference, oh, several weeks ago, please inform yourselves here.

Natto is basically fermented beans. Fermented is a nice way of putting it. If you're like me, and you like beans (I mean the brown, black or red kind, not green) and you also like to leave them in your fridge for several weeks until they are white, then you are already familiar with the smell of natto. Yes, that's it exactly. No exaggeration, no metaphor, not even a simile. I'm talking straight up stank. Like moldy beans.

I went into natto knowing this, but also knowing that it's supposedly extremely good for you, and some people actually enjoy it. In fact, this afternoon I watched every single one of the elementary students in my lunch class suck it down with their rice. Well, "suck" isn't exactly an accurate description of the natto-eating process. You see, if you've ever tried to throw out those weeks-old beans, you'll know that they get sticky, with a sort of goo, not unlike the "taffy" you used to make by mashing and re-mashing marshmallows between your fingers. I only had one bite, but I was finding that noise on my lips hours later.

At any rate, I have been asked on several occasions whether I like natto or not. Unfortunately, I don't know how to say "I've never tried it." Now, however, if someone asks me if I like natto, I can answer with a definitive "No."

And speaking of Japanese food, this weekend I was invited to my former neighbor's house for lunch and was served take-out bento. Now, bento can be fun - it's full of many little things, so you get to try lots of things, like a flavor extravaganza in a box. And if there's something you don't like, well, there's only a little bit of it, so you don't have to feel so bad if you don't eat it. So as I was eating the oddities found in my bento I got to thinking about all the really strange (to me) things I've eaten since I've been here in Japan. And Japan has some wacky things. Not always strange ingredients, but also strange ways of preparing and presenting foods. And strange doesn't necessarily mean bad. On the contrary, I've experienced many delicious, or at least enjoyable flavors since being here.

However, my parents have toyed with the idea of coming to visit me in the fall. When I was home at Christmas time I tried to get my mom to have sushi - and by sushi I mean maki, the rolls where the actual raw fish - if it's even raw - is hidden inside a roll of sticky rice and perhaps accompanied by cream cheese, cucumbers or some other masker. Nothing' doin'. So, remembering this, when I spoke to her this weekend I suggested that it might be a good idea to try out some Japanese foods, just to start to get used to the different flavors and perhaps raw things. Not that everything over here is raw, far from it. But if invited to someone's house, chances are there is going to be at least one raw animal product on the table. Most likely of the fish persuasion.

You see, there's something to be said for having experience in eating foreign foods. We grow up with a certain set of flavors, a certain set of textures and colors, and a certain notion of what is food and what is gross. Foods are like languages: you're set in your ways, but once you start sampling new ones, the easier it is to accept others and enjoy them. Even if my parents didn't hit up every Japanese joint in Buffalo, as long as they tried other kinds of food from other cultures, I think it would be easier for them over here. It's all in your mentality: if you think it's going to be gross, then it will be. But if you think there's a chance you could like it, then you just might!

And in a related story, last night I had a dream that my parents were here, and eating, with chopsticks, and not doing a very good job. My mom was floundering with her sticky rice, and I don't know what my dad was eating. Some kid or guy was here and I tried to tell him, in Japanese, to teach my dad how to use the chopsticks. I can't consider that "dreaming in Japanese," as it was deliberate, and in my dream I was aware of what I was saying: "Oshiete, kudasai... ohashi (pointing to chopsticks)" but the guy didn't understand what I meant. That ain't no dream, folks.


Blogger Melissa said...

Hey! I finally watched an Episode of Naruto...My first one ever! I'll attribute this to your enthusiasm for it (^-^)/ Where do you download it from?

Took the Naruto character test, too! I'm NARUTO! Eat your heart out chica!

9:07 PM

Blogger Abbey said...

Dude, I've never even seen Naruto!!! I'm a Bleach girl! See you tomorrow!

9:24 PM


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