ex-pat to plain ol’ patriot: the american south as a foreign land.

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oh my, there has been a lot in transition.

its hard to believe i’ve been away from pmk for a little over a year now.  i don’t want to bore you with the details, so i’ll just rattle them all off as fast as i can.

moved back to america.  adopted a dog that looks like a pokemon.  got a job at a corporate market firm on a complete whim.  moved to nashville tennessee with the company four months later.  became a whiz at getting people to buy things they didn’t need or want.  made some fat stacks, but felt bad.  quit like a boss.  got engaged to the love of my life after 8.5 years of dating.  decided to come on back to the poor man’s kitchen.  almost everything about my life has changed in some regard, but the pmk is still my home on the internet.

it is worth noting at this point that, although i haven’t been posting, i have been cooking up a storm since i left the far east.  i’ve departed the fish-laden shores of japan and come to a land far more bizarre than i ever could have imagined.

the south.  or maybe souf.  i’m not sure how its pronounced, that seems to be the way the locals say it.

the food here is magical in its own way, and over the past eight months i’ve learned to embrace it.  the “meat and three” concept makes up for its unimaginative name by being pretty darn delicious.  soul food restaurants and tiny tex-mex joints litter the culinary landscape.  hot chicken rubbed with enough spices it is dangerous to put your hands near your eyes, which is inevitable because of the tears streaming down your face.  collard greens, whatever those are.

people down here talk about things like deep-fried beer and aren’t sure whether or not it is a travesty.  you can’t buy liquor on sundays and grocery stores don’t carry wine.  every road is a highway and nobody can drive.  there is a festival in memphis next week in which 84 tons of pork will be consumed over the course of three days.

i’m scared.  but excited.

pmk is going through a drastic change and i’m dragging you guys along for the ride.  goodbye fresh fish straight out of the ocean, hello whole roast chickens.  less teriyaki, more barbecue.  the return of cheese.  and believe it or not, i even have an oven (note the conspicuous lack of the word “toaster”).

more to come,

the poor man

 

yakiniku: more than meats the eye.

until 1871, it was illegal to eat beef in japan.

yeah, you read that right.  in fact, it was generally frowned upon to eat any kind of meat taken from livestock until the midst of the meiji restoration.  chicken, pork, beef, you name it.  while the reason for such an edict is obviously up for debate, many historians think that it was originally put in place to prevent famine.  raising large livestock, particularly cows, requires an excessive amount of land and feed which can be put to better use on humans.  put simply, beef wasn’t efficient.

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wasabi mac: now that’s what i call using your noodle.

in today’s rapidly globalizing society, it seems like you can find at least one restaurant of almost any major country’s cuisine regardless of where you go.  there are french restaurants in china, chinese restaurants in the united states, japanese restaurants in canada, and italian restaurants in japan.  you get the idea.

i think some people (incorrectly) assume that these cuisines make it across borders and oceans relatively intact.  when a country imports the food of another nation, it tends to insert a its own local flair.  a chinese person eating at a chinese restaurant in america would, more than likely, be very confused as to why the food is audaciously titled “chinese food,” seeing as it bears almost no resemblance to the cuisine they ate growing up.  conversely, many chinese people i have met in japan insist that the food served in chinese restaurants in japan is better tasting and more authentic than the food served in chinese restaurants in china.

but i digress.  this post isn’t about how nations get foreign cuisine all wrong.

this post is about the world’s most misunderstood condiment.

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japan and pizza: you can’t miss what you never had.

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holy bejeesus, pizza is amazing.

sure, a lot of the stuff you can get from delivery chains in the usa is absolutely terrible quality.  not to mention frozen pizzas, which are (on the whole) nasty and super shady.  it has become a lazy man’s food in the states because it is cheap, delivered directly to your house or place of work, and requires no utensils to consume.  even elementary schools use it as the default school lunch because no kid can refuse greasy bread and melted cheese garnished with meat and (god willing) a few slices of vegetables.

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ketchup rice, television, and the usa.

the conversations we have while we eat are pretty amazing sometimes.

while i was at school the other day, i decided to eat my school lunch in one of my first grade classes.  i love eating with my first graders, and for the most part they love eating with me, too.  i always get bombarded with all kinds of awesome questions, and i am always more than happy to answer them.  “misha-sensei, what is your favorite color?”  “misha-sensei, are you married?  do you have kids?”  “misha-sensei, do you like mini-tomatoes?”  the list goes on.

a few days ago, however, i was shocked and a little saddened by a question a little girl sitting next to me asked.  about halfway through the meal (during which i was making faces and goofy jokes and thumbwrestling kids), she turned to me all of the sudden and asked, “misha-sensei, are you really from america?”  i was a little confused and taken aback, but i said yes.

what she said next threw me for a loop.  “but you aren’t scary.  americans are scary, right?”

as an american in japan, what do you say to something like that?  what can you say?

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a fish, a man, and a super sharp knife.

i like to tell my friends that, when it comes to cooking, there are three kinds of people in this world.

first, there are the people who have a million different knives, none of which are sharp or useful.  second, there are the people who use their knife until it is no longer sharp, and then throw it away and buy a new one.

last, there are people who have one knife that they keep so ridiculously sharp it is at risk of cutting through the food, the cutting board, and the counter beneath.

while this categorization is a little bit cut and dry (no pun intended), there is some truth to it.  i admit, i used to be the second type of person.  but i can confidently say that now, i am the third type through and through.  in my opinion, one knife is all you need as long as you care for it and know how to use it properly.

and when it comes to using a knife properly, japan takes the cake.  not only are their knives incredible, the people who wield them command incredible respect and admiration.  i have been to a few sushi restaurants that consist of nothing more than a counter and chairs, but left with the feeling that i had been to a five-star restaurant.  the flavor of sashimi, maybe more than any other food in the world, is determined entirely by freshness and the knife used to prepare it.

so i thought, why not make sashimi at home?  and then i thought, “i’m not a 85-year-old japanese man who can slice perfect sashimi in his sleepo, that’s why.”  and then i thought, “even those guys had to start somewhere.”

and then i went and bought some fish.  my knife did not disappoint.

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