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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bread pudding, bamboo, and mount fuji.

there are people in this world who roll out of bed on saturday morning, pour some milk over stale cereal, and watch morning cartoons until their eyes hurt.  when the cartoons are over, they microwave some pizza rolls just long enough for them to stop being frozen, eat them, and then go back to bed for the rest of the day.

then there are those people who wake up with the sun, make coffee, bake a batch of bread pudding, and head out to the farm by 9:00 a.m.  those people are more my style.

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never gonna give yuzu up, never gonna let you down.

i should apologize for the title of this post, but i won’t.  it’s awesome and i am 100% unashamed.

let’s go ahead and nip this in the bud.  there are, more likely than not, a fair amount of people out there reading this post and thinking “what is yuzu?”  there are a couple of answers to that question.

first, the short answer.  yuzu is delicious.

and now, the long answer.

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an open letter to my ex-toaster oven.

when my canadian friends brought you over to my place for the first time, i knew it was going to be a difficult transition for both of us.  they told me about your past, and how you had fallen on some hard times.  just by looking at you i could tell you’d done nothing but hang out in a tiny, dusty recycle shop for ten years.  i was saddened, but hardly surprised, when they told me you had sold for a measly 700 yen.

i guess in a tiny kitchen like mine, there is no room for pride.

a $7.00 toaster oven.  when i think “$7.00 toaster oven,” a dusty metal box with no door that somebody built a fire in comes to mind.

which, sadly, isn’t far from what you were when you came into my home.  but i am a cook who believes in second chances.  so i took you in.  i cleaned you up as best i could, and sat you atop my tiny little refrigerator.

i’ll admit, when we first met i doubted that you could ever amount to anything more than a kitchen fire.  but every time i used you to toast my rolls or finish a frittata, you gave it your all, and i couldn’t have asked for anything more.  you were a knight on horseback in a world which had already invented the gun.  you were like a receptionist who used punch-card computers for twenty years trying to compete in a windows 7 world.  you were a wooden, single prop plane in a world where men had been to the moon and back.

suffice to say, you were doomed from the start.  but i believed in you.

towards the end, we had our fair share of fights.  i yelled and cursed at you.  once, during a particularly heated argument we had, you melted the top of my fridge.  i still proudly sport the scars on my knuckles from when you burned the bejeesus out of me while i was toasting some dinner rolls.  remember that time i tried to make gratin with you?  man, did that turn out awful.

in retrospect, i wasn’t as understanding as i should have been.  i remember throwing your rack across the kitchen because apparently blind, stupid people who have never set foot in a kitchen engineered you.  but it wasn’t right for me to hold you responsible.  you were made that way, and it wasn’t my place to try to change you.

sure, my new toaster oven works.  yes, she’s bright red and gloriously shiny.  she has a temperature dial that doesn’t lie and a timer that goes past 15 minutes.   she even came with three different racks and an instruction manual.  but she doesn’t have even close to the same character as you did.  after all, you were born in the 80s.

goodnight, sweet prince.  thanks for all the good times.

sincerely, the poor man.

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you say “tomato,” i say “let’s make an awesome soup.”

guess what?  that beautiful girl i was talking about the other day is still sick.  which means the barrage of soup will continue until she gets better.

so far, we have had japanese soft shell turtle hot pot (a.k.a. suppon) at makoto‘s restaurant, miso ramen, kitsune udon, and potato bacon and leek chowder.  and all the while, i’ve been cramming tea into her every opportunity i get.

so when a friend and coworker of mine decided to hand me what appeared to be every leaf from an entire fully grown basil plant while we were at work the other day, i immediately began thinking of delicious things that might lift the curse of the common cold.  after about five minutes of deliberation, what i decided upon was toasted italian bread, a few slices of cheap man’s chashu, and creamy tomato and basil soup.

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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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