Some Go High, but I go Low

I’ve been steering away from being that foreigner who compulsively photographs every piece of food that goes in her mouth while vacationing in Japan.  I traveled that road for a number of years and finally now feel no need to document it.Eating beautifully presented food has become more of a daily event, not something unexpected.  For example, I don’t photograph my morning bowl of oatmeal each time I have breakfast. It’s also pretty boring looking at the food other people have eaten, even if it is garnished with a maple leaf.  No one has shouted at me,, “More food photos, please!”

In order for you to see what I was into, I’m posting some Japanese food photos from previous visits.  These look pretty amazing to me at the moment, although it’s probably because I haven’t eaten dinner as yet.img_6402 img_6462 img_6782 img_6858 img_7223

The simple truth is, I eat more humbly while I’m on my own.  My husband loves to go out for more elaborate meals, which of course, I enjoy. But to eat in these places, one must first plan ahead and make a reservation. Plus, these aren’t the kinds of places I’d want to eat in by myself. Left to my own devices, I find more than enough tasty options, that I can just take advantage of as the spirit moves me, or shall I say when the hunger pangs strike.  There are dozens and dozens of choices.

My recent last -minute- eat -alone stand-by is a fast food chain, named Ootoya, specializing in a contemporary hybrid of teishoku (set meal) cuisine.

ootoya

First of all, a fast food restaurant, that plays a soundtrack of Miles Davis’ Autumn Leaves and June Christy’s Lilac Wine, has to have something going on.  Secondly, consider a restaurant  whose workers function like a smiling,well-oiled relay team from the moment you are greeted, seated, order and served.  Last, but not at all least, they deliver a very tasty meal in just a short time. Just like Goldilocks, you can choose a small, medium or large bowl of rice, white or whole grain.   Food and small, whole grain rice bowl consumed, I walk out smiling as well.

All for under $15.  NO TIP NEEDED.

P.S.  It might happen that you’ll see a few food photos in future posts, now that my husband is here with me and has taken over the reins of making food decisions. But only if I absolutely can’t resist.

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The Revenge of the Firefly Squid

Firefly squid.  Just think how much fun life could be if your first name was “Firefly.”  Firefly Vapnek sounds very interesting, don’t you think?  I think the name “Firefly”initially influenced how I felt about eating these small creatures.  Fireflies are beautiful; to be caught, enjoyed and valued as a seasonal treat.

firefly

I’d never heard of firefly squid until we traveled to Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan for a self guided tour of the Noto Peninsula.  From what I’ve learned since our visit, they have spectacular bioluminescent properties in the water, glowing a pulsating electric blue as they congregate in the spring to mate. This is the time of year they become targets for the fishermen and for the mouths of eager Japanese.

blue squid

The squid made its first appearance in my life as part of a set menu at a famous sushi restaurant in Kanazawa. I’d had several cups of sake before the grinning chef put the squirming little guys on a small platter before us.  I watched and videoed as the chef separated and cooked them on a hot rock in front of us.  I was equally fascinated and horrified, but the world of fish is ruled by the maxim of eat or be eaten.  I wouldn’t have been at a sushi restaurant if I believed the catching, cooking and eating of fish and other ocean creatures was unethical.  In case you missed the- not -for -the -squeamish- or -animal -rights -activists video on my facebook page, here it is:

Unfortunately, my firefly squid encounters continued for several days.  They were on every set dinner menu that was presented to us at ryokans we visited.  I ate them raw, as tempura, then preserved in vinegar. I went from initial curiosity to decidedly-less-than -happy to see them reappear on my plate, but I managed to eat them with no problem, especially since I try to fit into my adopted country. But, the squid had started to be a running joke for me and my husband.

Until they appeared at my breakfast table!

shabu shabu

This time, they were served as an ingredient of shabu-shabu.  They were to be placed and cooked in a pot of boiling broth, along with other, more savory ingredients. I cooked most of the vegetables first, but ultimately I was faced with the remaining squid. I gamely put it into the sizzling pot.

All went ok until I tried to remove the squid from the broth.  It unexpectedly split in two as I tried to extract it, literally spilling its red guts into the broth.  My usually calm and appreciative demeanor while eating Japanese food vanished abruptly. I watched  in horror as the simmering both, which you’re supposed to drink after all ingredients have been cooked in it,  slowly turned pink and pinker. Breakfast was now over.

Yuck!!! was quickly followed by, “This is disgusting, I can’t even look at this anymore!”  My husband was amused.  I was not. I quickly covered the remaining uneaten squid with a small bowl, so that I didn’t have to see it.  I was forever done with eating firefly squid.

I won’t be changing my name to “firefly” anytime soon.