You know a real fun place to go to when you are visiting a foreign country? The supermarkets! (or markets if you're in a country that doesn't have buildings, aisles and shelves.) Tetsu always loves to spend time in the supermarket when he visits the States and when any visitors come to Japan I know a great place to spend a few hours is in the supermarket.
Yesterday, Leiya and I were shopping for food and I had the camera so we snapped a few pictures. Nothing hugely different from Japanese supermarkets I suppose. Of course everything is bigger and more extensive here and though there are a lot of things you can't find in a Japanese supermarket (rutabagas for example) there are lots of things in Japanese markets that you'd never find here (fish heads for soup). The American supermarket seems more colorful maybe and the cheese and delicatessen section is enormous! I don't think I've ever seen a bakery section like the ones in the States either. I also can find balloons which I had wanted to buy in Japan for Leiya's homecoming last month, but balloons are not sold in supermarkets in Japan (nor anywhere else.)
So what were we buying in the supermarket? I was doing the very thing I tell people not to do when they are visiting another country. I was buying Japanese food! This is ridiculous. Why would you travel halfway around the world to buy food for a meal like in your own country?
Actually this is a subject that can strike a nerve with me. People will say they visited France but the sushi wasn't very good or in Hawaii the tempura was lousy. Excuse me, did you ever hear the saying "When in Rome do as the Romans"? Do not expect to eat great Japanese food when you're not in Japan. Try some of the local food.
You will be horrified to know that since I arrived in the States that I have cooked once. Curry rice. All other meals I leave to Marcy or we eat out. There are good reasons for this. One, I am a lousy cook. Two, any possible menu that I might make (mostly Japanese) is going to be met with suspicion, especially from my niece and nephew and Marcy would just have to make them a separate meal anyway. Three, my mind literally pulls a blank. Menu? Yeah, I guess I do cook every night in Japan but I don't remember what... Rice, that's for sure... And four, I can't figure out how to cook anything! The ingredients are different! The carrots are smaller, the potatoes are larger, the apples are a different color, the meat isn't sliced paper thin. Anyway, there are a lot of reasons why I don't cook while I'm in the States.
The reason why I was buying Japanese food in an American supermarket yesterday was because Takumi longingly had said he wished he could eat some of my mabodofu. Of course I wanted to satisfy any feelings of homesickness (not to mention that I was a bit flattered. I have never heard anyone say that they missed my home cooking!) so off I went to the supermarket.I should have run to the next town and shopped at the Japanese supermarket to begin with. That alone would have made it easier to find the ingredients. But Leiya and I started our treasure hunt and hoped we could find all the things on the list.
"The menu is Mabodofu and Oriental Salad. Start with ground meat. Wow! That is a lot of meat!!! (Packaging is so much bigger in the States!) Oh well, we'll make a lot. Ground turkey? No. It would probably work but I've never seen it in Japan so we'll stick with what I know."
"Green onions. Are these green onions? The label says they're green onions but they don't look like any green onions I've ever used. These are thin and have a bulb at the end. Anything else we might use? Nope. Ok. I guess we'll try these and hope for the best."
"Garlic. Do I have to buy a whole bulb of garlic? I need two cloves. They don't sell cloves. If I were in Japan I'd use this up in a week or two but I'm only making one meal. Hmmm. Marcy has garlic salt, should I use that? No. Wait! Here is packaged garlic! Yeah! Do I want minced garlic, chopped garlic, garlic paste or sliced garlic? Let's go for the paste. That will keep even if I don't use it all. It may still be in the refrigerator next year."
"Ok. Ginger. Where is the ginger? There are taro roots, there are parsnips, there are mushrooms. Ah ginger. Get the smallest piece you can find." (Only one meal remember.)
"Check the delicatessen section for tofu. Great! What a cosmopolitan supermarket! Three kinds of tofu! Fantastic! (Don't even look at the expiration date. You don't want to know how long Americans are able to preserve tofu for long shelf life.)"
"Ok, this one is tricky. Miso. Should we ask the girl working in the aisle where they have miso? No. She'll think you sneezed. Try the foreign food section. Nope. But they do have sesame seed oil. Do we need that? Great! But look at that price! Well, what you need is what you need. No miso here. Try the refrigerated section. Yeah! What a great store! I don't know why they put miso next to the tamales."
At the checkout counter I paid a fortune for all this strange food and I almost lost my ginger piece because the bagger thought it was a dead piece of potato and tried to throw it away. "Wait! That's my ginger!"
For all that, Takumi didn't show up until 10:30 last night so we went out to eat again and I didn't make him mabodofu. Maybe tonight.