Thursday, October 30, 2008

From Japan, With Mochi Love...

Aren't these exquisitely beautiful? They're mochi cakes--a sticky, rice flour exterior with a sweet azuki bean filling. My student Onosan brought them to me as a gift because I told him that I loved them. I'm starting an Onosan Fan Club soonly (my new favorite Engrish word). Once I convince him to pose for a picture, I'll have posters and mugs available for sale.

He was very surprised that I fancied this Japanese treat since most Americans avoid them at all costs. I think this is mainly due to the fact that every single one of us, the first week in Japan, thought the brown "cream filling" in the middle was chocolate. Oh, yeah. That is sooooo not chocolate.

Nevertheless, once I got over the initial shock, I became very fond of this cultural oddity. I have never had anything like it in all my travels. Shaped into leaves, flowers, and other seasonal themes, they taste exceptionally fine paired with a cup of green tea. The bitterness of the tea provides an exact balance to the sweet beans. Yummy.

Right now you might be thinking something along the lines of, Ain't no way, no how I'm eating beans with sugar, stuffed in a glutinous rice dough ball. I understand. Really, I do. Your brain just won't let you wander too far down that path...Japanese people think the same thing about pumpkin pie. When you explain the concept, they kind of tilt their heads as if to say, You smash up a stringy squash with sugar and cinnamon and put it in a crust made with animal fat and flour? What is wrong with you people?

Nothing, nothing, nothing is wrong with either folk, of course. We humans love what we love. We just don't realize how strange our own preferences are until we view them through a different lens. Based on my past few years' experience in this foreign and wonderful land, I highly recommend borrowing somebody else's binoculars and looking at the small things in your own world...really closely. It's amazing what jumps out at you.

Or, if you aren't feeling particularly introspective, another fun pastime is to blindly jump on the "other guy's bandwagon". I must say, it's a total blast getting in line with a hundred Japanese people, even if I have no idea what we are queueing for. Sure, sometimes I get to the end of the line and have to buy some weird looking seaweed or bizarre vegetable/shellfish...but other times I am rewarded with a delicious Japanese cream puff or fabulous seasonal chestnut cake.

Life can be so sweet.


Jenn G. said...

Way to be adventurous... I wish more people were as open minded when living abroad!

nancy b said...

Thank you for the compliment! However, I must admit that I did not partake of the fried squid guts at a local restaurant the other night. Just couldn't do it. I did try the soup with "collagen balls". I still have no idea what that means but it was delicious.