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Posts Tagged ‘Japanese food’

A Bento is Not As Big As the World

Reblogged from I’ll Make It Myself!

In the lead-in to Carlsen’s and Turner’s “In Japan, Food Can Be Almost Too Cute To Eat,” there is a slideshow showcasing the cuter side of Japanese food: tofu character goods, a kyaraben (character bento), and images of Anpanman in cartoon and pancake form. The authors mention that food presentation is part of the culture of cute, but instead of an obsession with food presentation dictating the creation of characters and mascots like Anpanman, I would actually say that Japan’s love of cute things dictates the creation of anthropomorphized food. I don’t just mean in terms of kyaraben, I mean that the regular onions I buy at the grocery store have an anthropomorphized onion on the bag. So do my eringi mushrooms. So do my tomatoes. Visual presentation of food is definitely a part of Japanese food culture, and creating a cute obento for a child to eat is part of that culture, but the food presentation didn’t create the characters necessarily.

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“Deeply Ingrained Advantages”: American Media Discovers Kyûshoku

Reblogged from I’ll Make It Myself:

Can Japan solve America’s food identity crisis? Japan’s relatively low rates of obesity have caught the eye of the American news media, particularly in light of our own new government controls on junk food and measures intended to prevent childhood obesity. In January, The Washington Post ran the article “On Japan’s school lunch menu: A healthy meal, made from scratch” by Chico Harlan; NPR followed up article/radio segment on bento called “In Japan, Food Can Be Almost Too Cute To Eat” by Audrey Carlsen and Daniel N.M. Turner, featuring a radio interview for All Things Considered with host Audie Cornish and author Debra Samuels.

While it is true that the content and presentation of Japanese school lunches (kyûshoku, 給食) and boxed lunches (bento) are quite different from their stereotypical American counterparts, both articles oversimplified the topics. I’d like to focus on each article separately as my criticism for each deals with distinct rather than overlapping issues. First, I’d like to discuss The Washington Post piece’s failure to address some of the negative aspects of the Japanese diet, and, in a separate post, how the NPR piece misses the mark on the “cute” issue and ignores the gendered social issues behind the bento.

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One of my friends maintains that the reason Americans think eel is gross is because the English word eel sounds slimy and unappetizing. Unagi (うなぎ、鰻), on the other hand, actually sounds like something you would eat, and because restaurants prepare it and serve it like fish, any visual squick factor is removed. I really like the texture and flavor of eel, which is best in summer and fall. Conbini eel isn’t terrible, and regular restaurant eel is great, but if you really want to experience eel, go to a restaurant that specializes in it.

Delcious unagi at Namaza-ya

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