Posts Tagged ‘polenta’

I had actually been considering changing the name of this “column” to something without the word gaijin in it. The word 外人 (outsider) might be considered a contraction of the term 外国人, foreigner; literally outside-country-person. Among the foreign population of Japan, there are some of us who embrace the term gaijin and some of us who hate it. Today, most Japanese are taught to refer to us as gaikokujin (外国人), or, better yet, the polite term: 外国人の方, literally, a foreigner-person, with the final part being the polite term for a person. This, of course, never stops the drunk middle-aged men outside the Korean yakiniku place from calling me a gaijin, but times are changing. And so, I thought, perhaps I should use a more politically correct term.

From Wikimedia Commons via the USDA.

My line of thinking changed the day I tried to make Mexican food. Although I enjoy the spectrum of Mexican-esque food in the US, from heavily Americanized Mexican fast food (Chipotle, Moe’s) to what might be more authentic Mexican food (a restaurant called Carmen’s deep in southern Colorado), I’ve never actually made it myself.* My chance came when my sempai in the city sent me a recipe for tostadas that a colleague had used for a Mexican cooking class. Naturally, as we live in Japan, this recipe had been translated into Japanese.

All of you regular readers know that I read and speak Japanese at a high level, but reading or translating recipes is one of my specialties. I pride myself on being able to read cookbooks and recipes (and all printed material for which I’m not actually trying to produce a translation) without having to translate them first. (Second-language learners know that the jump from “translate everything” to “just read and occasionally use a dictionary” is the critical jump in that nebulous thing we call fluency).

However, as the Japanese say, 猿も木から落ちる: Even monkeys fall from trees.


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