I’m in total withdrawl. I didn’t realize how good I had it at my Japanese school.
I definitely tried a lot of new things that I had never seen before in my life. In fact, there were a few things that made me go into panic mode when they were served to me. I didn’t want to be impolite by refusing, and I’m so glad that I didn’t. I’ve eaten some seriously delicious food!
That’s not to say that I NEVER refused something. Only one thing. Can you guess what it is?
If you guessed natto, you are correct! The iconic Japanese dish, natto. Natto is a sticky fermented soybean that has quite the smell. I think that was my problem, I smelled it first. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating it after that! Too bad, because natto is supposed to be a superfood.
I’m lucky that my school prepared all of my food for me during the school day, and they really cared about my dietary restrictions. They don’t eat a whole lot of meat really, but pork byproducts were in so many things that I never would have imagined them to be! Like bread, for example. Who would have thought there was gelatin in bread?
I definitely ate a lot of seafood. I still remember the day they served a whole fish for lunch… that still had fish eggs in it. A pregnant fish! At some point nothing phased me. Quite regularly, they served tiny raw fish to mix into the rice for lunch. I got used to their taste and ended up craving it oddly enough!
During the day, I eat morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack with the kids. Of course, I have another snack during my break as well, which is usually some type of tea and sugary treat. The teachers have quite the lineup of snacks available each week, and they freely graze. They get so excited to make the shopping trip to buy them! It was nice that we can drink and snack for free during our break.
Once a month, my school holds a group birthday party for all of the kids who have birthdays in that month. It is adorable, and the whole school does a little party to celebrate. For lunch, we all get a special menu to celebrate. It is usually something a little unhealthy or exotic as a treat that they decorate with little flags of anpanman, a popular children’s character in Japan. Last time we had Chinese fried rice with fried chicken. The kids were psyched!
Speaking of fried chicken… something I don’t really like in Japanese cooking is that they leave the fat on the chicken in most of their dishes. I always trim the fat off of my chicken before I cook it, because I hate the texture of the fat. Imagine my surprise when I bit into my fried chicken, full fat and all! They use to tease me because I would pick off the fat and eat the meat only. 🙂
They display the food that the kids eat every day in a little display case at the front of the school. When parents pick up their children, they can look and see exactly what their kids ate for the day and how much.
Another interesting thing about Japanese education is that the children are not allowed to waste any food. If a child dislikes a food, he or she still has to eat it. Because of this, there is literally no waste of food other than an inedible part like the peel of an orange. The principal told me that it is important for the children to understand the effort that their parents make to pay for their food and the effort the cook takes to prepare their food, so they must finish their food and be mindful of their relationship to others. A very Japanese idea indeed.
One one end, I like the idea of appreciating food and not being wasteful. Yet, I feel sad for the lack of individuality and the children who dislike a certain food and struggle. I guess from the Japanese way of thinking, the sacrifice of individuality for the greater good is more desirable. It’s interesting coming from a western background where individuality is everything!
What do you think? Is there a healthy balance at this young of an age?