Monday, June 29, 2009

video overview

Wonder of wonders, the school lunch today was exactly the same as yesterday. This is possible, given that I work at four schools. But equally delicious, although I could have eaten about 3 times the amount they gave me. Is it wrong to be tempted to steal food from children? What about fat children?

So instead of posting a kyuushoku photo, here is a hilarious video of kyuushoku from Sendai, Japan. The dramatic music is PER-FECT, and there are quite a lot of interesting dishes. I'm still learning Japanese, so have no idea what the text says (yet!), sorry. Judging from the poor picture quality and ubiquitous bread, forks and knives (e.g. no chopsticks) I am guessing these examples are more historical. As I understand, current kyuushoku is actually more traditionally Japanese than that of the last 60 years!

First kyuushoku photos!

I finally took a camera to school today after a few days of deliberation: what would the teachers say? Will the PTA and/or police get involved? Will the children go nuts when they see a camera? I guess I'll find out. Today the 4th graders were quite sangfroid when I broke out the camera. The teacher noticed, and all I said was "I idea..." and winked at him. This seemed to suffice.

The Japanese school lunch ritual will get its own posting, but for now it's safe to say many parts are inconsistent. Sometimes designated children quite properly (and oh so charmingly) announce the names of what we're about to eat. Sometimes tiny little voices emerge from the loudspeaker and do the same. Sometimes we simply chow down.

Today there was no announcement, but I asked the kids the names of the dishes anyway: [clockwise from rice]

(gohan ご飯)
-grilled salmon (yakishake )
-braised burdock root (kinpira gobou 金平牛蒡)
-orange (orenji オレンジ)
-pickled vegetables (tsukemono 漬け物) [corrected 7/1: boiled vegetables (yude yasai ゆで 野菜)]
-milk -not pictured- (gyuunuu 牛乳)

The rice, pickled vegetables and grilled salmon were pretty standard, i.e. muy excelente. I was very happy my first posting also includes kinpira gobou. Not only did I find out the name today (after having eaten it maybe 3 or 4 times) but it's one of my favorites. As I'm learning myself, it's braised burdock root, kind of earthy and a bit oily. In most of my schools they mix it together with french fries, and something about adding the salty (day old?) fries makes for an incredible pairing!

Notice the hilarious "piano" desk I was eating upon. The kids are so thoughtful...

It begins.

Hello there! This is a new blog to share my love of Japanese school lunches, called kyuushoku. I have found precious little (English language) information on the art of kyuushoku, and would like to provide some insight into these simple but delicious meals.

Among other odd jobs, I work part time at four elementary schools in Tokyo. As I understand it, school lunches in Japan, like many countries, can be less than acceptable. Maybe it's because I am in a good part of Tokyo, or maybe because I never eat breakfast and proceed to work the children with the zeal of an aerobics coach, but I am blessed with consistently delicious kyuushoku. And for that I am so, so very grateful.

Obviously the biggest problem for the reader is: how to relate? I mean, who the hell really gets a chance to eat lunch at elementary schools in Japan, anyway? But wait! It's a fascinating culinary world that I am lucky enough to travel in without getting, uh, arrested. Hence the blog. If you can't try the food, at least you might relate to the feeling of eating simple food cooked with love and care. In that sense, I'd like to share my own photos and thoughts about kyuushoku, as well as recipes, links, and anything else!