Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Grocery Store

Miyuki took me to the grocery store for the proper garbage bags so I can be a good neighborhood citizen. She couldn't understand why I find the Japanese grocery so fascinating. Then again, she thinks our dinky commissary is a treasure trove of delights like cherry coke, flavored cream cheese, and American-style bacon!

Of course, one expects lots of food differences in a different culture. But it's harder to wrap one's brain around the things that one expects to be the same--and they are NOT. Pizza for example, is a very different dish here. Sure, you can find sausage and cheese pizza, or pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. But often, pizza in Japan comes with corn kernels, potatoes, hard boiled egg slices, shrimp, raisins, squid, scrambled eggs, and/or a big drizzle of mayonnaise! I've attached a picture of corn and hard boiled egg pizza, and a pizza with potato chunks as well as other, more "usual" ingredients, at least to an American's eyes! And though I love surimi (faux crab meat) in the US, it took me a while to come to grips with the vivid hot pink that's used to color it here, instead of the red I'm used to seeing.

There were lots and lots of sweets especially for the cherry blossom season. Some were like little petit fours decorated with cherry blossoms. Some were made with pink-tinted sticky rice wrapped around sweeted red bean paste and tucked into a real cherry tree leaf that has been boiled in a sweet syrup. Still more are made of mochi, which is cooked sticky rice pounded into a paste. The mochi balls in this case were tinted pink or green and rolled in powdered sugar. I was given one of these, and it's sticky and sweet, without a lot of flavor. Interesting texture though.

There are a ton of different kinds of fresh fish and shellfish available (much of which I could not recognize), and tons of vegetables and fruits and pickled vegetables of all kinds. Meat like pork and beef seems to be very expensive and very fatty, and is purchased in small amounts--more a flavoring for a dish than the center of the meal.