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Thursday, October 1

I Eat, Therefore I Am

Oh, man… has it been that long? I’ll tell you… I don’t know how mommy bloggers actually blog about their lives and still live those lives. Not that I am a mommy blogger, but a blogger who happens to be a mommy and just doesn’t see where to fit it in.

Our Kimono Peanut is nearing the year mark and is busier than ever! When awake, he is resolved to his daily search and destroy mission in between my attempts to entertain and educate him. When he sleeps, I run around trying to clean up the wake of his path. Also to be tended to, there are the mounting dishes (in a house that doesn’t have a dishwasher besides my own two cracked, little hands), the ever escalating laundry pile (in a house that has a godforsaken itty-bitty Japanese washer and dryer which takes at least five hours to do one load), and dinner preparation (in a house where someone is either wrapping himself around my legs as I try to chop and dice or attempting his first successful mounting to the top of stove). Seriously. Where do mommy bloggers find the time?

Don’t get me wrong! I love every single minute of it!

I used to love the challenges that awaited me at the office every day. I loved creating the spreadsheets that would determine and hopefully resolve each problem that arose. I loved the phone calls to clients and vendors. I loved coming up with new ideas or solutions or even just resorting to the tried and true resolution.

Now I look forward to the first sounds that come from the crib every day. The chatting to himself and friends. I believe there may be even ghosts of family passed he spends time with. I love sliding the door open and surprising him and getting hugs and smiles in return. I love spending all of my time with him, whether it’s quiet time at home or out and about. And that husband… he’s pretty darn awesome too. I love taking care of my family! I love knowing that whatever they need or wish for, I have it covered.

So why would I want to take a single moment away from that to write about it? I know, I know… everyone tells me that I should journalize this time of my life… whether it is Peanut time or Japan time I am writing about, I should just get it into words. I stick by my original words that I don’t intend to become a mommy blogger, so I keep the Peanut notes in a handy, dandy calendar of his first year which is much easier to write in since you don’t even have to write full sentences. And when I have the time, I write about Japan.

Now after all this digression, I shall move on to the topic of today. One of my favorites – FOOD! I just want to document our favorites so years later, I don’t forget where we spent so much of our time… and money.

When KH and I first moved to Japan, we thought the food was basically fish, sushi, sashimi and a little more fish on the side. We were so pleasantly surprised! One of our favorite things to do is still head out to our favorite restaurants as often as possible. So today, I want to talk about a few of the ones we frequent. Let me preface this by saying that I might not be able to use the name of the restaurant and may call it by describing the building or the food. I still haven’t learned to read kanji and I honestly never intended to.

First we have the Chinese place down the road. Well, we think it is Chinese, but it seems an awful lot like Japanese to us. I actually have learned the name of this place several times and have forgotten it each and every time I walk out the door. We go there at least once a week and the owners, a husband and wife team and a sister-in-law, may not yell out ‘NORM’ as we enter, but they certainly know who we are. On the menu: tonkatsu (breaded pork), ramen, gyoza, stir-fries, tempura, gingered pork and so much more. We’ve been going there for over three years now and they never fail to give us something extra special. Sometimes it’s an upgrade from the regular soup you get in a set to a special ramen. Sometimes it’s a special pickled vegetable. When I was pregnant, they always brought me more food than normal and when we first took the baby, they sent us home with a fruit basket as a gift. None of them speak English and my Japanese only goes as far as food, money and a few other conversational pieces, but that never stops this family from treating us warmly. They chat with the baby and squeeze his hands and cheeks and now that he is eating table food, they are trying to share all new things with him too. Fortunately, he is quite fond of the taste of Japanese foods… and well pretty much all food, if we are being open here. He gets it honestly!

Then also here in Zushi is our favorite soba place, which we call the wheel place because it has a big mill wheels spinning out front. Inside, you can choose traditional Japanese eating or Western table seating, but the floor tables are perfect for a wee peanut. On the menu: many, many kinds of soba (Japanese buckwheat noodle) served both hot and cold, tempura, and this appetizer that KP likes. It’s basically these gooey balls of soba-like matter in a clear broth. The kid digs these and can keep him busy chewing (and out of trouble) for the length of a good meal.

Last week, a friend asked us when the last time was that we went out for dinner without KP. Finding a babysitter is really not so simple here in Japan for obvious reasons and made especially hard with a husband who refuses to allow anyone that he has not done a background check on watch the baby. So the last time… was back in July when we were stateside and went to our friends wedding, staying overnight in a hotel while my parents watched him. She jumped at the chance to kick us out of our own house while she stayed with him so we could have a grown-up meal. We actually started out for our old favorite, Matchpoint curry restaurant and bar, but when cutting across a side street, we happened on a restaurant we have often talked of trying. El Barco, is a tapas restaurant on a second floor directly above a Japanese restaurant (of which we haven’t even begun to figure out what they serve). It’s been years since we had tapas, so we bagged our original plan and hiked up to the second floor. The menus were in Spanish and Japanese, but thankfully I can speak and read the first language. We started with some glasses of sangria, strong but potent, and then went to town ordering everything from squid to paella! It definitely did not have the ‘kick’ of some tapas places in the states (the Japanese aren’t big on spice), but it was heavenly nonetheless. Fresh, garlic-y, aromatic, and just truly delicious! We left a few hours later, stuffed and buzzing, just the way a good meal should end. As soon as our friends drops by again, we’re leaving her behind with KP and we’re off again!

If you are up for Indian and don’t feel like going the whole way to Roppongi for some of the best at Moti’s, then we highly recommend Appughar. Located along the beach and with a view of Fuji-san (well… when it cooperates anyway), we pulled together several new-in-town friends for a night out of tandoor-grill, curry, naan, chapati, puri, paratha, and basmati rice. This place never disappoints, although I somehow think I ordered mine at the hot-hot level. My gums hurt for two days. But it was worth it. We actually have a ‘frequent flier’ card from here and with only one more meal, will receive a nice sized coupon.

And then there is our favorite shabu, shabu place in Kamakura, Kura-Syabu-Tei. We first went to this place with a group of friends when KP was only a few months old. One friend reads and speaks Japanese so she was able to easily order off of the totally Japanese menu. Now we can’t do the same, but we know enough about the place and what they offer that we can struggle through with placing an order. Shabu-shabu is basically meat and vegetables cooked at your table by yourself in a flavorful broth. Kura-Syabu-Tei has the best broths I have ever tasted! We always go for the hot pepper and coconut based sauces. We may not be able to specify meats perfectly, and may end up with tongue or other random meat parts, but they all taste just as good when cooked in the broth and then dipped in either the soy or peanut-based sauces. At the end of the meal, we are always left with a surprise that the total wasn’t half as expensive as we expected… surprising when you have no idea what the hell you ordered off the menu. KP is always a hit here too. People will stop by to chat him up and someone always comes with a basket of toys for him to choose from and take home. He isn’t very fastidious in his choosing, so I try to pick out the most appropriate and put it on the top for him to easily grab. He generally more interested in chewing on the plastic bag than what is inside at this point anyway. But that is fast changing!

Now this may not be a frequent stop – actually it was a first for me – but while shopping with friends at Grandberry Mall last week, we did finally try Vietnam Alice for lunch. One the menu: lots of noodle soups. I didn’t really take the opportunity to study the menu, but the lunch specials were wonderful! I added a steamed spring roll to my spicy noodle dish and a glass of mango juice. The combination was enough to make me want to go back soon! Well... I guess I should admit that there also happens to be a Cold Stone Creamery at this mall that I just couldn't resist. An authentic taste from home is not to be passed by!

In the market for the best burger you can find in Japan? Head down to the truly gorgeous area of the Zushi Marina and stop at their snack shop. This burger seriously cannot be beat by any of the Japanese burger chains like Freshness Burger or Mos Burger for either cost or taste. They even had sliced fresh potatoes to make their fries, skin on... just the way I like 'em!

While we do have the navy base nearby which gives up some options for American food, sometimes you just want something else. This is exactly why we took the train to Yokohama to hit Hard Rock Café. Pulled pork sandwiches, nachos, fries and a pink lemonade. Man, do I miss those really unhealthy meals. We’re heading to Tokyo for a few days coming up and I may just have to make a trip to the one there too.

So as I said… I eat, therefore I am. Still on the planet that is. Still in Japan. Still enjoying it.


Jo said...

Hey lovely lady -- I think it's beautiful that you are living life -- being present for all of the little moments -- rather than walking away from it to document, document, document. There will be time for that. There always is. But how rare it is for us to truly and enjoy and appreciate life as it is happening. You won't forget these days, months and years -- even if you never record them. That said, I do like my email updates :-)

Kimono Karen said...

Awww... you're always too sweet! Miss you, my dear friend!

Kristen said...

If you were here you would have plenty of babysitters!! And so would I!