For the past several weeks, my Vietnamese cousin Ly (who has been living in Japan for the past five years), has been staying with me. Before picking her up from the airport three weeks ago, I had never met her. While she was living in India, I was living in Colombia, South America. While she was living in Indonesia, I was living in Saudi Arabia. While she was living in Japan, I was living, well, here in California.
But now, we’re making up for lost time and enjoying getting to know each other. She’s here to study English, which is actually already very good, but she wants to increase her fluency in order to elevate her job skills in the field of international economics. And as we all know, international economics is a bit of downer these days, so she’s taking some time off to improve her competitiveness in the marketplace.
Every day we learn new things about the others culture. For example, she’s realizing that Americans don’t eat quite as badly as she was led to believe. Apparently, our international culinary rep centers mainly around McDonald’s. People warned her that American food was bland, fattening and tasted terrible. I’m going to agree, that we’ve got our fare share of terrible food. The American invention and preference for fast food has completely overshadowed the abundance of wonderful cuisine that the American culture has to offer.
Thank goodness she’s living with me. It quickly became apparent to her that there is definitely wonderful fare to be found in the states.
And in return, she’s teaching me to cook Japanese food, which I love and have wanted to learn for ages.
Last night was Sushi 101: the California roll. Oh, man. I was so excited. Forgive these awful photos, but I shot them quickly, with one hand, and in the terrible light of my kitchen. Under cabinet kitchen lights are the enemy of quick kitchen photography.
Here’s another snack that she taught me to make. It’s a triangle of sushi rice that has a piece of red gingered plum in the middle (the name escapes me at the moment) and a piece of nori wrapped around the bottom. Apparently these little puppies are very popular for breakfast or snacks and are sold all over Japan at local convenience stores like 7-Eleven. I know in Hawaii, they put spam in the middle. I’ll have to try that as well.
See that green blob on the dish? That’s German wasabi horseradish. If you haven’t had that with your sushi, you haven’t lived. I’m happy to say that it’s something that I introduced Ly to. She’d never had it before and is now as addicted as we are to it. I predict she will be hauling it back to Japan in her suitcase.
In Japan, they wrap their little lunch boxes with a scarf or cloth napkin, which can be either your tablecloth or napkin when you eat your lunch. Plus, it provides a little handle to carry your lunch box. The solution is both practical and super cute.
Those Japanese. Clever folks. I’m loving this tradition.