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I love the sleek look of this Mujirushi Ryohin (Muji) toaster oven! It's vertica...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Sun, 2015-03-29 10:12
I love the sleek look of this Mujirushi Ryohin (Muji) toaster oven! It's vertically oriented, can toast 2 slices of bread at a time, and has 3 temperature settings. It's similar to a Sharp model I had years ago, but Muji-fied. Only available in Japan though...rats. -_-

http://www.muji.net/electronics/oven/


キッチン家電2014 | オーブントースター | 無印良品
www.muji.net
無印良品のキッチン家電をご紹介します。

One more thing, and then I promise this page will return to food topics (althoug...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Fri, 2015-03-27 12:43
One more thing, and then I promise this page will return to food topics (although you may hear more of my thoughts on this kind of general Japanese culture/society thing somewhere soon... ^_^ )

I just noticed that I used the pronoun "she" for Matsuko, and "he" for Ivan. Not sure why---(although now I think about it's probably because Matsuko is a female name, and Ivan is a male name.) It is very hard to talk about someone in English without using a gender-defining pronoun. In Japanese, it's acceptable to repeatedly use their name, or their position/title (e.g. sensei (teacher), bucho or kacho (manager), etc) and sidestep the gendered-pronoun thing. In English using someone's position is not really possible, unless you are the Pope or the President or a Senator and so forth (and for the latter two if you address them directly you still add Mr. President, Madama Senator etc...) and using someone's name repeatedly is awkward too. So we have to choose between he, she and it.

For instance, as you probably know I recently started a blog called We Love Funassyi. Funassyi is a pear fairy and pears don't have genders, so Funassyi has no gender. But calling Funassyi "it" just doesn't seem right, so I use "he" since Funassyi seems to skew male more than female. (Although Funassyi does look great in girly outfits. ^_^ )


This is an expanded and edited version of something I wrote as a comment below (...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Fri, 2015-03-27 09:44
This is an expanded and edited version of something I wrote as a comment below (and I apologize for it not being food-related at all, but it's a continuation, so.... ^_^)

I brought up Matsuko Deluxe as a man who is gay and dresses like a woman, because she has such a big presence and influence in Japan, way more in my opinion than even people like RuPaul or Dame Edna Jones. (And also because of that story about the potato chips. ^_^ )

There are several other cross-dressing/transvestite/transgender etc. personalities in the Japanese media. I don't think in general the media differentiate a lot between someone who is transgender (e.g. Kabachan, Ai Haruna) vs. someone who just dresses like a woman and/or is openly gay (e.g. Ivan, Ikko, Mittsu Mangrove, Akihiro Miwa)

And all of the people I mentioned are regular fixtures on prime-time Japanese TV. They get ribbed and teased, usually good-naturedly, by other (mostly male) personalities on the shows they are on - some more than others. (I've never seen a female co-star tease/dig into the gay/trans/etc. personalities on air.) E.g. Ikko and Kabachan get relentlessly ribbed and kind of seem to enjoy it, while Mittsu Mangrove and Matsuko Deluxe just get treated like anyone else. And 79 year old Akihiro Miwa, aka Miwa-chama, is venerated like an aging empress.

Another example of how matter-of-fact the appearance of these people are on TV in Japan: Ivan (pictured below) is one of the youngest openly gay TV personalities who usually (not always) dresses as a female; he used to be a (male fashion) runway model. He's a regular guest on an NHK Educational Channel show called "The Rule of R", a lighthearted chat-show type program aimed at teenagers (high schoolers mostly). He gives dating advice, fashion advice and so on to the teenaged regulars on the show, and is treated like an older sister, one of the girls, by everyone. Kabachan, who is transgender, appears frequently on the show too and is also treated like an older woman there to give the young ones advice.

So while on the surface (or dare I say, to the shallow-surface-skimmers) Japan may seem very "backwards" in terms of gender equality and acceptance of LGBTQ issues (it does not recognize same-gender marriages or unions legally for example), things are a lot more complicated than that. (Can you imagine an educational show on US TV where a gay cross-dressing personality acts out dating situations with teenaged boys?)

Incidentally, Japan felt compelled to take on many Western ways of thinking and incorporate them into their laws in the late 19th century, for economic and political reasons. Before that in many ways they were far "ahead" (to 21st century sensibilities) of Europe and North America, in terms of sexuality and such. Apparently the early Europeans and Americans in Japan found the openness to sexual things very shocking and "heathen" and "savage" and things, and the Meiji government thought it necessary to pass laws to make Japan seem more "civilized".

(I need more space to write about this kind of thing ^_^; )


Next week the spring TV season starts in Japan. One person, writer, columnist, p...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Thu, 2015-03-26 23:16
Next week the spring TV season starts in Japan. One person, writer, columnist, pundit and TV show host Matsuko Deluxe, will be either hosting or be a regular on 9 different shows throughout the week on various national networks. That's way more than any other entertainer. Matsuko is hugely popular, highly respected and also very influential. For example, on one of her shows, The Worlds Matsuko Doesn't Know (which started in January) she raved about an artisanal brand of potato chips. The company's server crashed, and when it came back they sold out within a couple of days. She's had similar effects on the sales of both edible and non-edible products. She's also featured in many TV commercials, ranging from Toyota Pruis to the Japan Postal Service to Hokkaido rice.

Matsuko is a 42 year old openly gay cross-dresser. (I'm not sure if it's correct to call her a drag queen; she doesn't perform in shows etc., she just always dresses and presents herself as a woman. ETA: Whatever the term is, she's a man who dresses like a woman. ^_^ ) She's not the only gay personality who's a fixture on Japanese TV, but she's by far the most popular one.

I'm a big Matsuko fan, and find her fascinating, especially in the context of modern Japanese society.


Fermented products and edible fungi tread a fine line between delicious and disg...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Thu, 2015-03-26 11:28
Fermented products and edible fungi tread a fine line between delicious and disgusting. I think most strong fermented products or fungi need to be gotten used to gradually, to push your boundaries. E.g. natto, aged cheeses, fermented fish products, truffles, etc. It's funny how many Japanese people love natto and strong smelling fermented fish products, but can only deal with very milk and bland cheese. Similarly many Westerners can't deal with natto but love smelly aged cheese. In our Swiss-Japanese household, the Swiss side doesn't do natto or fermented fish, and the Japanese side loves aged cheese up to a point - but 3 year old Gouda for instance is beyond my boundaries.

Relatedly, most truffle oil has never seen an actual truffle, and to me smells like essence of dirty socks that have been forgotten in a gym bag for a month.


"And the mac and cheese is twenty dollars, because someone thought very hard abo...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Thu, 2015-03-26 00:19
"And the mac and cheese is twenty dollars, because someone thought very hard about truffles when making it." I have a sneaky fondness for snarky restaurant reviews...


Empty Calories
nyr.kr
The new French restaurant Happy Ending is located in a former massage parlor. Too bad you can’t eat a double entendre.

Do people in Los Angeles really dunk their edamame in soy sauce?? (This was on a...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Tue, 2015-03-24 20:19
Do people in Los Angeles really dunk their edamame in soy sauce?? (This was on a Japanese TV show...)

Incidentally, I've finally made my personal user page here https://www.facebook....

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Tue, 2015-03-24 09:48
Incidentally, I've finally made my personal user page here https://www.facebook.com/makiko.itoh followable, so if you want to know what I'm muttering about that's not food related feel free to... (No guarantees it will be interesting though.... ^_^; )

(You click Follow, not Add Friend, although that's OK too. )


Makiko Itoh

I really, really hate the term "stuff your face" with food.

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Sun, 2015-03-22 11:21
I really, really hate the term "stuff your face" with food.

Some more about umami: on further reading, it seems there are three amino acids...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Fri, 2015-03-20 18:20
Some more about umami: on further reading, it seems there are three amino acids that are the main sources of what is called umami: glutamic acid, inosinic acid and guanylic acid. (You can look up each for more chemical information.) Here are some foods that are rich in each - some may be surprising:

Glutamic acid: konbu seaweed, tomatoes, onions & the onion family (leeks etc), some types of fish fish, green tea, Parmesan and other aged cheeses, green peas, Chinese and Western cabbage, soy beans (Also, human milk is pretty high in glutamic acid!)

Inosinic acid: Bonito flakes, meat and poultry in general (beef, pork, chicken, etc), some other types of fish (it seems fish have both glutamic and inosinic acids, with some varieties having more of one than the other.)

Guanylic acid: Dried mushrooms such as shiitake and porcini

Some concentrated "natural" sources of these acids include miso, soy sauce and other fermented soy bean products, hard aged cheeses as mentioned above, yeast extracts like Marmite and Vegemite.

Modern flavor-enhancing type products (e.g. in the US Accent, Spike etc.) contain at least one of the above, plus other flavors and sodium chloride (salt). With such flavor enhancers, what makes them taste different is what other flavors they add to the basic umami substances, e.g. beef flavor, chicken flavor, etc.

A small percentage of the population may have glutamate sensitivity, which may have to do with the amount consumed. In terms of scientific research, too much salt causes more health damage than MSG. (This is an area that I've changed my opinion on quite a bit over the years...)

Some passages in this article made me snort, but nevertheless an interesting sta...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Fri, 2015-03-20 10:36
Some passages in this article made me snort, but nevertheless an interesting starting point perhaps to talk about umami.

Relatedly, I was reading something the other day by a Japanese chef, and according to him the best, all-rounded dashi (which, by the way, just means "stock" in the end) is made by combining glutamic acid or glutamates, which largely comes from vegetable sources, and inosinic acid, which comes from animal sources. This is why the combination of bonito flakes (very rich in inosinic acid) with konbu seaweed (ditto for glutamic acid - possibly the highest natural source) makes such a satisfying dashi. A good ramen soup, for example, usually uses konbu as well as chicken and pork bones etc. Onions and garlic are also pretty high in glutamic acid, as are soy beans and green peas. The way to best extract the umami elements from each ingredient is where the skill of the chef comes into play.

Something to think about next time you're making a soup! ^_^


You Think You Know Umami
www.newyorker.com

In Japan, "stew" means a white/bechamel sauce based stew with carrots, potatoes,...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Thu, 2015-03-19 21:09
In Japan, "stew" means a white/bechamel sauce based stew with carrots, potatoes, maybe broccoli etc. and chicken or shrimp - like the one in this commercial for Hokkaido Stew from House Foods. (Hokkaido, because that's the region most associated with dairy products.) What does "stew" mean to you?

(The song used is Attakaindakara (Because It's So Warm) by comedy duo Kumamushi, a big hit and a major earworm.)


ハウスシチューのCM × クマムシ【あったかいんだから~♪】

・ 特別なスープ あなたにあげる あったかいんだから~

For what it's worth, I love cabbage (both the Chinese kind and the western kind)...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Tue, 2015-03-17 08:50
For what it's worth, I love cabbage (both the Chinese kind and the western kind), and have no problem with most other brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Brussel sprouts cooked properly are OK too. I just taste something metallic or something in kale and it just turns me off, unless it's cooked with lots of bacon etc.

Which, you know, everything is better with bacon, so doesn't really prove anything. ^_^

(Also, both my sense of smell and taste buds seem to have changed since my teh cancer period. No idea why.)

I have a confession to make. I really don't like kale. (runs for cover)

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Tue, 2015-03-17 07:16
I have a confession to make.

I really don't like kale.

(runs for cover)

In France, chocolate fish are a thing for Easter. (Edit: the fish are originally...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Sun, 2015-03-15 10:24
In France, chocolate fish are a thing for Easter. (Edit: the fish are originally "April fish (poisson d'avril)" to do with April Fool's Day, but you do see them sold alongside the other Easter chocolates) So, these are chocolate fish and chips. O.O


Fish and Chips en cornet chocolat au lait et praliné - BienManger chocolats & gourmandises -...
www.bienmanger.com
Fish and Chips en cornet chocolat au lait et praliné : Un incontournable anglais revisité

Adorable Easter bunnies by master patissier Philippe Rigollot. If you've seen th...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Sat, 2015-03-14 11:18
Adorable Easter bunnies by master patissier Philippe Rigollot. If you've seen the great documentary Kings of Pastry, Mr. Rigollot is the one who has the (spoiler) very bad accident. The Guy and I have driven 4+ hours each way to visit his store in Annecy, and it's totally worth it!

https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpt1/v/t1.0-9/p100x100/10401348_815399478510002_670943395122276116_n.jpg?oh=7f9d0f8548da994c509b398ec6935f12&oe=55A60474

Pâtisserie Philippe Rigollot

Voici la bande de lapins Rigollot qui arrivent dans notre Patisserie, pour le plus grand plaisir des petits mais aussi des grands!!!!

Does anyone know what this weird snack is? Cybercandy identifies it as being fro...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Sat, 2015-03-14 08:31
Does anyone know what this weird snack is? Cybercandy identifies it as being from the UK. It definitely is not from Japan. The chop-chop font used, not to mention the Orientalist description, are kind of off-putting.

Edit: I got a tweet from Cybercandy that it's their own product. (I told them how I feel about the packaging!)


Salty Sakura Cherry Blossom Rice Pieces 85g
www.cybercandy.co.uk

Easter chocolate ads are popping up now here in France. The "Oeuf Infini" from P...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Fri, 2015-03-13 17:52
Easter chocolate ads are popping up now here in France. The "Oeuf Infini" from Pierre Hermé costs an eye watering 195 euros (about US $205). I'm not sure if you're supposed to eat it or just put it on display...

http://www.pierreherme.com/products/new/paques/oeuf-infini.html


Somewhat related to the last post: in 2009 I got mentioned quite a lot in a NY T...

Facebook JustBento-JustHungry - Thu, 2015-03-12 12:58
Somewhat related to the last post: in 2009 I got mentioned quite a lot in a NY Times article about bentos. After that I got a few inquiries from agents and the like. I remember one I talked to wanted me to write a book about my life in France because she thought it would sell more than a bento book. That's not the book I wanted to write at all at that time, so that didn't go anywhere... A couple of months after that, I got an offer from the publisher who eventually published The Just Bento Cookbook.

So...I'm not sure what the point of that anecdote is actually ^_^ but I guess it's worth while to stick to what you want to do and not be distracted by what other people think is best for you. I'm pretty sure I could not have written a very good book about France at that point in time.... (Also, writing a book is Really Really Hard Work, so you really need to care a LOT about the subject matter! ^_^;)

some of my flickr photos