Friday, April 15, 2011

Weird Food

I came across this post* today, and was reminded of weird food I used to eat in boarding school in Japan.

Now I have to interject - before I really get started even - to say that there's weird food and then there's weird food. I am not talking about food that is innately weird to you but wouldn't be to a Japanese person (Tamago Gohan, for example. Yum. One of my all time favorite breakfasts and yet another reason why I want chickens!). I am talking about bona fide weird-ass foods. Got it? Good.

Our boarding school had a strict 3 meal a day sit down thing going on - and the dreaded stint of kitchen duty always seemed to come around waay more often than necessary. However. On Sundays lunch was not a sit down affair, but a show up for roll call and take it away bread lunch.

OK. Another goddamn interjection. Bread, or "pan" (I always thought it was derived from french, but Wikipedia disagrees with me) in Japanese, encompasses all things bread in Japan. From sliced bread (that's about 1 inch thick and resembles what we make Texas Toast out of here) to savory breads stuffed with curries and stews, sweet breads stuffed with sweet bean paste, pastry cream or chocolate - steamed breads, fried breads, baked breads.... suffice it to say there are a lot. Basically think of a food, slap the suffix '-pan' on the end, and some bakery somewhere in Japan is selling it.

So. For this relaxed Sunday lunch we usually got a sweet bread and a savory bread. On really lax days for the savory option they gave us a slice of bread (aforementioned monster minimally 1-inch thick white bread that's perfectly *perfectly* square...) and a little plastic container of sweet peanut butter spread crap. Blech. Thankfully the cafeteria was decked out with 4 toaster ovens (about 250 girls lived in my dorm...), and a few of my friends and I improvised. We came up with the Best. Thing. Ever. (or at least the best thing since sliced bread. ha!)

First you take a slice of monster white bread. Then, being very careful not to smoosh the fluffy that is the actual white part of the bread, you squirt on a healthy dose of Japanese Mayo. Only Kewpie brand will do, really. Yes. They sell it here in the US. (and check out the history of the company - they've been making it since 1925!) Worth every penny. Admire the fantastical star tip they inexplicably put on the squeeze bottle of mayo and the pretty designs it has created, and then using the side of the plastic knife that came with your individually packaged slice of monster bread, spread. Gingerly people! Do NOT ruin the integrity of the floofy.

OK. That done, mix up a package of Natto (I like Okame brand the best. This can also be found in Japanese and Asian markets here in the US. Be sure to use all of the included sauce and Chinese mustard. What? You don't like Natto?!?! We can not be friends. What's NOT to like in a small styrofoam box of fermented soy beans that smells like a cross between foot and foot fungus?!). Spread Natto on top of Mayo. Need I remind you to mind the integrity of the softness? No? Good.

Next. Put a fair amount of shredded (crappy) dry mozzarella (as processed as possible to get that authentic high-school-my-arteries-are-made-of-steel-devil-may-care-or-not-attitude feel) over the whole thing. I'm not sure why we always had crappy shredded cheese, but we did. This tasty concoction was thought up using stuff we always had on hand, so we must have.

Transfer the whole thing to the toaster. This process will definitely include a minor panic attack induced by the weight of the toppings making the middle of the bread sag and looking like the whole thing will fall, but you must push through. Toast on the rack (not the tray. Unless you like soggy bottoms) until the top is brown and bubbly.

Attempt to eat said creation, burn the shit out of the roof of your mouth, swear profusely, and continue eating. Seriously. It's the Best. Thing. Ever. (And I haven't thought about it in years!)

UPDATE: not 5 minutes after I originally posted this, I got 2 emails slamming me for not posting a picture. Please forgive me (sarcastic tone). I just can't recreate it authentically in a timely manner. You're just going to have use your fantastic(ally unused) imagination on this one. Snarky? Not me. No. Never!

*and I can't wait to try frying my grilled cheese in mayo. Both grilled cheese and mayonnaise are sacred items in my house, so it only seems natural that the two should be married, IMHO.

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