One to Grow On

November 11, 2009

Can you say allergic to gluten and milk in 43 languages?

Filed under: Uncategorized — midway2go @ 11:35 pm

Friends and family, and more than a few strangers, worried plenty before we started this trip. I was asked if I’d planned for safety, homeschooling, money.   Folks wanted to know how I was going to carry everything, handle parenting issues (read: tantrum),  keep in touch, pay bills…  One person even asked how many pairs of underpants we were bringing.  Most of this stuff has turned out to be no big deal.  It’s like when people ask homeschooling parents about socialization; it just works itself out.  But the one question for which I had no great answer was this:  What in the world are y’all going to eat?  Almost 2 weeks into the trip I’m still not sure.   I planned to do what we always do when travelling, stock up at the grocery store and picnic.  In two months of travel this summer we ate exactly one restaurant meal, at a Chipotle in Portland.  However,  I wasn’t prepared for the grocery stores to look like this: 





These are all variety of tiny dried fish. It's like eating krill. Thar she blows!






Found these in the egg section. I suspect quail.

Don’t get me wrong- I love that people all over the world eat such a variety of things.  And, provided it is milk and gluten free and comes from the plant kingdom, I’m as game as the next gal for trying new things.  Really.  But when I gaze upon row after row in market and cannot distinguish vegetable from grain from sea product I feel at a loss.  Never before have I wished so much that we were allergy-free (well, maybe standing in boulangerie in Paris, gazing at the baguettes and croissants…  )  My unease in the markets and when gazing at a menu all in Japanese goes beyond a concerns with familiarity;  we are travelling to experience the unfamiliar.  My concern is that we will eat something that will make us sick.  So far, with care and lots of questions and even mooing and frowning  at a poor, surprised barista in a coffee shop while trying to order soy  cocoa, we’ve managed to stay pretty healthy.  Thank goodness. 


So,what are we eating?  In one market a lady pointed out soymilk and soy yogurt, which have proven to be easy to find.  They’re even available in convienence stores  in train stations.  We’ve also been able to find  bags of peanuts,walnuts, and cashews, although not cheaply.  Nora is in heaven with little bags of cut up cabbage everywhere you turn.  Fruits and veggies are available, at a hefty price.  While we haven’t seen the mythical $100 watermelon we did spot a pint of strawberries at $16.  Ever wondered what a $4 apple looks like?  








Unfortunately nuts and fruit and salad won’t keep two kids satisfied forever.  We eat in restaurants once or twice a day, usually with mixed results.  Nora, it turns out, may have been Japanese in a past life.   We had breakfast in the  hotel restaurant in Igaueno and ordered two set breakfasts, one Japanese and one Western.  Rory ate the Western, two scrambled eggs and what passes for bacon in the UK.  He declined the juice of indeterminate origin (carrot? maybe mixed with papaya?), the eggplant and the tomato.  Nora polished off almost everything on her tray, small plates and bowls with varied things… the largest plate held salmon and something revealed by the waitress to be egg loaf simmered in soy (I ate that), a bowl of sticky rice, a small plate of fried tofu strips with julienned daikon radish and carrots and a little chicken, a dish of pickled sour cucumbers, a bowl of miso soup, a lychee and orange slices, a cup of Japanese  tea and an aperatif glass full of clear liquid.  Nora tasted it, got a funny look on her face, and pronounced it delicious.  She was going for more when I realized with a whiff that it could well be wine!   More help from the waitress and we came to understand that it waa apple vinegar.  With breakfast.   Nora loved it.  Hmmm… 



Remains of the Breakfast...



At another memorable meal we were served the crunchy-krill things.  Nora and I tried one (I’m trying to be add the Products of the Sea to my happy list) but Rory flatly refused.  I think they are meant to be sprinkled over your food like big salt.  They certainly were salty, and fishy, and no doubt high in calcium and trace minerals.   Still, one taste was enough.  Rory did eat the pork lying on top of the steamer basket, so I give him some credit. 



lunch in a stylish place in Harajuku, Tokyo


Yes, those are the eyes.

We have had some great meals, from Japanese-style barbeque (where Rory tried-and hated- chicken livers while the whole place looked on) to a vegetarian buffet with more ways of serving radish that I thought possible.  Iwish now I’d taken more photos of our food, and maybe I’ll start.  One treat we see cooked on the street is a pastry fish filled with what I guess to be chocolate, but could just as easily be something from the Kingdom of the Sea.    I didn’t get a photo, but this is a common sight and the same shape- 







Japanese peeps, maybe?










































  1. I meant to tell you in the last post that I wouldn’t mind a bit if you told us about the food! Tell Rory the krill are just croutons with eyeballs. No big deal!

    Comment by Jill — November 12, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  2. Never did want to eat something that kept looking at me. Real uneasy feeling. Glad Nora is branching out.

    Comment by Papa — November 12, 2009 @ 10:42 am

  3. I am LOVING your blog! Definitely take more pictures of the food! It’s the closest I may ever get to Japan!!

    Comment by Amy — November 14, 2009 @ 12:29 am

  4. I just wanted to let you know that I’m pretty sure (though not positive) that the filling in the fish-shaped pastry is a sweet bean paste. We’re stationed in Japan, and many of their sweets contain that red bean paste. Enjoy your travels!

    Comment by Lili — November 14, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  5. Oh those dishes are fun. Did I see a Bento Box? I saw gold flatware and almost gone rice. I never saw grocery market items like these. Thank you for sharing pictures of your food adventure. You make me wish I could understand Japanese writing! Love, Grandma Barbara

    Comment by Grandma Barbara — November 18, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

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