…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Back in the early 90’s, on my first trip to Alan Wong’s Restaurant (apparently one of President Obama’s faves in Hawaii), the General Manager was convinced I was a food writer or a restaurant reviewer because I was taking photos of the dishes (with my analog camera) when Yelp!, Instagram and FoodTV Network didn’t exist. When I swore up and down that I was not, he thought I was a restaurateur or a chef, because I asked for a copy of the menu I can take home. The word Foodie, like Selfie, wasn’t a vernacular that got tossed around, and I would have rejected that title, too, because I just enjoy eating good food. Who doesn’t?
It turns out that there are people, and communities, where every day eating is a thing you need to do. Japan is food-obsessed. They don’t need a TV channel dedicated to cooking because every broadcast channel has plenty of segments that involve cooking and restaurant reviews embedded into their programs, as well as full-length reality TV and game shows focused on food (Iron Chef, now a popular TV program in the US began in Japan a long time ago!). Having been brought up in Japan, I only realized that there were other attitudes towards food and eating when my in-laws found my need to experience good food…at best curious, if not odd. When my mother-in-law met my mother, and observed how she enjoyed her food and described the sensations, a light bulb turned on: “I get it now. For you and Yuka, eating is an experience!”
But, of course. Every meal is an opportunity to experience the joy that I get from eating. On most days I get to do it 3 times a day (at least). It’s the opposite of what my college friend used to say about how he hated mornings: “Waking up is the most horrible thing I have to do, and I have to do it every day.”
Then I realized, wait, there are people (like my in-laws) where eating is not necessary prioritized as an experience. Now the stories of my husband’s childhood made sense: eating a bag of trail mix in the back of the car so they can get to the next place without having to stop for lunch, and selecting a food product for its high caloric value to make sure you don’t go hungry (or a healthier version would be carrot sticks, and you know how I feel about that).
One isn’t right or better, and the other attitude, wrong or worse. But I will say that my mother-in-law appreciates having me around on trips which automatically ensures that there will be 3 (memorable, though she may care more about the 3) meals will be scheduled into our plans.
Photo: Crab fat congee at 1760 Restaurant on Polk Street, San Francisco (yes, selecting anything that says crab fat from the menu is usually a good rule of thumb for a satisfying food experience).