Saturday, August 21, 2010

Food for Thought

When I was in Japan, one night at our English class a student brought a little styrofoam container of "food" for us America-jin teachers to taste.

It was crickets.
Sauteed in soy sauce and sugar.

At first I thought, no way. Not eating bugs. Not a chance. You can't make me, can't pay me enough. I'd seen these in the grocery store--in the produce section, or was it the snack section?-- before and had mentally decided the bug-eaters had to be out of their minds.

Then I asked why.
Why did Japanese people think eating crickets was such a grand idea?

My friend answered, "After World War II, there was almost no food in the country. Some families had nothing." She knew someone who had one pumpkin for their whole family to last an entire winter. "Eventually the people started going up into the mountains to scrounge for insects. Crickets were the most filling. Now we eat them to remember. Remember what they sacrificed."


She went on to tell me (and this was her opinion, so if someone has a different one, sorry. Just sharing hers.) that when the Marshall Plan went into effect and the United States sent rice and rice and more rice, the people were so thankful. (Although it surely took a lot of humility to accept it for many) that the began calling the U.S. "Beikoku"--the Rice Country.

The word for breakfast there is "asagohan." Morning rice. Lunch is "gohan." Rice. Dinner is "yuhan." Evening rice. So for America to become the Rice Country, that meant a lot.

I placed the cricket in my mouth.
I felt the spiny bristles of its back legs prick my tongue.
I chewed and swallowed...

So grateful for daily bread.
Or rice.

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