What to eat and what not to
The most frequently asked question to me while talking with my friends here in Australia about the whaling dispute is “have you eaten whale meat?’ “What it’s like?” they ask. They all look very curious about the ‘mysterious’ and ‘exotic’ meat.
I once heard a rumour that restaurants in Japan which serve whale meat had recently been flocked by Australian tourists. Don’t worry. It is just a rumour. And, no. I have not made a thorough investigation into this rumour as yet. But Australians are adventurous, brave and open to unknown cultures. Then, why not?
Coming back to the FAQ, yes, I have eaten whale meat. Like most of Japanese people who are in my generation, I had whale meat at my primary school in Tokyo. And I must make a confession here. Actually, I LOVED it.
School meal – kyushoku （給食）in Japanese which literary means “supplied meal” – was a bit of an issue for me back then. Actually I was living in Vancouver from the age of four and never had an opportunity to attend Japanese kindergarten or primary school. So when my family moved back to Japan when I was seven, my parents teasingly told me “when you go back to Japan, you have to have something called kyushoku which is not necessarily tasty”. I became a bit scared and was quite cautious about kyushoku on my first day at the Japanese primary school.
However, kyushoku time turned out to be the best part of my school life in Tokyo. Probably because my school had its own kitchen and well trained cooking staff, dishes were wonderfully cooked and, contrary to my parents’ kind warning, they were delicious.
Here I am talking about an event that happened in the late 60s, by the way. It is rather scary to realise that more than 40 years have passed since then!
Therefore, my memory of the whole menu of kyushoku is rather vague but there are definitely some dishes I still could fondly recall. Pasta salad, Japanese udon noodle in curry soup, fishcakes fried with sprinkles of seaweed, raisin & brown sugar breads, coffee flavoured milk in a triangle pole shaped pack, bread with chocolate margarine … and I cannot leave out fried whale meat.
Looking back, however, it is quite bizarre that I did not have any hesitation in eating it. When I was a kid I did not have likes and dislikes. I think I had quite a well balanced diet thanks to my mum. But when it comes to meat, I suddenly became picky. I could not eat meat which was not on our family meal table.
I had and still have my own strict policy. I do not eat, for example, from rabbits, deer, frogs, pigeons and quails. This list indicates that I am missing out on most ‘elegant’ French gibier cuisine, I suppose. Horse meat is very popular among some Japanese, but I do not eat that either. Bear hands? No thank you. I am also not interested in tasting roo or croc meat. Then, why was whale meat OK?
To be very honest, I really cannot logically explain my “what meat to eat and what not to” criteria. Where I draw the line is unclear. I do have a sense that I am more comfortable eating food from the ocean. This, of course, includes whales. That is the only explanation I have at the moment.
Thus, I believe everyone has got her/his own criteria in deciding what to eat and what not to. Sometimes logical, sometimes not. So, what is your policy? If you find yourself in one restaurant in Japan and were served a whale meat dish, what would you do?
6 March 2011, 5.00pm
Actually, I drafted the above blog a few weeks back.
Now, as I speak … I came across this The Age article “Are you game for roadkill night?” this morning. Have you seen this?
No. I wouldn’t be at the Road Kill night for sure.
BUT … I must question myself … what if they were stranded whales? … agh!! … sorry.