Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Full moon sways / Gently in the night of one fine day."

Japan doesn't really have a tradition of dessert at the end of meals, so they're a little fascinated with Western-style cakes, etc. There are none of the huge-Costco-carrot cakes that can feed a family for a month (I know, I've done it) but there are a great many tiny, beautiful, work-of-art desserts that could feed one person - if they can bring themselves to put a fork to it. They especially love arrange fruit in complex patterns on top, which I can only get behind.

The company told us at training that a sensei, more than just teacher or master, means a third parent, and I could really see that right away. The best teachers are the ones with a good maternal or paternal instinct, who can ruffle the kid's hair or tuck in their shirt, who have authority when they say to be quiet and some gentleness when a girl cries from bullying. A handful of the female teachers, professional women though they are, have no qualms about wearing flowery aprons all day.

So what do you get when you combine a love for cooking and a love for feeding? Well, I get a treat every few weeks when one of them decides to experiment in the kitchen and brings in enough for all of us, on tiny pretty plates with tiny pretty spoons. So far we've had cheesecake, crispy little cookies, and yesterday was milk pudding with a thin caramel sauce drizzled over. This is at the end of the school day, when I get a little punchy:

Me: "I get more food given to me at work here than any other job... Well, that's not true, because I worked in a cafeteria. But I get more food here for a non-food-service job - well, it's really my first non-food-service job, but..."

A. gives me that, "Are you all right?" look.

But really, Japan worships food. The majority of their television has eating or preparation on it. America has a cooking channel, but here the most seemingly-unrelated show includes it. News will show some local delicacy or seasonal harvest, contest shows will have rare and expensive edible prizes, music shows will have the members of a group duel over a hot stove that is suddenly wheeled onto the set. It was a bit weird at first, but now I love it - getting ideas for my own meals and vicarious pleasure from the things I couldn't possibly afford.