You knew it had to be coming, right? For all the wonderful food experiences I've had over here, there had to be something not good. (I don't consider the tentacles and eyeballs and fermented soybeans as bad dining, exactly - just not to my taste.)
Tonight I scoop myself a bowl of rice. I'd bought it maybe a week ago and poured it straight into a clean tupperware container, which I'd opened twice or so since then and resealed (I haven't been feeling much like rice lately.) Luckily I look into my bowl and see a tiny bug. I scoop it out, toss it, sift through the rice and find others. My first impulse is to toss the rest of the bag. But that would be ten dollars down the drain and no breakfast tomorrow. I go to my good friend google and see what other people think of tiny bugs in rice. Interestingly, while American bloggers and forumers react with, "Eek! Kill it! Kill it with fire!" and advise trashing everything in the pantry, Japanese answers are more laid-back. It seems the eggs sometimes come in the rice when it's bought, so it's not an infestation of the kitchen area. They suggest rinsing it thoroughly - which is done anyways to remove the powder - and the dead bugs will float to the top. Some even refer to their grandparents after World War II, and how priceless even the buggiest rice would have been. Having watched Grave of the Fireflies (which everyone should watch, albeit with tissues handy) I'm not inclined to argue. As my great-grandfather would point out, if it's lived in rice its whole life and eaten nothing but rice, it probably tastes just like rice. (Of course he was talking about apples and worms but the principle is the same.) And I'd probably eaten some of them already.
So don't think badly of me or say "Poor Emily!" but I'm going to when-in-Rome it. I'm carefully sifting the whole box a spoonful at a time, and I'll wash it even more carefully than usual. And then I'll very carefully Not Think About It. Shortly before I came here the man I consider my best friend went to Tanzania to teach with the Peace Corps. And whenever he'd write about some middle-of-nowhere experience including getting scabies which I didn't know existed outside 18th century novels. And I'd think gratefully, "At least Japanese is this century (though a little '80s sometimes." Now I'm thinking I'm that much closer to earning my "living in Japan" survival badge.
Excuse me while I enjoy my hard-earned dinner.