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Saturday, May 1, 2010
WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST
By the pricking of my thumbs, something yummy this way comes
Every time I return to the States I cannot help but feel a bit . . . evil.
Evil as in . . . Wicked . . . Depraved . . . Sinful . . .
Evil as in Count Dracula creeping in upon a negligee-clad Audrey Hepburn in her darkened boudoir, with her luscious neck stretched back and fully exposed upon her pillow. Exposed to show a day-glo tattoo, reading . . .
But it's not necks I'm after. No, no, it's . . . food. Junk food.
The inch-thick pizzas, the grease-dripping burritos, the quarter-pound deathburgers, the gallons of chocolate milk, the tubs of sour-cream onion dip, the miles and miles of Ding Dongs.
I feel like America is one enormous banquet table of calorific junk. Before which I lick my lips and cry, "Buwhahahahaha! You're mine! All mine!"
Not that Japan doesn't have junk food. Nor that I am advocating ripping open my arteries and packing in the cheese directly.
But there's something about going home that unleashes a monster hidden within — a sort of Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Piggy. Unleashes him and sends him to prey upon the junk food smorgasbord of the United States.
Funny, but I have no trouble resisting such temptation here in Japan. Relatively speaking.
Maybe that's because most Japanese junk items don't excite my appetite. I mean, noodles are nice, but when it comes to fiendish cravings, "nice" doesn't cut it. Noodles are "nice," but lasagna is decadent. Give me the decadence every time.
Of course American-style goodies lurk about Japanese store shelves as well. Yet, somehow the foreign environment hushes all the demons.
It's like Hannibal Lecter wearing that hockey mask. He's diabolical, right? Yet, stick him between Anpanman and Doraemon and he begins to look rather cute. Cute enough to pat on the head and ignore.
And Japanese restaurants? Well, they can deliver ogre-ish delights as well as anywhere, but most typically in elf-size servings. Mr. Piggy does not go "Buwhahaha" for those.
Then at home my wife insures that our dinner table holds only the most wholesome and healthy culinary treats. To which I grunt like a tamed Frankenstein:
Tofu? Goooood. Miso? Goooood. Mikan? Goooood.
And they are too. Never do I feel unsatisfied. I am on the trim side as well.
But once I get Stateside the prudent Dr. Jekyl disappears. And the voracious Mr. Piggy takes over. I gorge myself from start to finish.
Take my last trip. At one stop along the way I can't recall if I stayed two days at motel across from a Taco Bell. Or two days at a Taco Bell across from a motel.
What is it about America that brings out the monster in me?
Maybe it's because once out of Japan, I enter vacation mode. Eat, drink and be merry . . . for tomorrow I must fly. Fly back to tofu, miso, etc. So I vacuum in the junk while I can get it.
Or maybe it's because going home awakens memories from my youth, when I was still a growing boy and had my head turned by every jelly doughnut I saw.
Obesity? Cholesterol? Metabolic Syndrome? I think none of those terms even existed when I was a boy. They are Post-Post-Postmodern and I am surprised they haven't all been blamed on Obama.
When I was a boy, the only downside to too much junk food was cavities. I can still recall my older sister shaking a finger and saying . . .
"Are you crazy!? You're gonna get cavities galore! Drop that Hershey bar now!"
Upon which I did. Upon which she grabbed and gobbled it before my eyes. Upon which I learned a hard lesson about life.
Another factor behind my U.S. feeding frenzies is that I tend to take quicker jaunts these days, while my wife remains in Japan.
When traveling with my wife, I hear her say things such as, "I feel like some fish. How about you?"
But when alone, Mr. Piggy says nothing of the sort. His comments are more like: "I feel like a bucket of nachos with taco chips, followed by a foot-long grilled Reuben and then a barrel of chocolate pudding."
And who is to stop me. Buwhahahahaha!
And though I am now aware of words like "obesity," "cholesterol" and so on, how much damage can one do during a one-week whirlwind eatfest? Especially when I will return to months and months of safe and sane consumption back in Japan?
So what if Dracula sucks down a few jugulars on the road. As long as he balances it out with lots of mineral water back home.
Then again, a lot of my fellow countrymen struggle mightily with overeating, unable to resist that last buffalo wing, that final scoop of double fudge delight.
That's where Mr. Piggy can help. Because for a short while he can take the calories that were aimed at someone else. Why, it is almost humanitarian.
So in that sense he might not be so very evil at all. Right?