Thursday, January 10, 2013

Go-To Food


Sometimes I find the most ordinary things fascinating, like supermarkets. Supermarkets contain a range of items from fresh produce to dry ingredients to prepared foods, and they reflect the preferences of their customers. Going into a supermarket in a foreign country (or even a foreign food supermarket in the U.S.) is an experience for me because while there are often many similarities to an average American supermarket, some differences are quite vast.

A quintessential food I think of for Americans is breakfast cereal. There’s an entire aisle dedicated to boxes of the stuff in flake, puff and loop form. There’s the ultra sweet cereals, chock full of chocolate, “fruit flavors” and marshmallows; there’s the “healthier” cereals with dried fruit and nuts. There’s pretty much every type of cereal imaginable (and some you didn’t think ought to have been imagined)—basically, there’s a cereal for everyone.

In Japan, there was no breakfast cereal aisle. I found cereal on a lower shelf —there were about six different cereal options (and half of them were essentially corn flakes). But they did have a very extensive instant noodle aisle; there was ramen, udon, soba, yakisoba and perhaps some “low fat” noodle options as well. Everyone seemed to eat instant noodles and have their favorite brands and flavors.

Both breakfast cereal and instant noodles have one thing in common: they’re fast and easy to make. When you’re hungry, you just want to eat something immediately, and with cereal you just add milk; with instant noodles you just add hot water. Anyone can do either of these things successfully, so it becomes that go-to meal when you’re just too lazy to make anything else (and there are times I get pretty lazy…).


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