Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No Sloppy Joes?

School lunch in Japan is much different than in Wisconsin. First of all, there is no lunch room. Students stay in their classrooms all day and the teachers rotate. When it’s lunch time (12:45pm), the students assigned to lunch responsibilities put on these like full body cloth suits with matching caps.
Awww, look - even elementary students can do it!
Scoopin` and servin` the salmon rice - yum!

I’m guessing this has some sort of sanitary purpose, but really I think they’re going for style points. Some students get the lunch, and set it up; others serve the lunch to their peers. This is particularly entertaining at the elementary school level. All students eat school lunch – no brown bagging here! Students wait until everyone has been served, say Itadakimasu! (roughly: I’ll start!), then all begin to eat together. I travel around and go to a new classroom everyday… some classes remain in the rows and are pretty quiet, while others group into fours and fives and are loud and obnoxious (good for them!). There is also classical or Disney music playing the whole time. I’ve heard that at other schools there is rock n roll music playing during lunch. We got jipped. At the end of lunch, everyone brings up their own tray and cleans and separates it all. Garbage disposal in Japan is so intense it necessitates its own blog, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.
Here are some pics of school lunches. Now granted, the school lunch menu in the US has changed a great deal since MANY of ya’ll were in elementary and middle school, but especially within the past 5 to 10 years, I believe there has been a really positive change to make school lunches more well balanced and less preserved. It’s tough to do when you have to balance not only a well rounded meal with all the food groups, but also steer clear of preservatives and uber- (trans)fatty foods, while maintaining taste for the kiddos, not to mention keep costs reasonable for students of all demographics! Props to all school nutritionists world-wide for their efforts! That being said, I think Maebashi is doing a pretty great job with their menu. There’s even a poster in the hall proving that eating good foods make you smart!

So without further adieu; school lunches in Gunma:-3.7% milk comes with every meal.
This was some kind of chicken and veggie soup with rice, a scrambled egg-esque side with who knows what sauce, and orange and gelatin dessert in a syrup.
This was probably my favorite so far: Rice with a mild Japanese curry that had veggies and beef, picked cukes with salt and pepper, a little baggie of dried fishies that you pop like peanuts, and a strawberry mouse dessert.
Rice yet again, with a side of fried veggies and shrimp which you pour some of that soy sauce on, picked cukes and onions, and miso soup (love it!) with radishes, carrots, pork, onions, and konnyaku (like a firmer Jell-o that is translucent with black specks in it that kind of feels like a noodle, but is always much thicker and blockier).
Ramen noodles with pork, fish cakes, tiny hard boiled eggs (curious as to what kind of bird it came from!), and veggie soup to put them in. A side of fried mashed potatoes, veggie (carrots, cukes, and my favorite: bean sprouts!) salad with dressing, and an awesome puff pastry with whipped cream and oranges in the center.
Minestrone soup (tomato broth, shelled noodles, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, chicken, oregano = deeeeliscous!), hunk of bagged bread, breaded pork cutlet with piece of cold nasty cheese, salad with cukes, onions, seaweed and clear noodles.
A cut of cooked salmon, rice, nikujaga (Japanese style stew with carrots, onion, chicken?, potatoes, somethin’ green, and konnyaku), and a side of picked cukes and bamboo shoots?.
A different type of nikujaga with potatoes, clear noodles, carrots, chicken?, and thick broth, rice with that dominant little red packet of flavoring, edamame beans and corn, and two little dried and open mouthed fishies (you eat everything but the head, and it was pretty tasty!).
Bon apetit! or, for all you Japanese speakers out there, Itadakimasu!!!

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