saturday plain and simple
October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’m no stranger to the standby college paradigms: the mind-bending stress of midterms and finals, late-night ice cream treats, ctools-submission desperation…
But I think I’m somewhat off the beaten path when it comes to my go-to comfort meal: a bowl of steamed rice and vegetables, accompanied by a piping hot mug of green tea.
Although it may not be typical to crave a dish of leafy greens or sesame-topped basmati rice, these days there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the well-being of my beloved rice-cooker or vegetable-steamer. And though you might chuckle disbelievingly at my grain and food-apparatus devotion, I attribute my pious adherence to the seemingly plain to the likewise unadorned cooking-style of Japanese cuisine.
According to my Japanese cookbook, “What distinguishes Japanese cooking from other cuisines in the world is its sheer simplicity. It is vital in Japan to appreciate and value the natural taste and texture of fresh produce, and the best way to do this is to cook ingredients gently and simply, for the minimum amount of time feasible.” Okay, so maybe my treasured rice-and-broccoli lunch menu errs a little too much on the simple side (this is college after all, everyone’s got a budget), but the ease of preparation, vibrant flavors and colors, and wholesome goodness of such a basic meal is an invaluable part of my mental and physical health. I’ve never more believed in the importance of eating a balanced, nutritious diet since adopting the Japanese philosophy of eating: smaller portions, more colors, variegated cooking methods per meal, and simplifying the basic preparation of foods to bring out their intrinsic, vibrant flavors.
Eating culture is a wonderful thing to pick-and-choose from, and for me, I’ve come to love my delicate ceramic rice bowls, my hardworking six-cup rice cooker, and my collection of chopsticks big, small, and in between. By mimicking a basic, daily practice I bring myself closer to more fully understanding and appreciating the Japanese way of life. Combined with my dedicated language study, I feel uniquely connected to a culture I love and admire even by so simple an action as eating a meal.