Sunday, November 22, 2009

Attack of the Killer Pancake

A second blog previous record for blogging has finally been surpassed!

I have received a few requests from people asking to see more of the the city proper. In the interest of capturing scenic views of Sendai, I have thus sacrificed any last shred of dignity (that was not lost when I asked the grocery store attendant where to find yogurt, only to find I was standing in front of the display) and tromped around the city for a few hours trying to find a few good shots. Sendai is the 'green city' of Japan, and accordingly takes great pride in the amount of greenery and parks it has to offer. Supposedly around Christmas, the city lights up the main boulevard of trees with lights (I was assured on several occasions that this is 'very romantic' and 'good for couples').

Downtown Sendai--look at the trees!

The city skyline

A view from the river

This weekend was the 2009 Tohoku University Festival--a campus-wide event with food stands, performances, rock bands, and men wearing French maid outfits.

Oh, yes. There was also a vender wearing a fish hat and wielding a trident, two girls in chipmunk suits, and several individuals sporting rabbit-ear headbands.

The festival was a fantastic introduction to the University clubs, Japanese food, and campus life in general; displays ranged from jazz cafes to battling robots to a room filled end to end with running model trains (the Tohoku Railway Fan Club). One room (I think it was the American Football Club) was running a NE Patriots game on a giant plasma screen.

.....that would be a young man.

The bunny ears are slightly obscured by the white tent, however...

Tohoku University Festival!

As in the States, eating out in Japan is a social activity that requires proper etiquette. Last week a group of Japanese students taught me how to slurp (yes, slurp) ramen; I have to admit, it was perversely thrilling to justify dining behavior that used to earn me lectures at the dinner table (although I did receive complaints that I was not making nearly enough noise while eating the noodles). It was not as thrilling, however, attempting to remove a number of small grease stains from my white shirt after the fact; obviously my technique leaves much to be desired.

These new culinary experiences have even extended to my sad yet determined attempts to cook for myself. My former host family generously provided me with a recipe for Osaka-style okonomiyaki, a dish that somewhat resembles an omelet-pancake (and if made properly, is absolutely delicious). Yesterday, figuring that it was high time I learned to make Japanese dishes, I gamely purchased the necessary ingredients and managed to keep my battle with the gas burner to a minimum; the dish was cooking rather nicely, and in fact almost resembled the picture that was included with the recipe. The final step was simply to flip the pancake, cook for five minutes, and voila! Optimistic at my perceived culinary prowess, I swung the pan down and up, flipping the omelet-like patty into a beautiful arc that gracefully turned and landed…with a melodious squelch.

Smack in the middle of my kitchen wall.

As I watched my would-be dinner slide down the white paint (which now flaunts large patches of beige-brown) it occurred to me that—although the crust of the okonomyaki that was now oozing just past eye-level was a lovely, perfect shade of brown—perhaps the world would be a safer place if I relegated myself to sushi and salads.

On that note! Next week is Thanksgiving in Kyoto with the other Fulbrighters; I will not, of course, be bringing okonomiyaki. More pictures from the Kansai region in the next post!

Take care!