Saturday, February 19, 2011

School Lunch

              A bright point of any work day is lunch. The day is at least half over, and a nice break with good food is always appreciated. Working as an ALT, eating Japanese school lunches, lunch becomes both a break in the day and a bit of a game of roulette.

              In some ways I am luckier than a great many other ALTs, in that I have always made learning how to read Japanese menus a high priority. At the beginning of every month all the teachers receive a list of every lunch for that month with a nutritional break down. For those who can’t read much Japanese this is not a big help, and every day brings a new surprise.

              I can usually read most of what is coming, and at least figure out if the lunch will be good or bad. This being Japan, there is a lot of fish on tap, though it is usually a random hunk of cooked fish, a meal that rarely appeals to my landlocked taste buds. The variety is actually rather amazing. Naturally most of the time lunch is Japanese food, but there are plenty of meals inspired by Chinese, Korean and Western cooking.

              I say inspired by because like most things here, these cuisines have been filtered through that uniquely Japanese sense of taste. Things that should be spicy have been robbed of all pep, and beware of anything that should have cheese in it.

              Each lunch is actually quite balanced though, with fruit, veggies, protein and carbs. Really, aside from the occasional bad tasting clunker, the lunches are pretty good. The real problem for the ALT is that each serving is intended for a growing young junior high school student. They pack a pretty big punch calorie wise, and yet the serving size rarely seems like quite enough, which makes seconds a tempting but risky proposition.

              As someone who never ate school lunch growing up, I have nothing to compare my lunches too, but I think that generally they do a good job. Not every lunch is a winner, but that holds true when restaurant hopping in downtown Denver too.


Mia said...

That looks nothing like the lunch boxes in China. Those were pretty good and very filling since it was mostly rice or noodles.

One of the most popular Japanese dishes in China is 蛋包飯. I don't know if it has the same name in Japanese. Or if it's even made the same way. But it's a great example of bland with absolutely no spice whatsoever.

And Chinese food has the same problem with cheese. And bread with meals. I don't know why they fear bread so much.

I'm a little curious how you never ate lunch when you were in school.

victoriasart said...

The food may not be any thing we recognize as food but it is usually pretty good.
Mia, Grant ate lunch at school, but not lunches provided by the school.

Travelingrant said...

Yeah, I ate lunch from home every day. Peanut Butter and Honey back in the day, graduating to pastrami, burritos and more. I was pretty well taken care of!

Hmm, that dish is new to me, must be something different in Japanese, but yeah I love Japanese food but it always feels good to mix things up with something with a little more fire.

Mia said...

I tried to get 蛋包飯 in Japan once but they didn't know what I was talking about. Then again, I don't speak Japanese.

We didn't have the option of bringing our own food to lunch when I was in school. That would have been nice. Burritos for lunch might have made the other 6 hours worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Jealous. I just ate a grilled cheese sandwich. Should have gone to Domo.