Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Life Lessons Through Snacking

For such a generally conservative society, Japan has a strange fascination with change. Concepts like the cycle of life, the change of the seasons, and the transitory nature of existence are found throughout Japanese culture. Poetry, art, religion and food are all outlets for this melancholy celebration.
              One vector for the idea that nothing stays the same is in junk food and snacks. Go to any grocery store or convenience store and you will be confronted with a very wide variety of limited time sodas, beer, and snack foods. Some are seasonal; some are simply specials.
              This approach does have its benefits. Every trip to the store brings the possibility of discovering something amazing and delicious. Items like the winter special chocolate almonds, with a dusting of bitter sweet cocoa powder on the outside. Some years ago several companies offered tomato and mozzarella flavored potato chips, an interesting combination that I grew quite fond of that has since disappeared for good. Not every new product is a hit though, for example the cheese flavored Kitkat bars or the famous cucumber flavored Pepsi. I tried that one myself, and while it wasn’t as atrocious as one might expect, neither was it something I cared to revisit. It pretty much tasted like cucumber though, which really is a triumph of better living through chemistry.
              McDonalds has also seized on this, and regularly features rotating special sandwiches. In the fall there were four chicken sandwiches, including a Fondue sandwich that had the chicken dipped in a cheese sauce, then slapped on a bun with bacon and another slice of cheese. There was also the German Sausage sandwich with chicken, a slice of sausage, sauerkraut and mustard sauce. Each sandwich lasted two weeks, and once the time was up, that sandwich was gone.
              Currently they are running a campaign called Big America 2, a sequel to last years Big America Burgers. The offering include the Idaho Burger, with a hash brown on top of the patty. It is probably the most delicious McDonalds burger I have ever had, though as you can imagine it is NOT for the calorie conscious. There was also the Miami Burger, with corn chips and chili as a topping. How they got from chili to Miami I'm not entirely sure. However, both of those are gone, and now the last burger looms large, the Manhattan with its deli looking bun and pastrami topper. I haven't tried it yet, but I suppose I should, in the interests of  completeness.
              The real downside of and lesson in all this is that nothing lasts forever. When you find an interesting flavor that excites your taste buds you know that you had better enjoy it now, because it will be gone soon. A fitting lesson for life brought to you by potato chips.


Anonymous said...

This is easily one of my favorite things about Japan, though I do hate really falling in love with something, and never knowing when it will disappear forever. 7-11 had this Kiwi yogurt last summer that was insanely delicious, and I miss it so much :( There's always the hope for next summer, but...

Mia said...

When I first moved to China I found the best crackers I've ever had. They were gone forever in a few months.

Anonymous said...

reading your lead-in at 430 am Denver time, after checking Drudge and seeing the quake report, gives one a sense that you were onto a timely theme before the moment of its manifestation actually arrived. That was a pretty sound affirmation of your noting the evanescence of life. In a similar vein we finished The Pacific last night and I am sure Sledge would concur.