Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Comfort Food

Tuesday January 10, 9:01 p.m.

Ahhh...I will be looking at the picture on the right for some time with some wistfulness. It was my final meal in Japan before I boarded AC 002. Found a nearly empty family restaurant in the plaza between the North and South Wings of Terminal 1 of Narita Airport, and had the prime example of yo-shoku (Westernized Japanese food): hamburger topped with grated daikon, shiso leaf and a ponzu sauce. Some of my friends will probably pooh-pooh my choice, stating that I should've gone for sushi or real ramen....but it's all good for me, the mantra for the eternal foodie.

And now for the Canadian...or Torontonian....comfort food. Swiss Chalet, of course. This restaurant is an institution along with Tim Hortons in my city. A Half-Chicken Plate is what I always dream about when I'm on that plane for 12 hours. Believe me, after going through no sleep (and I cannot sleep on planes), mediocre plane food, and the long lines at Customs and Immigration, I can see Heidi jumping out at me when I leave Pearson....or is it Clara that jumps out of the wheelchair?
I know about the controversy surrounding the BBQ Sauce. I consider it manna from heaven....manna that is liberally sprinkled with MSG most likely. Others consider it dishwater.

Comfort food is a very personal choice. And what better cities to discuss about this than Tokyo and Toronto? Japan has traditionally been praised for its diet, but in recent years, the country has seen its shores invaded by all sorts of comfy cuisine: there is a McDonalds on nearly every corner in the Kanto, Black Forest Cakes and Zacher Tortes now often populate every shelf in a Starbucks, and karaage (J-fried chicken) and hamburger and tonkatsu bento are daily displays in every supermarket.

Now I'm not here to bury Caesar Salad...in fact, over the last several years in Japan, I've come to enjoy vegetation. I don't think I've been this regular in previous decades. But the current generations of Japanese have definitely come to embrace their inner glutton. Diet goods have started to pop up all over the tube and magazines, and it looks like every group of elementary school students I saw after school had one gargantuan fellow in it. And even the healthier members probably nosh on a biggu makku or choko from time to time. Frankly speaking, I made it a daily ritual. Strangely enough, since I'm now living back here in Toronto with my family, I've been eating far more healthily than during my time in Chiba. Still, Xmas and New Year's were and will always be a concern.

Do I miss my J-comfort food? A bit...but I've got plenty of choices here to help me forget.