February 19, 2009: “Day #2: Arriving in Narita”

Cover of "Kitchen Confidential: Adventure...

Cover via Amazon

Suddenly it was 7:00PM PST and I decided to reference the interactive map installed in the headset in front of me. I broke down and changed the time on my watch. One minute it was night time. The next minute, as I released the lever on my watch, I was forced to change the time to 12:00 noon JST. It doesn’t feel like noon … my body feels as though it’s time to settle down with a warm dinner and cuddle up on the couch with my fuzzy blanket and watch “Top Chef.” Yet, my anticipation grows as the countdown for arriving in Narita approaches. The outside air temperature has increased as we have passed the standard route over the Bering Sea and Dutch Harbor. It is now -54 degrees Fahrenheit. We have traveled 3,120 miles with only an additional 1,763 miles before our arrival. In another three hours and forty-four minutes we will be landing in a land full of enchantment and a culture and world so far removed from anything that America has to offer.

While I write this I am listening to Anthony Bourdain‘s “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” Bourdain compares food to sex. I began to consider this statement and I realized that American culture does not abide by this passionate belief. Instead, we devour our food without savoring the delicacy, intricacy, and complexity of the flavors. I began to recall how in Japan food is an art. Food is treated like sex – something that is memorable and savored. Perhaps that is why in Japan the portions can be a fraction of what we gauge as the typical American portion, yet Japanese cuisine warms the soul and provides that “sexual” comfort that American cuisine lacks. Perhaps American cuisine can be compared to meaningless, emotionless sex while Japanese cuisine mimics the act of making love. I’ve realized that while food can be sexual – not in a perverse sense – a culture can impart love, tenderness, appreciation, and warmth through the conveyance of an artful masterpiece on a small plate, usually just one single bite of bliss that lingers so gently, almost in a caressing fashion. The art of food is as beautiful and should be as cherished as the great works of art that line the wall of the Louvre. A piece of art can inspire, but the simple taste of a familiar dish imparts warmth, memories, and inspiration. One bite can transport you to a world miles away from reality.

I can see the Mona Lisa and ponder over her sad, mysterious smile but every time I taste a buttery, delicious piece of fresh sashimi it will transport me to Japan. That one bite will make me reminisce about my time spent in Japan. It will make me close my eyes and not only remember Japan’s amazing cuisine, but remind me of their proud, polite, historic culture. When a chef can convey his/her passion for food in one single bite, he/she is an artist. Much like a painter brushes colorful strokes on his/her canvas, an excellent chef diligently selects his/her ingredients and creates an edible masterpiece that is to be savored and remembered for an eternity.

The bus ride to Zama was uneventful and I loved watching my hubby’s face as he absorbed the ride through Tokyo. The bright lights, the large buildings, the small cars – it imparts a culture that is so unfamiliar to us in America.

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