The Japanese have ceremonies for everything.
From losing your virginity to committing suicide, there are rituals
that circumscribe every moment. In true Zen fashion, the correct
performance of the act becomes as important as the act itself.
Particularly when it involves pleasure or pain.
Even those of us whose moments of pleasure are sandwiched between
checking our email and answering our cell phones can appreciate the
Japanese genius for symbolism and ritual.
In our hurry up I've got carpool world we can acknowledge how the
contemplation of an experience during its slow, measured movements
would serve to heighten every aspect of the climax, if you'll pardon an
Of course after World War II, most performances of those carefully
crafted, nuanced, and very ancient rituals went out the window when the country
was occupied by beerdrinking American soldiers out for a good time. Bad karma. Appreciation
for the power of delayed gratification requires centuries of navel
contemplation and the USA wasn't even 200 years old. A pimple on the
butt of a life of introspection.
The American character does not have the rich patina of the Japanese.
We act on our impulses almost as quickly as we have them. The
Japanese response is often imperceptible.
The idea of spending years to learn the intricate nuances required to
perform the tea ceremony would never occur to us. Worrying about
the correct tilt of one's finger while pouring flavored water is just
wasting valuable time we could be using to satisfy our thirst for immediate gratification.
We want results now. A job done. The Japanese savor the experience.
So it's not surprising that in Japan, it's not what you eat but how you eat it.
Eating food reflects the centuries of contemplation which permeate so much of Japanese life to this day.
The result is that women in Japan live longer with thinner bodies than almost anywhere else in the world.
You've probably heard about the
Japanese girl who gained 25 pounds in two months living in the US. Or
how anyone who switches to an American diet becomes a big fat cow.
When the young woman got back
to Japan the extra pounds disappeared. Quelle surprise!! Then she did
what everyone else does, she wrote a book about it. Oh, sure tell us
we're fat, then try to make money off our big fat asses.
So, to lose those unsightly bulges, all we have to do is cook and eat like the Japanese.
No thank you, I have a cupboard full of Mexican food to get through
first. Plus, I don't want to learn how to make apples look like swans
yet. Or risk my life serving that poison blowfish.
Meanwhile, in case you haven't figured it out by now, Japanese women eat very differently
than the rest of the world. Mostly they eat less. There is only a
two per cent obesity rate among women in Japan. Versus
thirty-four percent in the US As a result, women in Japan have an 85 year
life expectancy in Japan versus 80 years over here.
Preparing a meal in Japan is like
painting. The art and beauty of the food matters as much as the amount.
The arrangement on the plate is as important as the preparation. In all
there is restraint, which may be the main difference between the
Japanese and Americans in everything. We barely give lip service to
portion control. Lip smacking is more our style.
Fish is the main source of protein in the Japanese diet. Served raw or grilled. Rice
bran oil or canola oil, not butter, are used for cooking. Vegeables are the
main course, not the side dish. Fish, meat and poultry are
used as condiments, sprinkled on top, not served on a slab in the middle. Rice is cooked with water and no oil. At
the end of the meal, unsweetened green
tea is served hot as the final punctuation.
The Japanese use small, separate
plates to serve the different foods. Like people who've had stomach stapling.
Eat only until you're almost
full. Once again, restraint is required. Eighty percent full if you play the numbers game.
Everything is prepared fresh in the Japanese diet. Microwaved Mac and Cheese, while hot, is not considered fresh.
Healthwise, there is ample protein from the ubiquitous soy products and fish, which provide
virtually no saturated fat. Lots of fresh vegetables and fresh fruit
round out the Japanese diet.
Portions are dainty to miniscule.
Even you have
seconds, the amount still remains small. Halfway through a meal,
and decide if you really need the rest of what is on the plate. Try
that with your blooming onion appetizer at Outback. Pay attention to
internal cues. Lower your threshhold of pain.
green tea served at the end of the meal is drunk slowly. And not served with three layered chocolate cake.
Some people believe green tea can
act as an appetite suppresant. For most Americans, the mere mention of sushi provites the same result.
In general, warm drinks that
provide no calories are great distractions from snacking. They become a
calming, gentle way to end a meal. Especially when accompanied by your dose of Ambien.
Dessert? One of those apples sliced and diced into swans, maybe.
Okay. Okay. I get it.
Make you want to rethink that Belgian Waffle and side order of thick sliced bacon this morning?
I didn't think so.