30 January, 2007

What's for Dinner?

Or breakfast, or maybe especially lunch? It can be hard to answer that question if you're a vegetarian in Japan. Most foods here that you might eat in a restaurant or get prepared from a convenience store or supermarket counter have fish, meat or a fish soup called dashi somewhere in there, even if you can't see it. It's hard to find restaurants to eat in here, and I've heard some people have had to give up their vegetarian diet while they're here because of the difficulty of finding something, anything, to eat.

I just recently decided to be vegetarian, in line with my beliefs and inclinations all my life. In recent years I'd lapsed into eating fish and chicken and a bit of meat here and there, mostly because it was so much trouble, I figured, to prepare vegetarian food. And I knew a bit about that, having raised my family by the precepts and recipes of Frances Moore Lappe. I'd baked all kinds of breads for years from challah to pumpernickel, made homemade soups almost every day for lunch, homemade granola, peanut butter, mayonnaise, as well as jams, pastas, cakes and even pastries. The kids grew up healthy and with pretty eclectic tastes in food, but I remembered all the cooking it took to feed three growing teens and two active adults. So when I started teaching in Japan, I relied a lot on prepared foods at first, while I concentrated on getting my head around EFL teaching and all the kinks in the culture. Or at least they were kinks to me, and only slowly iron out as I learn every day something about how to live here.

But that was about a month ago and I can tell you that I haven't been starving, and that I've discovered a joy in cooking and food again that I haven't felt for years. Every day I look forward to making something different and delicious, and I've been mostly making Indian dishes to get me through the cold winter. I've been eating well and happily and with supplies of beans and legumes and spices and cashews and basmati rice and organic brown rice from my local Anew store and Indojin.com. Indojin has an online store, you can pay COD at your door; it usually comes in 2-3 days and there's often a free present in the box. Today, I got a shipment with a Vegetable Paneer ready-to-eat as a present! And there's free shipping if your order is 5200 yen or more. All together a great deal. This morning I made a Cauliflower with tomatoes and garam masala and basmati rice pilaf, topped with spicy pan-fried cashews, warming my belly as I type.

The reason I 'm starting this blog is as much for me as for you. I want a convenient place to keep all the shopping links, sources for different foods I want for my cooking, recipes for things I try or adapt, and anything else that seems useful as I go along. If you, too, are a vegetarian, or even if you just love good food, I hope you will visit and leave your suggestions. If you know of any good links, please leave a message and I'll put them up. And if you know of or have a good site for information or resources please don't hesitate to let me know. It might take me a little while to get the form of this site figured out, so I invite you to help me do that. Because I really welcome your suggestions, and Vegetable Japan is as much for you as it is for me.