The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When you live in a foreign country, there are three categories for food: the good, the bad, and the ugly –or the really bad. Fortunately, the longer I’m in Japan, the more foods move towards the good category annd less in the bad. Last week in Tokyo I tried some whale sashimi (or raw whale). Ten years ago it would have been in the ugly category…last week, it certainly wasn’t worthy of being in the good category, but it wasn’t too too bad either.

But, no matter how long I’m here, there is one food that has remained in the ugly category: Natto. Natto is, simply, fermented beans (i.e. beans that have gone moldy). According to wikipedia: Nattō (納豆?) is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, popular especially at breakfast. A rich source of protein, nattō and the soybean paste miso formed a vital source of nutrition in feudal Japan. For some, nattō must be an acquired taste due to its powerful smell, strong flavor, and sticky consistency. In Japan nattō is most popular in the eastern regions including Kantō and Tōhoku. (For the record, we don’t live in the Kanto or Tohoku regions).

The more you mix it, the more webby it becomes… and the more it smells. I have a strong sense of smell, and I can tell if someone within 100 yards or so is eating natto.

The problem is: Eric likes natto, especially its healthy factor. Because he likes it, Owen started eating it very young. And now Annie. Olivia liked her first bite. The other day at the food store, Owen started BEGGING for me to buy natto. Oh my. Here are some pictures of Owen and Annie enjoying their breakfast this morning:

By the way- one CAN learn to like natto. There is a website about two Americans in New York City who made themselves eat natto every day in order to see if they could learn to like the taste. After fifteen days, one of them began to enjoy it… after thirty days, it was actually enjoyable. I guess I could try, but -those first fifteen days might be a little too ugly…

P.S. – What is the good? Our very favorite “treat” when teh kids go to bed is: Diet A & W Rootbeer (we sometimes order it from Foreign Buyer’s Club in Kobe)…in a frosted mug that I bought for Eric at the A & W Rootbeer Stand in Okinawa. Aaahhh..


8 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. I know some people who would love to have a NATTO PARTY with you guys! And I agree…one can learn to like the taste!

  2. Hi Sue! Well, after living in Kobe for 2 years, I used that as my excuse for NOT EATING natto. However, for some reason natto-maki didn’t bother me. Now, I too am surrounded by natto eaters!

    I’m enjoying your blog and the pics of your sweet kids! Our little girl is around the same age as Olivia, I think. A month or two younger, maybe. I admire the energy you have to be Mama to 3! WOW!

    Have a great day! – Kim

  3. I say “Go for it!” Natto is the one food I wouldn’t eat in the 5 years I lived in Japan. I only tasted it once. I wish I had given it a fair chance. I understand that it’s a good source of healthy bacteria, like yogurt is.

    Worse than natto, in my opinion, is duran. This is a watermelon-sized tree fruit that is popular in Malaysia. My wife, who was born and raised there, loves it. It smells so bad that you’ll see signs at some establishments that say, “No duran allowed.” The worst part is, if you eat it, you smell like it for at least a day.

    Thanks for your blog. I’m really enjoying it.

  4. One more comment, if I may. One food I learned to love is umeboshi (pickled plum). It’s so sour, that the first time I ate a whole one, it took two bowls of rice to get it down. Naturally produced, homemade ones are much better than the store-bought ones. An elderly Japanese pastor I knew in Kobe told me that during the war, most meals consisted of only a bowl of rice and an umeboshi. He also told me that if a Japanese mother was displeased with one of her children, that child would get cold rice.

  5. Sue, I’m right there with you; I wouldn’t join in on the natto party. I just can’t hang, but it’s good that Jen doesn’t care for it either, but I think she said she’d have the baby eat it. I guess next Fall I’ll be smelling the natto too!

  6. Dear Sue,
    I love natto too! I guess Mom brought us up on it…she used to chop it up and mix it up with a raw egg, shoyu and sometimes yama imo. We’d eat it with hot rice. Yum! =) I’m glad John really likes it too. He likes it with maguro sashimi (natto maguro donburi) Love you, Mona

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