Many people asked me – both before and after our trip – what we ate, and more specifically, what Miss Red ate. I was concerned about food safety given the radiation in Japan, but my fears were quickly abated when the cousin living there pointed out how far away were were from the tragedy. By this point I knew that we would pack a bag of food for Miss Red. I predicted that she would be hungry at awkward times from jet lag – like 3 a.m. or during the middle of our half-day plane journey, and I was right. But I also knew that she would need to eat some of the food we encountered in Okinawa. While she didn’t dive right into eating everything on her plate, she did a decent job and attempted chopsticks at each meal.
Thanks to a college friend (hi, Molly!) I can comfortably use chopsticks. A few of the American family members on the trip opted for forks the entire time. But all Japanese people used chopsticks, even for french fries or other foods Americans would use their hands for.
Each restaurant we went to brought out a plastic bowl and silverware for Miss Red. They called her “baby,” too.
We brought food with us wherever we went. Sushi bar? She ate a banana.
Where did we get additional food? Fortunately, there was a grocery store across the street from our hotel, which we visited three times during our stay. The first time we went we hadn’t exchanged money yet and learned first-hand that Okinawa is a cash society. The grocery store didn’t accept cards of any kind and most ATMs don’t accept American cards. In fact, you have to go to a Post Office to use an American card at an ATM.
But the second and third times we went we picked up staples for Miss Red, including milk (about $6 a liter) and cheese (about $6). We tried to hold off on the cheese, but she kept asking for it. Might I add, that being from Wisconsin, and paying $6 for processed cheese is insane. For $6 at home I could have a quarter pound of award-winning aged raw milk cheddar from a specialty shop.
Back to dining. Can I say that it’s actually really nice to use chopsticks for all meals? There’s more of a meditation in eating when not literally shoveling food into one’s mouth. And as a fast eater, it allowed me, nay, forced me, for days, to slow down and enjoy the seaweed, vegetables and other new foods.
Okinawa is crazy for pork, in addition to fresh vegetables and seafood. I was probably eating pork in forms I wasn’t aware of. But when in Naha, right?
I feel like there’s a ton I’m missing on how we ate while in Okinawa. What questions might you have?
p.s. I lied in my previous post. There was so much to write about the food that my next one will be about the wedding we went to. Suspense!