Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Trial is Over…sorta

It’s been thirty days since I began my trial of eating only Asian (primarily Japanese) foods, the idea of which I got from this book. If you’re new to this blog, this is similar to the time I did the organic food trial, and then later the no booze trial. In all three cases I set forth some rules and followed them for thirty days to see if they made any change to my life.

At first, I wondered if I could survive on homemade J-food since I had never eaten any before (except one bad experience with sushi) and it sounded kind of gross. I thought I would have to get by on a lot of ramen cup-a-soup stuff and by eating at Americanized Chinese and Thai food restaurants. A month later and the pre-made meals I bought are still in the pantry, I still haven’t eaten all the frozen Indian dinners in the freezer, most of what I’ve eaten has been homemade, and I I’ve tried less than half of the recipes I found. I’ve only eaten one meal I didn’t like – miso soup made with clams – and that was because I found it a tad too fishy. My tastes for Japanese food are still developing, so maybe I’ll like it better in the future.

I ended the last two trials by returning to old habits for one day, just to see the effects. I ate fast food for one day and then didn’t return, and I got drunk after a month of no drinking and had a massive hangover (I still drink, but mostly beer). Similar to the last two trials, I plan to end this one by eating Western foods for one day, probably this Saturday after my Japanese class. And then I’ll be returning to the Japanese food, because this trial didn’t seem like a trial at all. I ate delicious food, as much as I wanted, and there’s still far more to try. Also, I’m slowly working my way up to trying the sushi again, but this time I’ll pick a better restaurant.

Following are the Tokyo Tips listed in the book I read, along with my comments.

1. Practice hara hachi bunme – which means eat until you are eighty percent full. I’ve found I feel better after a meal when I do that – no desire to loosen my belt or take a nap. I get hungry a little sooner, but I ward that off with a small snack. Besides, I’ve often been told you should eat several small meals throughout the day rather than a couple of big ones.

2. Portion control – the Japanese do this naturally by serving food in tiny individual bowls instead of dumping all on one plate. I’ve been adding small Japanese serving and dipping bowls to my kitchen to help with this.

3. Eat at a leisurely pace – this is where chopsticks come in handy. Even after you master them (which I haven’t done yet), they slow down the experience. I know many Americans (which used to include me) eat at such a fast pace we sometimes overfill before we realize we’re full.

4. Take time to admire the beauty and presentation of the food – this is one I haven’t done too much, although my new bowls are quite stylish and Japanese food tends to naturally add an artistic touch to the food. The Japanese country power breakfast is very pretty, unlike most Western offerings like meatloaf and hamburgers.

5. Eat more fish, fresh fruit, and vegetables – I was already doing the fresh fruit and vegetables, but I’ve been adding more fish to the mix. I have an aversion to fishy fish, but I’m learning to like it more as I go along.

6. Use canola or rice bran oil – check.

7. Treat yourself to a Japanese power breakfast every morning – this is a meal made with a miso soup base, assorted vegetables, eggs, and tofu. It’s very good and easy to make, although it takes a little more time than I have in the morning, so I eat it at night. For breakfast, I have the leftover miso soup or soba noodles from the previous night. Let me know if you want the recipe, because it is a great power breakfast.

8. Vegetables and rice are the main part of the meal; (red) meat is an occasional side dish – this was a big adjustment at first, because meat is the mainstay of any American meal. The vegetables I was raised on weren’t very good. They were just something I had to eat in order to get dessert. With the Japanese foods I’ve tried, I don’t even miss the meat. The vegetables taste good enough to stand on their own, and the tofu has all the protein I need.

9. Have a bowl of short-grained white or brown rice with meals instead of bread – I’ve actually been eating long-grained Thai rice all month since I already had so much at home I didn’t need to buy any more. The next time I think I’ll try short-grained rice, and then brown rice. I didn’t like brown the last time I had it, so it will be interesting to see if it agrees with my new tastes.

10. Drink green tea instead of sodas – check.

11. Walk everywhere you can – I have a problem with this one. Where I live is not pedestrian friendly – limited sidewalks, heavy traffic, and no crosswalks at the major intersections. I do walk whenever I can, but it’s not often. I’ll just keep going to the gym in an attempt to ward off cubicle body.

12. Remember that loving to eat well is an important part of being healthy - and that cooking and eating should be fun – I don’t know how much fun the cooking is, but it’s not as big of a bother as I thought. The eating part is quite fun.

Bonus tip – eat less sodium and more whole grains – high sodium content is about the only drawback to the Japanese diet. I’ve been using reduced sodium soy sauce, which tastes just as good to me, but the stuff is still basically liquid salt. White rice is healthier than most Western foods, but not as healthy as brown rice. I’ll try it again, but what I remember from the last time is that it tastes bad and takes forever to cook.

For the most part, I feel the same. I have a little more energy now and no need for a mid-day nap, but otherwise all the stuff’s the same. I also learned I don’t like sake, so I’m sticking with the German beers. When I began, I viewed rice as a flavorless food that needed something added to make it palatable. Now I’m beginning to taste the plain rice, even to the point where I can tell the different types on flavor alone. I’ve stopped adding stuff to my rice and now enjoy it as is.

Shisha-usagi just came over and warmed her fishy lunch in the microwave. She’s wearing a skirt today with no stockings. I love the bare leg look.

That’s it. Sorry for the long and non-evil post, but I felt I owed it to everyone to let you know how the trial went. So, feck off now.


Tracy Lynn said...

Dude, the fresher the fish, the less fishy it tastes. Try going to a fish wholesaler instead of the supermarket, you might find that the selection and quality is better.
I love Japanese food.The whole way of eating appeals to me greatly, and I liked your rundown of your 'trial'.

Mel said...

Great post, Non-Angry Grant. I liked the trial update too - and I agree with Tracy-lynn, the fresher the fish, the less 'fishy' it is - I would try a subtle marinade as well, that usually works for overly fishy ... 'er fish.

Anonymous said...

overall i'm sure you find that japanese has a much cleaner value than western foods. Its something to do with the fresh vegetables, unflavoured rice and tofu thats very healthy.

your advice is interesting - especially about eating in small portions. Healthy regular little meals are so much better than heavy meals and meals late in the evening.

Having said that, i eat like crazy. I eat 4-5 times a day and we have dinner at like 9pm. Cept these days i wake up at 10 and just wait til lunch...

Liz said...

I say pig out Saturday! But not fast food, something good and tasty. Mexican maybe.. but I'm baised.

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

Back in college, I tried eating only cup-o-noodles for a month or so, and got severely malnourished; it wasn't a diet, really. I just didn't have any money for real food.

Even that bad experience didn't sour Japanese food for me -- I can happily eat sushi everyday, and I love love love miso in all its varied forms.

And, by the way, I'd love a copy of the power breakfast recipe. I'm sick to death of shredded wheat.

Wendy C. said...

Grant, you ROCK!!!
That is so cool.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

My boss sure would like it if I took fewer afternoon naps. It seems to piss him off when the customers come in an find me napping under my desk.

Go figure....;)

Check out the word verification today: fshnyhut

Avitable said...

That was pretty interesting, and your trials sound like a good idea.

hellbunny said...

The only thing i couldnt do on there was drink the green tea

Grant said...

tracy lynn - I shop at Harry's Farmers Market, which is a subsidiary of Wholefoods so they're better than the average supermarket, but I'll look into your suggestion. Thanks.

mel - by fishy, I was actually talking more about the type of fish rather than the age. I admit it - I'm a fish wimp. I grew up thinking fish always meant catfish, breaded and fried in lard, which is as far as you can get from sushi while staying in the fishy realm.

fatty - yes, one quote in the book was "The best cooking is the least cooking." Not only healthy, but it keeps me from doing too much work.

liz - I was thinking Waffle House for breakfast, lunch at Folks (for Southern comfort food), and dinner at a Cajun seafood restaurant.

kimber - I'll post the recipe soon. It's in my book at home. And I too have done the college Potatoes, Onions, and Ramen diet forced diet.

wendy - thanks.

pq - it is nice, not needing the short nap after getting home.

avitable - thanks. Let me know if you have an idea for a future trial.

hellbunny - I started by not liking it (although it was tolerable), and now I enjoy it daily.

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messiah said...

i know, i know... always late to the party. i am curious about the following though: how much of an impact did it have on your grocery bill?

fresh fish should smell clean (like salt water) - it it smells 'fishy' pass on it. the eyes should also look plump and glossy - if they're matte and sunken - ick, pass.

i'll also ask if you've tried basmati rice? indian, but nice flavour. also available in brown.

Grant said...

messiah - it actually lowered it. Tofu is cheap - about $1.40 buys a block which yields eight servings for most recipes. Miso paste is a little more expensive (the containers shown under my latest post were about $5 each) but it goes a long way. Rice and noodles (soba, udon) are both cheap as well, and eating more veggies and less meat saved some extra money. The only things that cost much were the fish, and some items you use sparingly like mirin (sweet cooking wine).

Yes, I have tried basmati. Not bad, but I didn't have my yen for Asian food back then.