Feb 7

What is food to one, is to others bitter poison. — Lucretius

in Culinary Adventurism, Family, Food History

As look back on my life I consider myself to be pretty adventuresome. I’ve been able to have some neat experiences, see some wonderful things, live abroad three different times–all in all, life has not been boring. I credit my parents for my willingness to step out on a limb and try something new. Both of my parents have adventuresome spirits. They are both filled with curiosity for the world around them and a desire to learn and discover. My thoughts today however, are focused more on my dad (not that my mother isn’t equally fabulous).

I have the kind of dad that every girl should wish for. He is an amazing dad–smart, kind, funny, patient, gentle, loving, and always willing to listen. My life has been jam packed with memories because of him and his ability to create crazy adventures. My life and who I am has been shaped in many ways because of him.

I loved it when my dad read to me. He had the best reading voice and always gave the various characters their own unique voices. He read many good books to me that way, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Hobbit, just to name a few. I grew up with a menagerie of animals–cats, a dog, birds, bunnies, a 75-year old tortoise (my dad had a special permit to take care of him because they are on the endangered species list), lizards, and snakes. Yes, snakes–lots of them. My dad is a lawyer, but is a mountain man at heart–happiest when he is out amongst nature. We used to go snake “hunting” during the summer. We would go out at night to the desert and drive the desert roads, still warm from the sun. Snakes would come out on the roads to warm themselves and we would go to see what we could find.

When I was sixteen my dad and I flew up to Northern California and climbed Mt. Shasta. Wearing hard hats, crampons (spikes attached to heavy hiking boots), and roped to a guide, we embarked on an adventure that had us climbing up an icy mountain at 2 o’clock in the morning. It was freezing cold, steep, and extremely tiring, yet one of the most exhilarating experiences of my entire life. He has been equally adventurous in other types of travel with our family, taking us to many a US state park, innumerable Indian ruins, exploring Germany and France, and then coming to spend time with us here in Japan, and then on to China, and Thailand.

One of the areas that he has had a huge influence in is my love of food. If you hadn’t figured it out already, I LOVE to eat. When I was about 2 my father started feeding me hot peppers so that I would development a tolerance for spiciness at a young age. We lived in San Diego when I was a little girl and I remember him bringing live lobsters home fresh from the pier to through into a pot for dinner. He was always coming up with concoctions at home, and his specialties were crazy salads and huge sandwiches with a thousand toppings. He loves garlic, and would make the most incredible mashed potatoes with so many heads of garlic mashed into them, that the house would smell like garlic for a week. On several occasions he barbecued a rattlesnake on our grill.

One summer during undergraduate school I worked as an office assistant at his law firm, and we decided to go out to lunch once a week. The catch was that each week we had to sample a cuisine from a different country. We ate Mexican, Japanese, Indian, German, Chinese, and a variety of other foods. I learned from him that I should always be willing to at least taste something, and to never form my opinion about something until I had done so. We share a love for sushi, Thai food, and anything spicy. Over the years I have enjoyed comparing notes with him over strange things he and I have eaten. In the past few years the strangest items have been such things as pigs blood jelly in Hong Kong,

Chicken feet, also in Hong Kong,
sweet and sour camel in Beijing,

Sakuraniku (horse sashimi) here in Tokyo,
and fugu kara-age (deep-fried puffer fish) here in Tokyo.

Then about a week one of the guys at work asked me if I had ever tried a dish called hachinoko or a dish called zazamushi. I said that I hadn’t, and he offered to bring some to our next meeting. Let me back up and explain that the people at work know that I am an adventurous eater, and that I say I am always willing to trying something at least once. When he told me what these dishes were, I had second thoughts on that policy. However, I decided that I was not going to back away from this particular challenge, and I was intrigued to find out more about these items, which are delicacies in Nagano. So l agreed to try the dishes. Last night was the big night, and Mr. S came with a small bag that contained 2 tiny glass jars.

I have never been nervous about trying an item of food until last night, and I have to admit that when we had difficulty opening one of the jars, there was a little piece of me that was hoping that it would never open. Open it did, however, and I proceeded to taste two of the strangest dishes that I will probably ever taste.

Puttin’ on my game face…

Scooping out a bite…

So what was I eating?

Well, Hachinoko is a combination of black wasp larvae and young adults.
Zazamushi is stonefly larvae.I have to say that even now that the experience is over, I shudder a little bit thinking about those insect parts going down my throat. That being said, it was definitely a mind over matter issue. The actual taste of both was not bad at all, but quite good (I know, you’re thinking “Yeah right!”). Both “dishes” had been cooked with a little soy sauce I believe and were sweet. The insects were also quite small, so I didn’t have to deal with the issue of thinking, “Oh that was a leg!”, or anything like that. They were also not really crunchy, which I was expecting, but rather soft. But again, I was eating bugs. *Insert another shudder here.*

Last night I emailed my dad to tell him about my experience. His response was, “You definitely need to keep your own ‘eating’ list. I’m afraid you have put me under the table.” Dad, if it weren’t for you, I never would have had the guts. Thanks, I love you.

– You too could order some of these delicacies: http://www.47club.jp/webshop/shopinfo/ctc/+/shc/19M-000013/backURL/http(++www.47club.jp+webshop+main
– To read about the process of harvesting hachinoko and some background on the dish: http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200710230072.html

“Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head and say, ‘Where’s your haggis?’ and the Fijan would sigh and say, ‘Where’s your missionary?’”Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835-1910)

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Phoe February 8, 2008 at 6:17 am

For me I think anything after the pufferfish would be a dawdle! I’m a squicky eater. Haven’t yet worked up the nerve to try oysters or caviar but I will. In that, my dear, you are an inspiration. :)

Also, I love your game face.


Bobbi February 8, 2008 at 7:04 am

How about trying a nice snickerdoodle!?!


Polly February 8, 2008 at 9:36 am

Lovely how you turn bug eating into such a heartwarming post.


Kasia February 8, 2008 at 9:37 am

Lol! How funny! but I bet that I would try it as well… my father tought me try everything at least once!
Congrats on being first in Pay It Forward! Thanks for commenting!


Kasia February 8, 2008 at 9:39 am

crap! i see you have no email address on your blog. Could you please email me at ladymorgiana at gmail dot com and share your details, so I can send you your PIF pressie? Thanks again!


gleek February 8, 2008 at 2:14 pm

wow, as a vegetarian, all i have to say.. eeewwwwww! but i admire your bravery :)


Melissa Hodgen February 8, 2008 at 2:24 pm

My stomach was churning as I read your post. Um, ew. I definately admire your open mindedness. You should watch NO RESERVATIONS on the Travel Channel. Anthony will eat anything too. Maybe you should take over his show…he is getting a little old. Are you up for beating python heart?


スサナ February 9, 2008 at 6:46 am

oishii japanese food. I miss it!.


Misha February 9, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Hi there!
Since it had been a while, thought I’d check up on your blog! That was honestly the sweetest post about your dad, what wonderful attributes he has and such a positive influence!

You deserve big points for eating the wasp larvae, yuck! I think I would have just swallowed them whole.– I’m sure the guy that gave them to you was watching you intently the whole time you, waiting for you to decline! Way to step up to the plate, literally!


The Richards February 10, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Wow, and I thought I was brave to eat escargot!! I’m very impressed, good job! And from the few days when I met your dad, I agree that he’s a dang cool guy. :0)


Fuji Mama's Mama February 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

After reading this, I am pretty proud that I was the one who taught you to love chocolate–much preferable to anything on this post. Ugh! Double Ugh!

P.S. I have to admit, your dad is a pretty fabulous guy.


MC February 15, 2008 at 8:11 am

I applaud you for your courage to try something new! I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater as well (I ate alpaca in Peru) but that’s definitely something I’d flinch at….although, anything tastes good if it’s drenched in soy sauce, hah


I AM VERY MARY February 16, 2008 at 8:03 am

That is the best post ever. I love your dad for raising such a dynamic gal:)


Tartelette February 19, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Oh my! I “know” I could not have gone through with this! I love your game face!


Rebeca Brown January 6, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Awsum!!! :D

Glad to find someone that also enjoys experimenting with different foods!!!!!!!
I just tried Natto the other day…haha..that was an experience.

Can I make a VERY YUMMY suggestion?

Chicken hearts in a brazilian restaurant!

I’m from brazil…and we eat them often there (we also eat chicken feet (they are my fave), pigs ear,etc)….

I remember once in HS telling my friends that i ate chicken hearts and i got an unanimous “EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW” from all of them….

but they don’t know what they are missing…..

so..there’s a challenge I hope u’ll undertake…..

BTW: Love your blog!



Fuji Mama January 7, 2009 at 8:09 am

Rebeca– Thanks! I have actually eaten chicken hearts at a Brazilian restaurant on multiple occasions and they are one of my favorite things–YUMMY!!! Thanks for visiting!


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