Written by Madison Paden ’20
One of my favorite experiences in Japan was making dinner with some of my fellow study abroad peers. In Kyoto, we had apartment style accommodations with kitchens. This was two weeks into the trip and many of us were missing food from home. I usually cook for myself and was growing tired of convenient store food (Which is actually pretty amazing. Japanese convenient stores are awesome.). I suggested some of us get together and cook breakfast for dinner!
After class, we walked to the grocery store and tried to find some breakfast foods. If you have never been to a supermarket outside of the U.S., I highly recommend it. Exploring a foreign grocery store is always exciting. You can find unique souvenirs and it helps you feel more like a local. This supermarket was especially nice, with lots of fresh produce and seafood. We bought some strawberries, eggs, potatoes, and some meat that looked like bacon but the label was written in Japanese so we weren’t sure.
Back at the apartment, we stated cooking. The kitchen was tiny so we worked as a team to move efficiently. Mark cooked the potatoes in the microwave, while Alexia cut the strawberries, and I cooked the mystery meat which was not bacon. I am pretty sure the meat was thinly sliced pork that looked like bacon but was not cured. Then I fried the eggs in the leftover grease.
We were finally finished cooking our meal and were ready to eat. There wasn’t enough room at the table so we all sat where we were in the kitchen and ate. The meal didn’t quite taste like a traditional American breakfast. The mystery meat was definitely not bacon and this made the meal more like dinner. The strawberries were also much sweeter and the eggs much richer (the yolks were orange). The meal was fantastic and it was a lot of fun to make with the group.
Another night, I cooked for myself. I went to the supermarket by myself and bought a strip steak from Hokkaido, which is Japan’s northernmost region. I also purchased a large platter of assorted sashimi, eggs, and real bacon. The real bacon was near the mystery meat and looked very similar but trial and error won out. I cooked my steak on the stove and made more bacon and eggs (probably my favorite meal). When I was done cooking I had a feast of steak and sashimi for under 15 dollars.
Cooking for yourself is a great way to explore local ingredients and save money. Steak is extremely expensive in Japan, over 60 dollars a steak in restaurants is common. By cooking it myself I was able to experience Japanese beef for much less. I also discovered my love of Japanese strawberries and eggs. Seriously, they are delicious. Japan has ruined U.S. produce for me. If you have access to a kitchen on your study abroad take the time to cook for yourself. It was one of the best experiences of my trip and absolutely worth it.