Origins of a Chef – the Exchange Student

I mentioned briefly in an earlier post that I had spent time in Japan when I was 15 years old.  That summer, a group of students from my school, along with a pair of chaperones, flew to the island nation to spend about 4 days touring the large metropolitan areas of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.  We saw both the remnants of ancient civilization and the technological advances of modern life.  After that, we spent nearly a week living with host families in our sister city of Hokudan-cho, Awaji Island.

Assorted memories from my trip to Japan, including ancient temples and karaoke!

Assorted memories from my trip to Japan, including ancient temples and karaoke!

It was with the host families that I had the opportunity to truly experience life in another country, including how they ate.  Not all of it was completely foreign to me; yakitori is essentially grilled chicken on a stick (and how can you go wrong with that?!) and Pocky sticks are a Japanese take on chocolate covered crackers (and I still love them to this day).  Yet I do recall trying some very new things, like cold soba noodles with dipping sauce and takoyaki (best described as sort of a pancake with octopus).

I returned from Japan with souvenirs, photographs, a few love notes, and a new sense of adventure toward trying new foods.  The picky eater wasn’t so picky any more, although it wasn’t until I got to college that I really began to find my place in the kitchen.  I’ll leave that story for another day.  Suffice to say that my experience overseas changed the trajectory of my life.

Isn't it remarkable the effect that food can have on someone?  Is it not wonderful how tasting something can almost transport you back in time, to another place, another period in your life?  When we don't venture out and try to cook and eat new things, we rob ourselves of these opportunities.

So what is it that you've been anxious to try - the one that makes you wonder, "Can I get it right?  Will I like it?  Will my family think it's weird?"  Join me in my kitchen where being adventurous is encouraged and expected.  You'll find it a safe, comfortable place to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

If I've sparked your curiosity for Japanese cuisine, check the calendar for one of my introductory sessions.  Also check out my recommendation from a few weeks ago regarding a Netflix original series that can further educate you on some of the essential Japanese dishes in quite an entertaining way.