Today I took the group to buy packed lunch on the upmarket food floor of the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza. It`s a strange place, more art gallery than supermarket. Normal food rules don`t seem to apply. Apples the size of grapefruits are wrapped and priced like diamonds.
At the eel counter, I found kimoyaki (eelgut) on a stick. My mind went back to episode 4 of U: The Mistaken Fierce Fight over Grilled Eelgut, when Shotaro turned nasty after missing out on the last stick of eelgut. It all got a bit unsavoury and he ended up wishing gout on another customer.
Anyway, the kimoyaki was salty and chewy, The sachet of sansho and sweet tare neutralised any odours and eel`s unique flavour shone through – this was not any old animal gut. But at 350yen it wasn`t cheap or filling. I won`t be queuing to get it again – on the endangered list or not.
I felt foolish buying it in the end. I need a rest from eel. Shotaro is in my head now. I have started to hear his voice. Perhaps I should limit myself to one episode a week. There is so much more depth to Japanese food.
So I also bought a salad. Not just any old of salad though, but gobo sarada, the king of salads, a clear plastic carton packed with tofu, lettuce, nut, sweet dressing and heaps of shaved gobo (burdock).
Brave burdock, the most underrated food in Japan, bitter with a comforting earthy taste, the real ale of root vegetables, a bamboo sword plunged deep into the earth, firm, dependable, a root vegetable to rely on. On some of the shavings you can still see the soilmarks, the scars of war. Burdock has stories to tell. Somebody should make a manga about it.