Behold, the school lunch! Called kyushoku (給食) in Japanese, it beats out what I used to eat growing up. I’m already recalling the nightmares about the microwaved grilled cheese sandwiches and leftover Special K.
The meals pride themselves on being balanced. Carbs, fiber, and meat are what make every child in this country fired up and ready to go. That day just happened to be chicken curry, rice, edamame salad and some kind of pickled vegetable. I often find myself trying to emulate what I eat so I can escape from the grocery store with more money in my wallet.
Every day, the beverages are the same: green tea (for teachers only) and milk. Remember me telling you how fatty Japanese milk is? The proof is there on the carton. In the area my local lunch factory operates, I’m served the same lunch no matter which school I’m at during the week. All of Japan, though, dishes up its food in various ways. No tray is the same.
As an ALT, I can either eat with the students or in the teachers’ lounge. I’m lucky because I get the chance to experience both. I wish I could say hanging with the staff is an exciting time for me but I usually turn my thoughts inward and attempt to focus on not falling asleep. Being with the young ones proves to be a similar thing but every once in a while, they will surprise me and ask me questions or chatter about me amongst themselves. Through this one-sided interaction, I’m slowly becoming approachable. Miracles don’t happen overnight!
Here is the breakdown of my lunches with the teachers:
- Sit down to the meal presented on my desk.
- Quickly analyze if there’s anything I’m unfamiliar with.
- If there’s anything wonky on my tray, I’ll ask about it and attempt to eat it.
- If I’m confident about what’s staring up at me, I usually scarf it all down.
- When there’s something of obvious foreign origin, there is a giant soup pot in which I can dump my food (if I eat it and don’t like it) or I can leave it for someone else to eat (if I haven’t touched my food yet).
- There is no “Thanks for the food!” (いただきます, ita-da-ki-masu) or “That was delicious! Thank you!” (ごちそうさまでした, go-chi-so-sama-deshi-ta)
Here is the breakdown of my lunches with the students:
- Walk into the meeting room.
- Find my tray (I know because it has my name on it).
- Journey to whichever class I’m assigned to eat in and sit quickly.
- Wait and…
- Wait and…
- Wait some more while the students on kitchen duty serve everyone.
- Finally! All the students have their food!
- The class leader says “Let’s eat!” and it’s a race to the front to get whatever leftovers that are well… leftover (I’m usually grabbing more rice because I think they think I don’t eat much. They can tell my butt that).
- We all chow down.
Clean up is the same no matter where I go. Soup bowls go with the soup bowls, rice bowls go with the rice bowls, and the head bone is connected to the neck bone. I never did figure out where everything goes after that.
A post about busy nothings, there are more to come.