Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Addiction

I have a confession to make. I am an addict. Yes, I admit it. It’s a recent development, but one that I wouldn’t have expected, so I didn’t have any defenses prepared against it. It just snuck up on me. I have this (somewhat) new job, and everyone here is into it, so I naturally got dragged along once or twice, and I figured I’d go, but it would be harmless. I’d just be enduring this, not really participating.

Boy, was I wrong. I’m hooked.

If you’d told me two years ago, or even a year ago, that one day I would have to admit this addiction, I’ve have laughed in your face. But now I have to confront it.

I love Japanese food. There, I said it.

And I don’t mean sushi either. I’m still not caving to the call of sushi. It doesn’t call that loudly to me, and it doesn’t appeal. I love the idea of those delicate little rice roll things, but frankly there are just too many things in there that I’m not really interested in. My weakness is the bento box.

It started innocently enough. Some coworkers were going out for “all you can eat sushi” at the local Benihana. I was assured I could order from the menu, so I agreed to go. I got a salad and tempura scallops. The dressing on the salad was a wonderful slightly creamy (in texture, not in content) ginger flavored one. “Not bad,” I thought. Of course, the scallops were great—hey, deep fried anything, right?

A couple of weeks later, a friend suggested a Japanese place up the street. Only what she suggested was “a curry.” I had visions of Indian, which I adore. It turned out to be a Japanese place that serves a curry noodle soup (I had no idea the Japanese used curry powder), so I figured I’d just deal. I got a bento box with chicken yakisoba, and tempura. Of course it came with all the usual accompaniments: miso soup (I’m still not a huge fan of this), a salad (again, tasty dressing), rice. It was surprisingly satisfying for what seemed like not a ton of food (there’s plenty of rice, but I try to stay away from rice, and the primary offerings are in somewhat delicate portions).

Last week, after a lunchtime trip to get my hair cut, my husband suggested that, in the interest of speed, we just order take out from the Japanese place on the ground floor of our office building. I got a chicken and a beef component in my bento box. I couldn’t tell you what they were called (the beef sounds something like kohlrabi beef, but that’s not it). The chicken was a sautéed dish with lots of cabbage (I love cabbage), and the beef was grilled short ribs. The salad had a slightly sweet dressing on it that was more vinegar-and-oil like than the one at Benihana, but was still wonderful. These boxes come with six pieces of sushi (I just ignore it), and the ubiquitous miso soup.

Since then I’ve had two more bento boxes from the place in the lobby. I’m sadly hooked. The worst thing about it is that a bento box costs a minimum of ten bucks, and that’s $50 a week for lunch, minimum. Really, I can’t afford that (my monthly daycare costs are somewhere in the range of the national debt, so eating out every day really isn’t an option for me).

What’s an addict to do?

I suppose I could do the other thing that would have caused me to laugh in the face of anyone who suggested it a year ago: I could buy a Japanese cookbook and learn to make the beef, the chicken, and the salad dressing myself. This is what I normally do when I find a new kind of food I like, although I wouldn’t have ever expected to be actually mulling over the idea of buying Japanese cookbook.

I guess the cookbook option is probably the best way to go. It’s a single expense (minus the cost of the ingredients, which I don’t really count, because we have to buy food anyway, so to buy a Japanese ingredient, instead of a can of enchilada sauce or some other ingredient, is negligible), plus I enjoy the thrill of the hunt in finding the cookbook that has the majority of what I want in it, and then I make a mental list of other cookbooks that I might pick up at a later date that also look good.

This really took me by surprise. I’m still a little shaken and having trouble accepting the truth. There must be a support group for people like me. There seems to be for everyone else, after all. And just wait—in another year, I’ll have to confess to being a sushi addict. Where will it all end?

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