Thursday, September 29, 2011

Japanese academic writing, sexual minorities, and curry

The reading for my advisor's seminar has really driven home two points for me:

1. If I lived in ancient Japan (or ancient China, for that matter), I would be a really lousy literatus.*  Most of the reading has to do with looking at references to shrines in ancient Japanese poetry, and there will be a fifteen character poem followed by a five sentence explanation of the "general meaning" of the poem.  Given my overwhelming failure at producing poetry (ha ha ha ha, let's not even talk about it), if I had to write a super meaningful poem while following the incredibly strict poetry format, I would probably fail so badly I would spontaneously combust.**  And don't even get me started on ancient Chinese poetry.***

2. Japanese academic writing and I don't really get along.  I enjoy a certain amount of straight-forwardness in my non-fiction, it is true.  When I have a point to make, I make it.  I don't meander down a gravel path, stopping to smell flowers occasionally while chatting about the weather and subtly dropping hints that maybe at some point I will talk about what I am actually getting at here.  I also don't feel the need to spend every sixth sentence recapping what I said in the last five sentences.  YES, I GET THAT YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO WALK INTO THE OFF-LIMITS AREAS OF SHRINES.  YOU TELL ME THIS AT LEAST ONCE A PARAGRAPH.

So, yes.  That is what I have learned.

In other news, in Japanese class today we read an article about a program to help sexual minorities who were victims of the 3/11 earthquake.  (You can read the article here, but unfortunately it's in Japanese only.)
Sensei: Can anyone name any sexual minorities?
Class: *silence*
Sensei: Any at all?
Girl: [slangy word for male transvestites]
Class: *laughs*
(This was the point at which I gave up and raised my hand.)
Sensei: Dana-san?
Me: Homosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals--
Sensei: Sorry?
Me: Asexuals.
Sensei: I don't know what that means.****
Me: People who don't have sexual desire.
Sensei: Oh, yes, them too!  All of them are sexual minorities!
My Brown education has served me well.
I still can't believe no one else could come up with any other sexual minorities, especially since the article we were reading had at least two or three in the first paragraph.

And on a final note, it's time for...

More Misadventures in Cooking!

So despite this being my third visit to Japan, and despite making Japanese food while at home/school, I have never tackled the ubiquitous Golden Curry.

Yes, it needed to be bolded, because that's how ubiquitous it is.

Don't try to follow my logic there.


I decided to make a bunch of curry so I could eat it for lunch and dinner today and lunch tomorrow as well.  And curry's not that hard, right?  I mean, I've seen people who can't even boil a pot of water properly make Golden it can't be that hard, right?

ALL THESE MEASUREMENTS.  WHAT DO THEY MEAN?????  What does "makes 11 plates" mean?  How big is a plate?  Isn't that a weirdly specific measurement?  WHY 11???  Who looks at an onion and says, "Hmm, I bet this is 150 grams of onion"?

Oh well, I guess it's time to fall back on the classic technique...

Make stuff up!

Yay, ingredients!
1 onion
1 carrot
more ginger than you deem strictly necessary
3 cloves of garlic
3 (tiny) potatoes
half a steak (at least, the cut of meat is called a steak but, uh, I don't think it's actually a steak 'cause it was 300 yen...)*****

Now to find a pot!

Meet Sketchy-chan!  He's a sketchy pot.  Some of those blotches might be bloodstains.  I don't know.  But he's what I've got, so better use him (after scrubbing him vigorously)!

So the package said to cook all the vegetables and meat in a little bit of oil, so I did that.  So far so good!  Nothing on fire yet!

Okay, so I'm supposed to add water we have a measuring cup?

Well, no, we don't, but we do have this Hello Kitty mug!  Um, I guess I can use that?

So then I added about 1 1/2 Hello Kitty mugs worth of water.  And still nothing had caught on fire!

...but the box said that it would take about 20 minutes to cook, and I was hungry, so I used Secret Cooking Technique #2: Everything Cooks Faster If You Turn the Stove Up All the Way.

There, much better.

After the vegetables were done cooking, I had to deal with THIS.  This is the curry...stuff you're supposed to put in right at the end.

It said that one package (each box comes with two packages) makes 5-6 plates of curry, but I had no idea how much a plate was, so I just dumped the whole package in.

And then I stirred.

...actually, this looks kinda gross now.  Um...

Add more water!

That seems to have done the trick.

At this point, Hi-chan was leaving for class, saw that I was making lunch, and said, "Oh, hey, you're making curry!  I love curry!" which I took as a good sign.  If she could recognize it as curry, it had to be at least marginally edible, right?

So this is the finished product.  It's a little bit more gelatinous than regular curry (I probably screwed up the water-to-curry-stuff ratio), and, despite being marketed as spicy, is probably a 3 out of 10 on the spiciness scale.  But it's still pretty tasty!

And thus concludes today's misadventure in cooking.

*Literatus: yet another word that spell check says doesn't exist!  Whoo, spell check.

**So spell check tells me that "combust" isn't a world either.  Are we having problems with English today, spell check?

***For an account of not-so-ancient poetesses in China, I suggest The Talented Women of the Zhang Family by Susan Mann.  It reads like a novel, so even if you are totally turned off by non-fiction writing (or if you don't have the vocabulary to get through super academic works), I would recommend trying it.

****That's understandable, because the Japanese word for asexual is Aセクシュアル (A-sekushuaru) whereas the words for "homosexual" and "bisexual" are 同性愛者 (literally "person who loves same sex of people") and 両性愛者 (literally "person who loves both sexes of people") respectively.  You'd think that 無性愛 (literally "love of no sex") would be a reasonable word to use for asexuality, but I guess people might think it means love of amoebas...?

*****Before everyone starts sending me articles about how Japanese beef is (maybe) contaminated with radiation, I bought American beef for exactly this reason.

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