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Hot Dogs

7 Jun

In the words of Jennifer Coolidge in Legally Blonde 2, “You look like the fourth of July. Man, that makes me want to eat a hot dog!”

Hot dogs are pretty much an “American” nationalistic food for reasons that are difficult to define other than, “it just feels American!” What is this brainwashing that has been ingrained in our memory?? The annual Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest started in 1916 by FDR, making it the nation’s oldest eating competition. Perhaps that’s where these sentiments all began. Hot dogs also go hand in hand with baseball, a sport considered to be “America’s favorite past time” because of its deep historical roots. Maybe it started there. However, regardless of its nationalism inducing origin, one thing is for certain: hot dogs are a great summertime, family food. Holding appeal among children and adults alike, they are not pretentious, and are very simple to make. Cooking hot dogs over a grill while picnicking with the family conjures up feelings of “American-ness” and country pride. Add fireworks to the occasion and you’ve got yourself a prime celebration of the U.S.A’s independence. There is something about a hot dog that just gives it this wholesome, familiar feel that Americans feel comforted by.

Food and meal time are what brings families together, regardless of culture.  Because America is so diverse, many people have created their own variation on hot dogs of their own. Chicago dogs are an example of this, and I have definitely seen tofu dogs, dogs with fried noodles on top, etc. The fact that the hot dog is so flexible and open to interpretation parallels the variety seen in America!

Hot dogs have certainly pervaded American culture, whether it be at the dinner table, bbqs, movies, national holidays, and sports. It is most certainly a nationalistic food!

Hot dogs may have evolved over the years, but they are definitely still "American"!

Sashimi so fresh the fish was still moving. (Sara)

26 May

During my short 2 weeks in Japan, I was able to go with my friend Hitomi who is a native Japanese to her hometown of Toyohashi, which is sort of close to Aichi/Nagoya. In the 4 days I spent with Hitomi, I had the opportunity to try some DELICIOUS authentic Japanese food… which I originally thought it was going to have to miss out on.

The meal that stands out most in my mind is actually so memorable because it is one of the most authentic meals I have had. Hitomi and her mother took us to their favorite sashimi place on Mikawa bay. It is a hole in the wall that literally serves like 10 people at most. Since it is located directly on the port, rest assured that the seafood is as fresh as it can get. As soon as we walked into the quaint hut, we were greeted as friends by the owner, a fisherman dressed in a red puffy jacket and thick rubber boots. Let us call him Red.

A glimpse of Red and the small hole in the wall restaurant.

His two young lady minions were dressed in similar attire but with the addition of woolen scarves. I envied their warmth. Winter was still afoot, and because we were right next to the ocean, the frigid salty sea air crept under my jacket. I was freezing and began to shiver. Luckily, they had a heater, and as I tried to warm up, I looked at my surroundings. I could tell then and there this was going to be an awesome experience, as Hitomi and her mother were regulars there. The first thing I noticed was the lack of a kitchen. If this is an eating establishment, where do they prepare the food? But then I realized that 95% of what they serve there is raw. The crammed space was filled with huge tanks that were home to a variety of shellfish, fish and baby turtles. The turtles were not for eating, the owner reassured us.

Hitomi’s mother ordered for us, as she was quite familiar with this place. I was dying from anticipation. Fishermen were outside rinsing their catches in large plastic bins. Seagulls swarmed overhead and the brave ones courageously tried to swoop in, only to find themselves shooed away by the fishermen. Red walked to one of the large tanks and deliberately scooped out the most gigantic clams I have ever seen. He then proceeded to the fish tank and skillfully caught a beautiful red snapper with ease. How much more authentic of an experience could you ask for? Authenticity to me is genuineness, and when applied to a meal, both the atmosphere and food should represent the culture it comes from. An authentic dining experience should warm not only your stomach, but also your soul. If you’ve ever had a home-cooked meal that made you smile, I think you know what I’m talking about. To me, the taste is not as indicative of the authenticity, but rather the way it was prepared, the ingredients, and the ambiance of the meal. This meal seems obviously authentic because I was served seafood directly from a tank on a port in Japan, but it is indeed possible for one to enjoy an authentic meal at a place not in the country its cuisine represents.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive.

The hugest clams I've ever seen!

The first dish to grace us with its presence was the huge clams I had just witnessed being fished out of the tanks next to us. Grilled, doused with a shoyu/teriyaki sauce and emitting the most wonderful smell imaginable, they were gorgeous. The meat was of perfect chewiness and everybody was happily slurping on their clams when the fisherman presented his masterpiece.

The front fin of the tai (snapper) was still twitching when it came to the table. Though its flesh was carved out and sliced into perfectly thin slivers, the rest of the fish was still intact.

The gorgeous tai (snapper) sashimi

It was trying to swim away! That is how you know you are eating a freshly caught fish. Later on in the meal, the electrical current causing the frontal fin to pulsate moved to the tail, and the tail began to jerk in spasms. (I have a video of this event and will try to post it.) It knew that it was in danger and its flight response was kicking in. I had never eaten sashimi that was served with the rest of the fish. The presentation was phenomenal.

The most authentic sashimi ever. Enough said.

We gasped as Red delivered the next dish, a beautiful assortment of raw scallops, squid, shrimp and octopus. Sashimi at its finest. Red smiled as we praised him for the quality of the meal.  Because it requires little to no ingredients, sashimi is the ultimate test of a restaurant’s freshness and value. We were all incredibly satisfied and despite the chilly air, I felt extraordinarily warm and happy.

I will never forget Red and my dining experience here.  ごちそうさまでした!

No Tomatoes (Sara Sameshima)

23 May

Since I don’t have a car, I had to just pray and hope that I would find a food truck either at the Hoover or McClintock intersections. Luckily the No Tomatoes food truck had been conveniently parked on the corner of Jefferson and McClintock for some time and it appeared again this weekend.

I am no stranger to food trucks in both Hawaii and LA but this is the first time I really ever saw the No Tomatoes truck. It serves Indian street food but some entrees feature a western twist, such as the Chapli Burger or Seekh Dog.

There wasn’t a line, in fact I am the only customer. The lady that helps me is cordial and surprisingly chipper considering the fact that no one else was ordering or even remotely around the sidewalk… I wonder how slow business is. I guess it’s summer time so it cannot be helped. I ask her what I should order and she recommends the Chicken Tikki Masala for $7, which is pretty reasonable. Would I like to add 2 samosas and a drink for an extra $2? That sounds tempting, but I opt not to. To pass the time I idly (and awkwardly) stand on the grass next to Cardinal, with the sidewalk separating me from the truck. A boy on his bike breezed by, and two girls dressed in gym attire chatting excitedly pass before I get my food.  I see the man and his dinky ice cream cart down the street. I would call it a pretty slow day. Immediately upon getting my food I am shocked at the small size of my dish. It came in a puny hamburger-sized take out container! I guess what can you expect from a food truck for only $7, right? Regardless, I thank the lady and walk back to Century.

I have written about my food truck experiences before on Yelp. Normally if I were writing a Yelp review I would focus mainly more on the food but because of this assignment I chose to focus on people/ the service I got from the employees. I was going to write more on my observations of the other patrons of the truck, however, since there weren’t any it was basically impossible. I think writing about one near campus during the school year might be more interesting, since some of them are PACKED (Armando’s, I’m talking about you!)