Friday, May 22, 2009


Chocolate. I'm thinking about chocolate a lot these days. I want to understand why chocolate tastes so entirely different here in Japan. I get that the "choco- flavored" things may not even be directly related to chocolate as I know it. I suspect the sort of chocolate used to make those "choco-flavored" cookies is the same stuff they use for those M&M shaped chocolates that they sell in plastic shaped candy canes around Christmas in the U.S. It looks like chocolate but tastes....not very chocolatey at all.

According to this there's a whole scale of different varieties of chocolate in Japan based on what's in it.

But so far, I've had a hard time finding anything tasty. A few really nice pastry shops have had some good dark chocolate in their cakes or pastries, but that has been a rare experience for me.

And I'm sad because the luscious American brownies that I baked yesterday (thanks to my sister who mailed me the box mix!) are nearly gone (there's one left) and I only got to eat two of them. After I finished baking them my husband kindly thought of taking some to our neighbors. He did ask if it would be all right and I thought that since these neighbors happen to be relatives and they spend some time each week playing with my daughter and helping us out in that regard, I couldn't begrudge them some brownies. For those of you unfamiliar with life in Japan, it seems to involve a lot of sharing of food (I make too much of something and give half away to my neighbor who in turn does the same when she has too much of something....). When I say "a lot" I mean food goes in and out our door easily 3 or 4 times a week, maybe more.

"Okay, but what about the rest of the brownies?" you might ask. My MIL gave them away to my English conversation student today. She's a sweet woman and again, I wouldn't begrudge her one, but at least half of what was left? *sigh*

The really frustrating part in all of this is that it's not even food that anyone here (besides me) really enjoys. It seems to me that most people here prefer the choco-flavored stuff. That's fine with me. That's why I baked my own special brownies. I had contemplated freezing a bunch after baking them yesterday, but before I ever got around to it they were walking out the door - repeatedly.

Here's the etiquette question then: If you've got roommates do you hide any of your food from them? I suppose I could have hidden the brownies away (or in this case frozen them) for my own consumption at a later date since I know the audience here well enough to know that no one will appreciate them as much as I will. Considering that these brownies were especially hard to come by (i.e. overseas mail) would that make a difference in your answer? I don't want to be all sneaky hiding my food from people when the polite thing to do is to share, but if everyone else is going to give away my food (in some instances without even asking), what do I do?


  1. I remember that the chocolate there was not, um, impressive.

    I am the type to keep my own private stash of something (1) hard to come by, and (2) not valued by others. And a public stash of the choco-flavored stuff.

    But no one has ever accused me of being overly concerned with etiquette.

  2. Ohh that stinks!!!
    I am very very happy to share easy to come by stuff... but specially mailed to me stuff from states/family/friends is hoarded... unless I've requested it for sharing purposes. Some things are just sacred you know? I would say rich, moist, and chocolately brownies would be one of them!

  3. Well, the thing with American sweets, is that they are SWEET! So, my recommendation is to start a campaign when the brownies are in the oven. You know, about how TOO SWEET they are. NO Japanese would ever eat them. Japanese eat so much healthier sweets. Etc. Then you could get them frozen before they cool!!!

  4. You are asking the wrong girl. In college I hid boxes of chocolate under my bed.

    I probably would have physically thrown myself on the brownies if someone tried to give them away, thus ensuring I was shunned by the entire family and community.

  5. I'd hoard it! Especially if it was a gift or something desired like CHOCOLATE! I've hid things before from my own family, husband and children before. NOBODY gets to eat my good stuff! Sorry you didn't get to have very many of them. You'll be home soon and can eat ALL the chocolate you want.

  6. I'd definetly hide them! I know it is your family and people who help out a lot, but from my experience with Japanese people, they really would find them far too rich and not appreciate them.

    Just think, soon you will be at your second (first?) home and can have all the chocolate you want, whenever!

  7. I'm so excited that you are thinking of trying cloth! To answer your laundry question, I definitely do more laundry. I wash the diapers separately... I imagine that's what others do too. This is for two reasons. First, I'd rather the other clothes not touch the "mess" that's on the diapers (even though they are in the wash), and second, you have to wash them a special way. People do it differently, but I wash once on cold, and then once on hot or medium. Some people I think only wash once but do an extra rinse cycle. Even with this, they are still supposed to be more economical, although as I mentioned, I won't really see much savings until/unless we have have a second baby, seeing as we started rather late.

    I haven't looked at these sites yet myself, but here are two links from someone on my messeage board:

  8. I love you all! Next time I get some brownies, I'm totally keeping them to myself and you've all given me some very clever ways to do that!!

    The anti-sweets campaign is brilliant Kim, thanks!

  9. Uh, don't let your MIL know about the brownies. I'll be blunt: the reason she gave them away is because she doesn't want you to get fat. Which in Japan is anything larger than skinny.

    She probably considers it a big favor to you.

  10. Oh my god I would cry if they took all my brownies if that was the only real chocolate I had. Definitely some hiding may be needed in the future-