Changes at Flock Hall

The most recent round of graduations has hit Flock Hall pretty hard. Of the four current inmates, three have graduated and are soon headed on to greener pastures. This left your beloved Pontifex Niger with no roommates for the next semester, so a strenuous application process was initiated to fill the extra cells.

From the pool of worthy and devout applicants, we have selected the cream of the crop (that is, those who look most likely to pay rent on time) and we will be slowly introducing them to you, one by one.

Today we bring you the first of these introductions. This is Muneyuki Kato, known to his friends as Shinze. Shinze is a grad student, working on a Master's degree in Sociology, and he shares an office on campus with the Black Pope. He is a statistics whiz, and he's currently working on his thesis - a treatise on suicide.

That's not a halloween costume, folks - those are his pajamas. Apparently, it's an anime character named "Surgeon Frog." His American girlfriend loves this outfit. Hey, to each his own. At least they aren't furries.

Shinze is Japanese, and as such, he is obliged by custom to eat bizare foods. He is also obliged to offer said bizare foods to his squeamish white housemates. I am not squeamish about foreign foods, and I will try just about anything, but you have to grow up eating some ethnic foods. Shinze's dinner last night was a good example of that - rice with natto and takuan.

A takuan is basically a huge, salty, pickled daikon radish. They were invented in the late 1500s by a Zen master named Takuan Soho, hence the name. They are a staple of temple diets even today, as they are cheap, keep well, and are quite nutritious. It's very crisp, and has a nice crunchy texture that is actually quite pleasant. It tastes very little like Western radishes, and nothing like something I'd want to eat. In fact, it has a taste that never lets you forget that it's been fermenting for a good long while. Also, it has a color rarely occuring in natural foods, and it smells slightly like rotting vegetables. While I find it mildly distasteful, it is a veritable delicacy compared to natto.

Natto is fermented soybeans. By fermented, I mean to say "rotting." When you open the package, they look like they are covered in snot or spider webs, or both. The smell is basically that of feet - sweaty, unwashed feet, after a day of hiking in a swamp in leather boots. To this pungent mess you add hot mustard and soy sauce, then you mix it up until it's frothy. Apparently, the froth is part of the goodness [shudder]. As you eat it, the key is to keep the stringy slime off your face - the picture to the right gives you some idea of how difficult that can be. The taste is precisely what you'd expect from rotting beans - but with mustard and soy sauce. I know of no one who is not a native of Japan who finds natto palatable. Natto is supposedly very nutritious, and full of things which your body needs, particlularly if you are a vegan. I will just have to risk malnutrition.

Shinze loves this stuff. To be fair, he also ate most of a box of Strawberry Milkshake Oreos, which I also found completely unpalatable. Maybe it's just me...

It's going to be an interesting year. Everyone say hello to Shinze in the comments, ok?

15 comments:

becca said...

I'll be honest and say that I'm a wimp about strange food. That's one reason I think I wanted to come to Eastern Europe- familiarity. I tell you, while Albanian food is not always what I would consider good, it usually is what I would consider FOOD . . . except maybe the sheep's head soup . . . Anyway, welcome to the flock Shinze!

the only bagel in france said...

Mmm, takuan--tasty. Am I also obligated to welcome him?? Hurray for introductions--this is going to be fun. But his costume totally takes the prize--no one could top that. Hi hamster! ^_^

Mandy McClanahan said...

Honestly, his jammies rock! Welcome to craziness that is the local Flock.

His Sinfulness said...

Thank you, ladies. I saw Shinze going through cookbooks yesterday, looking for recipes he could try out on us. I'm at once excited and terrified...
;)

Ducky said...

I think it's awesome! I've actually heard of natto before, there were instructions to make it in one of my magazines. Besides, I don't know if I trust your opinion when half of the interesting plant products you don't like! You don't even like tea! Bad vegan.

His Sinfulness said...

Tea is not a "food" per se. It's a beverage, and a lousy one at that, made of wet leaves. It doesn't get you drunk, it doesn't fizz - what's the point?

the only bagel in france said...

It's delicious, comes in tons of flavors, can be drunk hot or cold, and has lots of health benefits. Seriously, what's NOT to like? If you're really all that bothered about it not fizzing, you could just experiment with making it with sparkling water. And don't worry--tea cabinet will be reduced to just one shelf. Promise.

Mayren said...

dammit I had a whole comment done yesterday but i guess i didn't stick around to notice an error with my submission...
uhm i think it went something like:

ooo new foods. The journey of a thousand stomachs await you.
I think i also recommended lots of Jasmine Green Tea because your digestive system will need it. Make sure to stir in honey to the pot before or after steeping.

Mayren said...

well you don't do honey. so i suggest a sweetener of some kind just in case
don't over steep

His Sinfulness said...

In place of honey, we vegans use agave nectar - quite a convincing substitute.

I have tried all kinds of tea, and none of it appeals to me. I was raised in North Carolina, where sweet tea is referred to as "the house wine of the South" and STILL I don't like tea.

I believe it has to do with a high fever I had as a baby - it killed off a bunch of my taste buds. I also don't like coffee, beer, or wine. My mouth is damaged...

Mayren said...

HA! i was about to say that "at least you admit you're damaged" but i don't think you are damaged. so THERE! NYAH! Your not damaged. Misguided in the taste buds but not damaged.

Professor Noob said...

Hi Shinze! I like your pajamas. :)

the only bagel in france said...

Sweet tea scares me. Shouldn't we just be eating spoon-fulls (spoons-full? spoons-fulls? .... ) of sugar instead? To me, it's absolutely disgusting, and a beverage completely different from other teas. Anyways, off that subject and onto something I half-heard on NPR this morning. What exactly are "collards?" Are they supposed to be collard greens or something? It was my impression (albeit a stereotype) that Southerners basically ate no veggies. Anyways, explain this collard thing to me.

His Sinfulness said...

Southerners eat a lot of veggies - we just cook them until they are devoid of all nutritional value. We also traditionally put a hunk of pork fat in the pot with them, and/or serve them drowned in butter.

Collards are a leafy thing kind of like kale. They're usually cooked like kale as well, and down south they are sometimes served with a splash of vinegar. If you like kale or chard, you'll probably like collards. If you buy them, I'll cook them for you, in a vegan approximation of the Southern style.

Raksha said...

Welcome to the Flock, Shinze! As a former resident of Flock Hall v1.0, I can tell you you're in for some fun!


As for the food thing, I think the first place I ever saw natto was on Steve, Don't Eat It!, which really colored my perception of it. I doubt I'd even consider eating it, even if I hadn't seen that, though. Frankly, the infected corn looks more appealing.

You should have Shinze write a guest post about all the food you eat that he's horrified by! That should be interesting!

Post a Comment