We moved to Tokyo in 1997 with an 8 year old and 5 year old. We put them in an international school and I started to experience life in Tokyo that I didn’t know existed. We were part of the “expat” community, a small pretty tight group of foreigners who were in Japan on assignment. We had a very nice life, large flats, American appliances, membership at the American club and holidays in Asia. I discovered in the 15 years I had been away, so many short cuts were invented for food in Japan. It was now possible to buy many seasonings in a packet to add to ingredients to make dishes, there was pretty much no end to the things available in these packets. Also, the takeaways were absolutely delicious as was the ready made food available everywhere. Consequently, I didn’t cook much at all in Tokyo, just produced meals very little of which was home made. I did join a food coop in Tokyo which is a wonderful service. Every week you get a catalog of food as well as sundries ranging from clothing to kitchen gadgets. You pick what you want, write it on an order form, they come and pick it up when they drop off your order from the week before. That was the simplest way to get organic produce in Tokyo at that time. I tried to continue my eating organic whenever possible. So four years in Tokyo went by in a flash and it was time to leave. Next stop, London.
I had heard horror stories about food in the UK and I did have the experience of having cheddar cheese on my pizza when I visited in 1983. But food in London in the beginning was bewilderingly expensive and not good. I wouldn’t say it was horrible there were definitely some good restaurants. But everything was very expensive and price didn’t guarantee quality. Coming from four years in Tokyo, where most food is very good regardless of price, I felt royally ripped off. There wasn’t a huge variety of produce either and deliveries were pretty hard to come by so I found myself trying to figure out what to make for dinner. In the early years, I shopped at M&S because they delivered. I now shop at Waitrose for the same reason. I do a big weekly shop and then supplement at health food shops and the local Tesco. Funny how even with the house being just my husband and me, I still feel compelled to do a weekly shop, old habits I guess. I eventually settled on a boring menu of a protein, veg and starch. It was the easiest meal to produce and required no brain power. Getting Japanese groceries was a pain, it required a trip to Piccadilly since we lived in central London. I found an online shop that delivers but obviously couldn’t get fresh ingredients that way. I have a friend who is truly into her food. She will travel great distances and make anything she can’t get from scratch. I am not nearly that dedicated. So what I am trying to do is to try and adapt what I know to what is available locally. It is the seasonings that make it taste the way it does and I think it is ok for the ingredients not to be authentic. There are so many vegetables you just can’t get in the local shops and while there is no substitute for some things, others, you can fudge.
I entered a new chapter in my life this past May when I finally decided I needed to do something about my weight. I had put weight on gradually in the 8 years that we lived in London and I hadn’t noticed how much bigger I had gotten. Well, it got to the point where I had to lose weight or buy new clothes. So I decided to lose weight. I also hadn’t exercised since the first year we lived here so I figured it was time to get back into that too. I did the very strict Elimination Diet for a month, a detox as well as weight loss and started back gradually on the exercising. I lost a little weight that first month, but it really wasn’t until the second month that things really started moving. I realised I felt very good from the combination of the diet and exercise and decided to adopt some of those things everyday. The diet eliminates caffeine, alcohol, dairy, wheat and sugar. You also eat organic wherever possible. Well, you cut out the wheat and sugar and pretty much my snacking was gone. I was a total sugar addict and it turned out I was wheat intolerant. It’s been 7 months now and I feel really good, I have lots more energy, but that’s probably as much to do with going to the gym three times a week. I hope to keep this up for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, I do have things I shouldn’t, but usually the physical discomfort that follows makes it not worth it.
So, my interest in food was rekindled as what I could eat was severely restricted. I found myself cooking a lot more, as I had to make things I could eat. Home made really does taste better and it could be really quick. I am reconnecting with my Japanese cooking chops since it is easier to adapt Japanese food to my new way of eating. So I hit upon the idea of teaching Japanese home cooking to people in my flat. It would be Japanese cooking taught by someone enthusiastic about food, not in a gourmet way, but in a quick and easy kind of way. Food doesn’t need to be complicated to be good, it is all about the right ingredients. And so begins my journey.