Well, I’ve done it. I was an exhibitor at the Speciality and Fine Food Show. For 3 days a 1 metre by 2 metre stand was my home. It had to be the face of my brand which is essentially me. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess I should have been blogging about the prep, but really I didn’t have the time or the mental space to chronicle that part. Suffice to say, it involved many stickers, much backing and forthing and even a list! I never make lists because I think lists lull you into a false sense of security. I think if I have everything on the list, I am fine. But what if I forget to put something on the list. See what I mean? Anyway, me and the ever growing list managed to pull it together to pack everything I need for the show into two large Ikea bags. Of course I forgot to photograph that, but you can kind of guess what it might look like. Actually I haven’t unpacked yet, I can go get a photo now.
Not too bad, right? But keep in mind, my stand is only 1m x 2m. It’s just the blue bags by the way, not the boxes in the background. Saturday was set up. I arrived at Olympia and found my stand and here is what it looked like. For some reason, the photo refuses to upload so you’ll have to use your imaginations. Just think of the photo below, but with nothing in it but a gross white cabinet,
I wasn’t sure about the ice cream shoppe look to the stand but what can you do? I was very thankful for the large but very beat up cabinet. I probably could have bought one for as much money as it cost me to hire that one for 4 days but then I’d have to get it there and back. It’s nothing that a little decoration can’t fix. But it was big with lots of storage and it kinda sorta locked. So it was good.
I had my wonderful friend H helping me for the whole time, it would have been a very lonely thing to have to do alone. Everything is better with a friend. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we stood in my stand smiling and trying to get people to sample Kinomi. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I was very happy with the positive feedback I received. Now of course lots of people could have just been polite but I saw enough changes of expression (in a good way) after they tried them to know that they genuinely thought it was good. My neighbours on both sides were first timers like me and we were in the small producers area which meant no big corporations. Just lots of people like me, trying to get our products out into the world. Everyone was really friendly and positive.
Visitors come in all shapes and attitudes. No one was horrible, but I did have some people who obviously aren’t trade but just in for a nosh. I don’t mind at all, I want as many people to try Kinomi whether or not they have the authority to stock them but if you know you’re just munching on free samples, at least make eye contact, smile and say hello. I don’t begrudge people tastes at all, it’s just not very pleasant when they do it silently without eye contact. On the opposite end were people who wanted to try them but felt they shouldn’t because they couldn’t buy from me. People are complicated.
Anyway, I’ve done my three days, I’m now doing my follow ups and only time will tell if any of the nice people I spoke with will stock Kinomi. I hope so but even if they don’t I had a great experience that I never dreamed of when I thought it might be a good idea to turn my snacks into a business.
I think next year I’ll do a bit more to the walls. Looking a bit bare I think.
I will leave you with a photo of H and H at my stand. Doesn’t it look like we had fun?
My dad is having surgery right now and I can’t be there. The horrible weather has kept me grounded in London. I was supposed to arrive in Tokyo on Monday to be there for Tuesday. I should have known when hubby couldn’t make it home from Prague on Friday, it would not be smooth sailing (no pun intended). He couldn’t get on another flight until Sunday, so we would miss each other entirely. I had planned Saturday as family day so needless to say, I was a little miffed.
Sunday rolls around, I’m up at 5:30 to discover my flight’s cancelled. Can’t reach home, put my status up on Facebook. My sister and nephew have made it to Tokyo (no snow in Hawaii) so I thought she would see my status. Stay on hold for about 15 minutes with travel agent only to be told the earliest they could get me out is Wed. Thought of every possible permutation for how to get home, but just couldn’t bring myself to spend £2400 for an economy ticket with a layover. A small panic later including a desperate e mail to a friend who flies a lot to see if he knew anyone that could help, I come to the conclusion that some things are just beyond my control and weather is one of them.
Now I come from a family of ridiculous optimists so at no time am I worried about the outcome of my dad’s surgery. I know my mom’s in good hands with my sister and nephew there. So I decide that I might as well enjoy the unexpected vacation I have at home now. Hubby actually made it home on Sunday and I have had 2 days of hanging out with my kids and hubby, something that happens very rarely around here these days.
As far as I can tell, my flight is scheduled to leave tomorrow and I’ve gotten word from Tokyo that my dad’s surgery was a success. So, I’ll be able to spend time with him and celebrate new year’s with them.
Don’t fight what you can’t control, just breathe.
I get this question a lot. It was a question that was never asked until I moved to London. I grew up partly in Japan and the States so my English is very American. So when I lived in the States, people just assumed my parents were immigrants and in Japan, of course I sound native so no one ever questioned it.
But when people first meet me here, they try to place the accent, the body language; all cultural cues to figure out where I belong. And that’s where the problem begins. Because although my English is American, I am not, nor do I consider myself to be American. But from having lived so long in the States, my body language is very western, so I do not come across as a Japanese woman of a certain age either. So people ask me where in the States I am from or whether I am Canadian. I tell them I am Japanese from Tokyo and doubt is just written all over their face. Now really, why would I lie about a thing like that? I’ve managed to condense my life experience into, “I was born in Japan and spent a lot of time in the US”. That seems to satisfy most casual inquiries. If I am getting to know you as a friend, then the story would get fleshed out in further conversations.
The thing is, while we were living in the States, I pretty much identified with America as that’s where I had spent most of my schooling. But as I am now 13 years out of the States, I identify more and more with Japan, a country that is my spiritual home regardless of how much or how little time I have spent there. And now with my crusade to bring Japanese cooking into the homes of London, I’ve started thinking a lot about things I’ve taken for granted and comparing and contrasting my experiences with Japanese and western food.
But that’s another post.
It was fabulous! For those of you who read my post after the last market I did, you know it was a “learning experience”. Well I was determined to put some of that learning to good use and signed up to do another one.
So here’s how this one unfolded. I went the day before to help set up. This already gives you an idea of where I was since the last time, I couldn’t even think straight the day before, I was so furiously trying to get ready. But this time, I simplified greatly and my merchandise was ready to go on Friday, the day UPS finally delivered my packing material after the wonderful www.cakescookiesandcraftshop.co.uk people got my order out the day after it was placed. Funny how everyday since Tuesday, the UPS people claim to have tried to deliver when I’ve been at home and I have a porter. So many phone calls later, the last manager tried to use the weather as an excuse and said they were 3 days behind, to which I had to reply, “well if you’d actually deliver the packages you wouldn’t be behind”.
But I digress, back to the market. I had a very ambitious programme for the day, sell my roasted nuts, advertise my cooking classes, participate in a Dragons’ Den type panel and do a cooking demo. The last time, my entire family came to help and while it was lovely to have their support, I think they spent most of the day without anything to do. This time, I was in the summer house with 3 other stall holders so I knew there would be no room for extra people. The weather in London has been brutally cold and thankfully I was in a shelter with a wood burning stove. Here’s a picture of me at my stall.
As you can see, my orange ski jacket stayed on the whole time. I’m so glad I hung onto it even though it’s been years since I’ve been skiing. Here’s a photo of my merchandise.
I was given some very sage advice by Jo from the Deli Station about the size bags I should have and she was right! The mini bags for £1 sold very well.
There were so many people, and everyone was so lovely and interested. It was great to have people think what you made tastes amazing and actually want to pay money for it. What an ego boost. They were also very enthusiastic about my classes and I gave out lots of information cards, ran out and gave out business cards. Remember, I do gift vouchers too.
Then, there was the Dragons Den. I wanted to know if my nuts had any market potential. It was an opportunity to present to a panel comprised of experts in the field and it was a very positive experience. They were very enthusiastic and complimentary, another ego boost.
And finally, towards the end of the day, I did a cooking demo. A simple avocado rice bowl, that is so quick to make and delicious. Again, well received, really the day couldn’t have gone any better.
A special thank you to Charles and Carrie, who stepped in last minute and provided beautiful music all day. They sang their hearts out for hours and really added to the festive atmosphere. Here they are.
And to Ms Marmite Lover, you are one brave woman to do this to your house and we love you for it.
I have had encounters lately with food purporting to be Japanese that has just floored me. It’s not that I object to experimentation and fusion, I just think you shouldn’t tell people it’s Japanese.
My first astounding encounter was on TV. Don’t believe everything you see on TV was being illustrated as I watched, jaw hanging open as the presenter said cilantro and soft shell crab were Japanese. Now that’s just lazy, did anyone do any research or maybe their viewership is so small it’s ok to make things up? There are probably 50 people out there now who think cilantro is Japanese. That was just an example of the liberties the programme took, but you get the idea.
The second happened in a restaurant, where the edamame came drenched in a sauce that was sweet and salty. The whole point of edamame as an appetiser is that it’s meant to be dry and salty to go with beer and sake. Because it is finger food, it can’t be drippy. But the ultimate was when they deep fried a sushi roll. Yes, the entire roll in batter and deep fried. I guess if you can do it to a Mars bar, then why not sushi. It was definitely strange, but not altogether bad. Just please don’t call it Japanese food.
Japanese are truly faddy and food in Japan is constantly evolving. But I think when you’re introducing a cuisine to a wider audience in another country, how hard is it to start by doing the basics right? There are plenty of restaurants in London that do that, from the extravagant to the humble. I do hope people will try those too.
I feel the need to balance out the rant above with a positive experience of unusual pairings. I went to a sake and chocolate tasting one evening last week. That’s not something that you think immediately would be a good idea. But the chocolates had been created especially to match the sake and the result was just sublime. We were told that actually sake and chocolate go very well together because the low acidity of the sake doesn’t fight with the chocolate.
As ever, London is a fascinating place where you can find just about anything. I am looking forward to my next culinary adventure, good or bad.