Jul 31, 2013

Faking Food !

This post was chosen as BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday Pick ! 

Beginning today, I plan to start a new bi-monthly series on Japan called “Japan and I”.
In many ways, Japan still remains a mystery to the rest of the world. 
For here, the ancient and the modern not only coexist but seem to do so in great harmony. The land of the rising Sun is as comfortable with its bullet trains and cutting edge technology as it is with Zen and Geishas.
Japan has a unique culture, with its own peculiarities and quirks that seem natural to the Japanese but intrigue and surprise all foreigners. 
Through this series, I attempt to talk about the Japan I saw and experienced! 

In the inaugural post of the series, we talk about the Plastic Food Displays in Japan.

On my very first day in Japan, I decided to go out for a meal. As I walked down a street lined with restaurants, I was surprised to see that all of them had plates of food displayed outside or in their windows. What amazed me that the food  looked so fresh, the ice-creams never melted and  the beer remained frothy. Then off course once my Jet Lag had worn off and I could think clearly I realized that the food was made of plastic ! 

When ever we go to a restaurant, we usually decide on what we want to eat by looking at the menu or asking the waiter about a particular dish. Not so in Japan. The Japanese decide what they want to order by looking at its plastic replica in the restaurant’s window display.

 The plastic model will have everything from the size of the portion, the garnishing, and even the placement of the food exactly like the actual dish.The name of the dish and the price is also displayed. Its amazingly realistic ! 

Image curtsey - http://www.travelocafe.com

Apart from the fact that the Japanese prefer things to be visual than written, the reason behind these plastic models is that when Japan opened up to the west in the beginning of the 20th century and a lot of westerners trooped in, they had a very tough time in understanding the Japanese cuisine. 
I suppose many a confused westerner must have ordered a plate of noodles and ended up with a plate of raw fish instead. Then the Japanese hit upon this ingenious idea of displaying plastic “samples” of the dishes.

And not only the main dishes, but even dessert is displayed. Now who wouldn't like to go in if the display is so tempting ! 

Earlier the fake food was made of wax but now it’s made of a whole lot of sophisticated plastic. The plastic food or “Fake food” Industry is really big in Japan. I once visited the kappabashi area in Tokyo that is famous for shops that sell such plastic food to restaurants. 

Although things like bowls of rice, a plate of sushi or bowls of plain noodles are manufactured in bulk, most restaurants send pictures of the dishes they want plastic samples of. The samples are then painstakingly handcrafted to make them look realistic!

These shops have something for the tourists too ! If you want, you can take home a plastic sushi, shrimp or even ice-cream sundaes in the shape of key chains, cell phone charms and even magnets!

(Images from fakefood.com)

Delectable, I am sure ! But would you really want a piece of raw fish or a bit of chicken hanging from your phone ?

Jul 28, 2013

From Commoner to Royalty and Back !

For someone who hates any sort of attention, I did get a lot of it the minute I was born. I was rather tall for a newborn and every doctor and nurse in the All India Institute of Medical sciences hopped over to my Mom’s room to have a look at the tallest baby anyone had ever popped out! Mom was obviously exasperated and as she confessed to my aunt, she felt as if everyone was accusing her of smuggling in a month old baby instead of a new born. 

Before I was born, my brother had ruled over the Shukla family in solitary splendor for 8 years. Then, thanks to me he was unceremoniously dethroned. Till then, he was comfortably encosed in his world of toy warships and cars, with the entire family revolving around him. Enter younger sister into this idyllic existence and he suddenly didn’t know how to fit me into the scheme of things.

Luckily for him, because my Mom had to go back to work and my Grandmother couldn’t bear to see me being looked after by a nanny, I was taken away to my Grandparents home.

Thus began the golden period of my life!

When my brother was born, my parents were in Calcutta so no one got the chance to mollycoddle him. This time, I was right there and never the ones to miss a good opportunity, they wasted no time in spoiling me!

My life you see was made.

Oh I was such a pampered child! My every whim and fancy was their command. My grandma planned her whole day around me and my aunts never came home from work without bringing something for me. Other assorted family members plied me with sweets and toys.

My aunts loved to dress me up and take me out. Even one sneeze, one little cough from me used to send them scattering about like headless chickens flapping their arms and worrying. And on hot summer nights, when power cuts and mosquitos abounded, they spent the whole night carrying me in their arms and patting me to sleep.

But the most amazing thing was the change in my grandfather. He was then the Principal of a school, a strict disciplinarian, and everyone from the family to his teachers and students was petrified of him. Although he loved his children, he never displayed any emotions towards them. All this changed with me. I looked at him once out of my big liquid eyes and he melted.

The family had to face his wrath if I as much as whimpered and there was no one to pick me up. According to my grandmother, he never ever picked up any of his children but I was mostly to be found in his lap. I was allowed in his room and he didn’t mind when I waddled all over the place overturning his books and papers and playing with his spectacles. This man who hardly spoke would tell me stories any time I asked for them. And he was the one who gave me the greatest gift of my life - By teaching me how to write.

But then all good things must come to an end. I reached the school going age and my parents decided to call me back. So very reluctantly, amongst much drama and tears, I left the tender loving care of my Grandparents and went back to Delhi.
My parents were the loving kind, but were not the ones to fuss over their kids unnecessarily. No special treatment was doled out to me.

And so ended my days as the Royal Baby! I was back to being a commoner!

Here an old grainy pic of me with my grandfather. 

Written for the Indiblogeshwaris That Tuesday Thingy

Jul 11, 2013

On Writing a Haiku !

Haiku is a form of Poetry very close to my heart. Recently I wrote a short write-up on Haiku on Write Tribe - An excellent site for Writers and Bloggers. 

[Haiku is a style of Japanese poetry mainly characterized by its very short format. Like almost all Japanese forms of art, Haiku is inspired by nature. Through Haiku, poets attempt to create an image for an element of nature or an emotion.
The beauty of a Haiku lies in its subtle imagery. Personal experiences or natural beauty is never explicitly described but fleeting natural images or emotions are used to subtly capture a larger scene. A haiku leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination or interpretation.......]

To read the complete Post click on http://writetribe.com/haiku/

We also have a very interesting writing Prompt on Haiku.So hop on over and give it a shot !

Jul 6, 2013

The Sounds of Nostalgia

I am in Chandigarh visiting a friend. We sit in her garden sipping Nimbu Paani and lament about the heat and the delayed monsoons. As if taking pity on us sweltering in the heat, a cool breeze starts. And as it picks up, the little bells on the wind chimes hanging from a low branch on her mango tree clink musically.

And just like that, I am back in Kyoto.

I walk in silence up a narrow path twisting its way up to the Shinto Shrine. It is shaded by trees on both sides, flamboyant in their autumn colors of rust and orange. The air has the chill of the coming winter in it. The path is strewn with dry leaves that crunch under my feet as I walk. In the distance the bells of the shrine ring softly, continuously. And in that sweet sound there is something of the autumn’s sadness and melancholy. 


I walk briskly down a street in Delhi. I am late for a client meeting and my mind is on the presentation I have to make. As I pass a restaurant, its door opens and some jazz music floats out. Suddenly I am not standing in Delhi’s commercial district, sweating in my best formals, my laptop bag biting into my shoulder.

I am in Montreal, on a balmy summer night.

I have just two days in the city and determined to make the most of it; I decide to go for a late night walk. Even at that hour the city is vibrant, pulsating and alive. The street ahead is blocked off and there is some sort of stage at one end. Intrigued I walk towards it and realize that I have stumbled upon one of Montreal’s impromptu Jazz events so common in the summer.

 Although I am alone, I decide to stay and listen awhile. The concert begins and soon I am swaying to the music and tapping my foot to the beat. I clap wildly when the performance ends, and when the next number starts, even livelier than the last one, the person next to me impulsively takes my hand and dances a few steps with me. Strangers, we bond together for those few moments over our love for Music and Life. 


Every place has its own music, its own beat. Along with the people that I meet, the food that I eat and the sites that I visit, it is these sounds, this music that I carry in my heart. And when I am least expecting it, I hear something that transports me back into time and brings on a kaleidoscope of poignant bittersweet memories of places visited and times well spent !

This post is written for the That Tuesday Thingy Contest on Indiblogeshwaris


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