Re-entry into the American lifestyle–

What better way to “get back into the groove” of American life than to go eat breakfast at IHOP?

Yes, I went to eat breakfast at IHOP today:

1) I was craving it when I woke up
2) I have no food in my apartment at the moment due to my month-long vacation away from the apartment
3) IHOP is just one block away from my apartment.

This was the first time I was able to venture outside since I arrived back in San Francisco on Wednesday. It felt strange to enter into a restaurant and not have someone say to me “Welcome!” in Japanese. The service was faster, the people were still polite, but ah-ha–today I finally had to leave a tip (in Japan, it’s not part of their custom to leave tips). Well, the meal was good, all-American: stuffed French toast, sausage, eggs, hash browns.

Yes, I’m back in America, and today I finally can feel it from this experience.

American sweets in Japan.

Well, well. Looks like Cold Stone Creamery and Krispy Kreme Donuts made their way over to Tokyo. Yeah, I realize I am a little behind on the news, but that’s okay; when I did live in Japan two years ago, I didn’t really pay attention to American foods since I wanted to eat more Japanese foods. However, during this trip, I came to Japan equipped with a little more knowledge about marketing/exporting products/services/etc. overseas thanks to my marketing classes from last year. I was curious to see–what did these companies adapt on their menus in terms of appealing to local tastes? What did they keep the same? How’s it different from in the US?

As you may have noticed in my blog posts from this trip, I have done a lot of comparisons between the American and Japanese cultures. It’s no doubt an interesting topic to talk about, think about–heck, I’ve been discussing differences with my Japanese friends since I’ve arrived here.

Anyway, I digress.

Since the Cold Stone Creamery shop opened downstairs in LUMINE at Tachikawa station, I decided to go check it out today. The line was decent; today’s a Friday, so it’s probably best that I came before the weekend rush. The set-up is different, of course; instead of just ordering at the counter, there’s a “waitress” standing around with menus and a scribble pad. We customers have to wave her down when we’re ready to order (as is customary in most Japanese restaurants). She fills out the sheet of paper with the type of ice cream, size, cone/cup, etc., and then hands the paper to me.

Then, when it’s my turn to approach the counter, I hand the worker behind the counter my piece of paper. She repeats the order back to me to confirm it; then, the ice cream is made. This part is pretty much the same as in the US.

The menu is slightly modified as well; the seasonal special right now is “Green Tea Party”, which is a mix of fluffy yellow cake, green tea ice cream, and some cream. Really Japanese, if you ask me. I looked through the menu carefully and looks like there is no “Birthday Cake Remix,” which is my favorite one in the US. Well, that creation is very American, if you ask me: after all, what’s more All-American than a Birthday Cake? Japanese have birthday cakes, too, but they’re not the same as what Americans eat. Plus, their cakes are not as iconic I guess; I can say that “Green Tea Party” is the Japanese equivalent of the “Birthday Cake Remix”, albeit this creation is probably only available in the spring.

Oh yes, and the portions were smaller (as expected).

Now, my interesting story about Krispy Kreme Donuts.

Well, I was walking down the steps of LUMINE, on my way to Cold Stone for my ice cream; suddenly, I saw some young teenage girls running up the steps with Krispy Kreme boxes and bags, and I felt confused; I had thought that the Krispy Kreme store in Tachikawa was not set to open for another week! So, I felt like I needed to figure out what was going on.

It didn’t take me long to figure out this mystery–I walked outside briefly, and was bombarded with several Krispy Kreme workers shouting out “Free Krispy Kreme donuts!” and directing people to a long line. Well, actually, I wasn’t sure what the women were saying, but people around me were growing really excited and running to the line (!!), so I decided I would follow suit. Got into line, approached the front, and voila–they handed me a large bag with a box of donuts. At first I was skeptical of what exactly was in the box, but after I came home, I found that the box contained a dozen Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts. A DOZEN. The regular price for one dozen in Japan is roughly 1600 yen (around $16)!

It’s insane that they were giving out these boxes for free. And what amused me more was just watching the frenzy–why do Japanese love Krispy Kreme so much? When I tried the donuts out, I was expecting the flavor to be slightly altered, but no–these are THE Original Glazed donuts. All-American flavor. This discovery made me feel even more confused–I thought maybe Japanese did not like overly sweet things? I guess my assumption was wrong–I asked a few of my Japanese friends, and they couldn’t explain the phenomenon either. They did mention, however, that the Krispy Kreme store in Shinjuku is always packed–minimum 2-hour wait in line. All for American donuts!

I don’t think I will understand this for awhile; maybe I need to do a little more research. I’m still in shock over the free dozen of donuts….

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Currently reading The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee and so far I find it a fascinating read. There are many things I already knew about Chinese food in the US (that most of it isn’t authentic); after all, my parents explained this to me awhile ago since they still operate their restaurant in Virginia.

In the end though, what foods stay “authentic” to their native origins when they enter a foreign country? After all, I’m sure most of the stuff I eat/crave at Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, et. al. restaurants are not 100% authentic; we can say that most of the foods are adapted for the American palate.

It’s the same thing with truly American food crossing over into other countries such as Japan. The burgers in Japanese McDonald’s are definitely different from the burgers here in the U.S. There are different combinations and such; there’s a shrimp burger in Japan! You wouldn’t find such a thing here in the US.

Anyway, back to more reading. Just wanted to pause a moment and reflect on this aspect.

Pretzels vs. Hot Dogs

Dear Female Customers,

I know you all probably look at the menu and think to yourselves “Gee, hot dogs, so fattening! I think I will be healthier and have a pretzel.”

I hate to break it to you, but a pretzel is probably unhealthier than a hot dog.

Think about it: all the pretzel is is salt (sodium, yikes!) and white bread. Simple carbs that aren’t easily broken down. No real nutrients. In addition, the salt will make you retain some water (i.e., you will feel bloated later).

Meanwhile, a hot dog at least will have some protein in it, and when you add some relish or onions or sauerkraut, you get some sort of vegetable servings.

So stop trying to kid yourself into thinking that the pretzel is healthier, because in reality, it really isn’t. I do believe a soft pretzel packs more calories than a jumbo hot dog (correct me if I’m wrong).

So anyway, what would you like to buy today? An unhealthy soft pretzel or a less-unhealthy hot dog?

Sincerely,

Your Favorite Hot Dog Vendor in San Francisco

Super Tuesday Primaries.

I don’t usually like talking about politics, but I was just amazed at all the news pouring in about the shortages of ballots and whatnot on Super Tuesday (Note: in case you were wondering, yes, I am backdating this entry because I was away on a small trip/visit for the past few days). I really did not think that so many people would come out to vote on that day, but I guess that shows how much people want someone fresh and new to represent their political party.

I did my duty in voting though–now I only anticipate the end of these primaries to see who will come out as the Presidential nominee in the Democratic party.