Memory of Taste

Memory of Taste


Kinzanji miso is sometimes called namemiso.

I was exchanging conversations with Japanese friends on Facebook. The subject was eating habit in the United States. One of them wrote “Americans don’t seem to eat dinner while watching TV.” Then I replied, “It probably largely depends on the financial and social circumstances of the family.”

In recent years, many families struggle to survive by having multiple low-paid jobs while raising kids. When parents come back from work after long working hours, they don’t have enough energy left to fix something for hungry kids.

They may go out to fast food restaurants for quick dinner. Maybe kids eat on their own while watching TV or youtube before a parent comes back. I can’t blame for the parents who are trying very hard to make the ends meet.

Still, I would like to encourage people to cook, anything. It doesn’t have to be organic or whole grains, even though it’s wonderful if they eat organic or whole grains. It’s just far better from many perspectives to cook at home using fresh ingredients than eating junk food. Children may resist eating healthy food at the beginning, but from my experience, I believe that the memory of the childhood taste stays in the brain.

Through the taste buds, children experience the world they never knew. Curiosity to the new flavor or new ingredients can easily lead to the curiosity to the different world or different culture. Learning and acquiring new flavor is to widen the boundary of tolerance. It would be wonderful if we can introduce wide variety of food and taste to children.

When I grew up in Japan, there were no fast food restaurants or bento business, yet. My parents were busy running a family business and taking care of 6 or 7 apprentices who lived with us. It was my grandmother who cooked, until she decided to retire in her 50s. Since then, I took over the responsibility. I was around 12 years old.

My childhood memory of food was my grandmother’s cooking. Food my grandmother made were plain simple and ordinary Japanese food. Because she didn’t particularly love cooking, she didn’t make any effort to cook special food to please children either. I and my siblings ate regular adults’ food.

I didn’t like some of the food I was fed. For instance, I didn’t like namemiso, or kinzanjimiso, a type of sweet chunky miso with salted vegetable bits. My father loved it, but didn’t appeal to me at all when I was a child. But strangely enough, I remember the taste even after decades. And for some reason, I am yearning for it right here in New York.

I could probably buy kinzanji-miso if I make a trip to a large Japanese grocery store, but I am thinking to make it by myself. I will definitely make an entry when I make it.

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