Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pizza in Japan

There are many things I love in life. I love my family. I love running. I love Canada, the country I am from. I love living abroad and the adventures I have in doing so. I also love pizza.

Pizza is food from the Gods in my opinion. It is the perfect mix of all major food groups. I get Grains, Dairy, Veggies and Meat all in one wonderful package.

I have been a fan of pizza my entire life. A great take out pizza is something to cherish, but even more is a great homemade pizza. Luckily, my parents are amazing cooks and growing up I have th fondest memories of my father's "from scratch" pizzas. They were delicious beyond description and now, as I live in Asia, I appreciate them even more.

I have lived in Asia for almost 10 years now. I lived in Korea for more than 5 years and there, pizza is everywhere. Pizza is common, it is cheap and to be honest, doesn't taste very good. Most places that sell pizza basically serve ketchup, a few slices of pepperoni and very little cheese on a slab of cardboard.

In Japan, pizza is really expensive and doesn't taste very good. ALSO, the sizes are really small.

Solution.....make your own from scracth. That's what I do. here is a quick vid of a pizza I made last weekend. An actual recipe/tutorial video will come soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Multi-tasked to Death

I’m tired, but I’m happy. Did I mention I am tired? I’m tired in a new way. I’m tired to my very bones.

Things are a little busy for me at the moment. Actually, things are a LOT busy for me at the moment. I am of course working full time as a homeroom teacher and that takes up about 50 hours a week and sometimes more. I’m running two full marathons in the next four weeks and of course I am trying to finish up my first “real” attempt at writing. With the first draft of “Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal” near completing I have begun proofreading it on commutes and during my lunch breaks. Did I also mention I have a wife and one year old son at home I try to spend maximum time with?

Things are more than a little busy and to be honest, something’s got to give soon.

Priority number one is my family. Work follows that cause of course, “baby always needs a new pair of shoes!” Then comes running and then the book BUT, there has been a change for me with regards to the last two.

Running has been a major part of my life since I began training for my first full marathon in 2008. It has made me healthier, happy and I have achieved many personal goals doing it. I was also able to raise almost $4000.00 earlier this year for disaster relief in the Tohoku region of Japan through running. Running is good.

The thing that is beginning to wear on me these days is that as I come near the end of my first major writing project, I am beginning to love writing far more than running. There is a serious conflict there because both take up a major portion of my time and to do either one of them well, you need a lot of time.

In recent weeks, as I wake up at 4:30 am to get outside for a training run, I find myself wishing that I was sitting down and working on my book instead. Marathon training has become a chore. Writing has become a joy.

So, here’s the plan. I of course need to prepare for the upcoming Osaka and Kobe marathons, but once they are finished, I’m going to step back from running full marathons in 2012. The training simply takes too much time and once I finish “Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal”, I already have another writing project in mind.

I won’t give up running though. It’s simply too much fun. The other night I ran a rather quick (for me) 5k. I was surprised that I was able to run a very hill-filled 5k in a hair less than 23 minutes. What could I do if I seriously trained and even had some racing flats? Can I run a 20-minute 5k in the new year? How about a 45-minute 10k?

In the 2012 I plan to register for several 5 and 10k road races and we’ll see if I can be fast. The training won’t be nearly as time consuming and I can still run a few times a week.

My plan is to focus on my writing once Kobe Marathon is in the bag. My family will be a major focus as well.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Monday, October 10, 2011

Arghh...I can't eat that!

As many of you know, I am currently working on my first book. "Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal." will be released as an eBook later this year. It will be a great resource or anyone who is interested in moving to South Korea or japan to teach. It is practical advice from a certified elementary school teacher someone who has lived and worked in both countries (that's me by the way). It will be a mix of entertaining and useful stories as well as advice on how to find a job, prepare for your move and successfully adapt to the culture.

The best way to find out about the book, my progress putting it together and release information, keep an eye on my Facebook page. I will be setting up a website for the book just before the release.

I wanted to give you guys a little taste of what I am up to. This is a
small section form one of the chapters in the book. "Argh...I can't eat that!" is part of the Culture Shock chapter.

Argh…I can’t eat that

You are now in a very different culture and with the different culture come new culinary experiences. The food typically eaten on a daily basis by Korean or Japanese people is obviously quite a bit different from what a typical Canadian, American, Australian, etc. might eat. You are going to have to try your best to get used to it because when you are with your Korean or Japanese friends, students or going to most restaurants, that’s what you will be eating.

To be honest, when I first landed in Korea in 2002, I was anyt

hing but an adventurous eater. I grew up in Eastern Canada and although had a family that was open to new food experiences, I personally wasn’t. As a young man, I was more of a Subway sandwich and pizza sort of guy and freely admit that I feared the unknown when it came to eating.

When I arrived in Korea, I knew nothing about Korean food. I suppose most people who go to Korea to teach find themselves in a similar situation. Luckily, I really enjoyed most of the new dishes introduced to me. I became a big fan of the food Korea had to offer. Generally, Korean food is spicy. A main spice used in many dishes is “gochu” which is a red hot pepper. Korean food also consists of a lot of vegetables. It’s definitely healthy, but for some, it can be a little too much. Some people don’t like the strong smell of the garlic and sesame oil while others tend to find it too spicy. I have met a few teachers in my time that had a history of stomach ulcers or were in general just sensitive and couldn’t handle the “heat” of Korean food.

Again, I took to it pretty quickly and enjoyed it. My advice to those out there who have never had Korean food and are coming to Korea is to be open-minded. You never know what something is like until you try it. Korean food is extremely healthy and packed full of flavor. It is also extremely affordable if not down right cheap to dine out at most restaurants in Korea. Many teachers will prefer to eat out most nights of the week as opposed to cooking at home because it can actually be cheaper to do so.

Japan also has some great food and aside from sushi and sashimi, I had basically no knowledge of the cuisine before I met my wife several years ago. Now I am absolutely in love with Japanese food. There was one stumbling block for me though, seafood. While growing up I never liked fish and since it is a major element of Japanese food, had to really try hard and learn to like it. Luckily I have, with the exception of eel.

Like Korean food, Japanese cuisine contains far more vegetables and a variety of them than a typical Western dish. I suppose what I love the most about Japanese food is the fact that in one typical meal you will find so many flavors on your plate.

Now eating out in Japan sadly isn’t as affordable as in Korea, but it’s always worthwhile. Since coming to Japan, I tend to eat most meals at home, but since my wife is Japanese, the vast majority of them are Japanese food.

Most people will enjoy the local “eats” when they come to Japan and Korea, but some may not. Again, my advice is just to give things a try. Even if a “mysterious” dish doesn’t look appealing, it may be extremely delicious.

If for some reason you just can’t wrap your plate or stomach around some of the local dishes, if you live in a larger city, there are plenty of restaurants that would probably cater to your needs. In Japan, there are Italian and Indian restaurants on almost every corner as well as fast food restaurants and pubs that serve “American” style food.

The same goes in Korea as well. You can find McDonald’s and Starbucks almost everywhere and family restaurants such as Bennigan’s and TGI Friday’s are very popular, although expensive. Many large supermarkets carry a variety of foreign food products and there are even specialty shops that deal specifically in food from abroad.

If you aren’t in a major urban area you are probably going to be out of luck when it comes to finding comfort food from home. You may just have to suck it up and learn to like what’s around you. To be honest, it’s not very hard!

Some kimchi, one of Korea's most famous dishes.

Remember to follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev