The Japan Series — Totoro, We’re Not In Hokkaido Anymore

Actually, we knew we would be going to Russia as part of the voyage we were on. But we weren’t totally prepared for the experience.

One day we are wandering around a small northern Japanese city — tidy, orderly, polite, clean. The next, after crossing a narrow channel of water, we have exchanged slender, scampering salarymen for buff, blonde, steely blue-eyed guys in tight t-shirts, standing around smoking cigarettes, eyeing you suspiciously. We are now in Russia.

You see, just above the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is another island, part of the same chain, but this one belongs to Russia. It used to belong to Japan, so you’ll still spot the odd Japanese-style building sticking out like a sore thumb here or there. But Russia — claiming it was their’s originally — took it back after World War II (Crimea, anyone?). More

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!!

…to dinner, that is.

You have to be careful when cooking an ethnic dinner for ethnic friends. You don’t want to appear cliché or offend anyone. Will your Mexican friends really appreciate it, for example, when they come for dinner and you announce, “Hey, I’m making burritos! Muy bueno!!“?? (Imagine your own horror should you be invited to a dinner party in Paris or Tokyo, anticipating delicious local cuisine, only to have your hosts serve you meatloaf and mac n’ cheese.)