Hey everyone, we’re back!! I don’t think I’ve ever been so heartbroken to leave a place. The food was amazing, the people were so incredibly friendly, the sights were gorgeous… we had seriously the very best time. I’m still a little disoriented and jetlagged, but I’m getting back to normal.
So our very first night there, we checked into our hotel in Ueno, dropped off the bags, and headed out with Sam’s brother to look for a place to eat. We found a great little hole in the wall place that served okonomiyaki and yakisoba, cooked up on tabletop grills. It was amazing! My oyster okonomiyaki was incredible – giant, juicy, perfectly cooked oysters on top of a crispy okonomiyaki. It was a perfect first meal in Tokyo.
I’ll be doing a bunch of comics about things we ate in Tokyo over the next few days; also, I’m foregoing the food diary part of this comic for a little while – the Shuteye book is almost ready, and I’m going to be pretty busy rolling it out, so any little thing I can do to save time right now is awesome.
So, it’s been several years since I had this meal, but I still get excited when I tell people about it. We went to La Cazuela, home of my favorite shrimp tacos, and they had a sign up advertising a special of “pulpo de ajo.” I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered it, and the waitress asked me a few times if I was sure, and wanted to most of all make sure that I understood that “pulpo” meant “octopus”. I assured her that I knew what I was doing, and they brought out a plate of one of the best things I have ever eaten. A giant pile of tiny octopi, slow-cooked, tender, with copious amounts of roasted garlic. I haven’t seen the pulpo on special there ever since, but it lives on in my happy memories.
When I was in high school, I did a semester abroad in France. My host family took me on their vacation in Saint-Brieuc, and one day we went out fishing, and my host dad caught a giant eel. We took it home and roasted it with lemon and cider and ate it for supper. It was light, delicate, delicious, but every single bite came with multiple tiny, pointy, invisible bones. My French was less than impressive at the time, but I’m fairly certain they called it Congre au Cidre. It was the first (and maybe only, now that I think about it?) time I ever saw a meal through from catching it to eating it.
Longman and Eagle always has delicious and interesting desserts, but this one is probably the most science-y of all of them. There are several radically different textures, the most striking of which is the coffee jelly, a gelatine layer of, well, coffee. Delicious! But I think I appreciated it more than I enjoyed it, if that makes any sense.
#4 I had at the inimitable Hot Doug’s. I don’t know what I expected the rattlesnake meat to taste like, but it wasn’t that incredibly different from a sausage made from any lighter meat. I guess in sausage form, most meats end up kind of similar. The sausage was light and zesty, not unlike chicken but with more of a … spring to it, I guess. Hot Doug’s game sausages for the win!
Holy crap you guys, I’m in Japan! I figured I wouldn’t have the time or ability to post anything from Japan, so I made a few little drawings to tide you over til I get back. I thought it would be such a cute idea to draw the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten, but as you’ll see over the next few days, they’re not really that weird. I pride myself on having a pretty adventurous palate, but maybe I’m not that adventurous after all? Or maybe these things just don’t seem that adventurous to me anymore? Who knows.
Anyway, #5! Right here in Chicago, at the Bad Apple, you can get this decadently rich burger. Peanut butter on a burger may seem pretty counterintuitive, but it definitely works in this context. Not something I’d eat every day, but delicious for a once-in-a-while kind of thing.
This whole Japan trip didn’t seem real at all until a brief moment yesterday when I passed my packed suitcase and it all hit me in a powerful wave. OMG. We’re really doing this. I’ve been running around non-stop lately so I haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about it. But, fortunately, because I’ve been running around non-stop lately, I’m kind of looking forward to a 16-hour plane trip, where I won’t be able to do anything but sleep or play video games.
Don’t judge, ok? It was the 90s when I was in high school, I had a fetish for poofy sleeves and princess waists and I had a series of unfortunate home perms. I will not attempt to deny these accusations. Moving on.
My mom seriously did sew all but maybe one of my fancy school-dance dresses in high school. She’s an excellent seamstress. And she taught me how to sew, and helped me even after I broke like 5 needles in a row (I was trying to make a canvas bag, I had not learned how to tell when the sewing machine was saying “no, seriously, SERIOUSLY NO”). I actually had a fashion show once, right after I graduated college, at a small art gallery in Saint Louis. I sewed all my own dresses for it, with no patterns. I was confident (or crazy) enough then to seriously just whip out some fabric and start cutting. I’m nowhere near that point now – but I think I remember enough to be able to cut and sew a pattern. I’ve been eyeing a bunch of these Butterick Retro patterns, and – OH MY GLOB THEY’RE ALL ON SALE YOU GUYS. I didn’t even know that until I made the link. I’m totally buying some right the eff now. I hope they’re still on sale when this comic posts tomorrow morning.
AWESOME. Can’t wait for those to arrive. Anyway. Where was I? Oh, right. Sewing. Here’s the thing. If you have a moment, this article on Etsy about the History of a Cheap Dress is an excellent read. Very much abridged, the article says we used to spend a lot more on an individual piece of clothing, and have a lot fewer things in our closets. These days, an article of clothing is MUCH cheaper, and we have lots more things in our closets… but overall, we spend MORE on clothes now, than we did when the average woman had nine outfits. Imagine if you got rid of everything in your closet that you never wore, that didn’t fit quite right, that you didn’t feel amazing in. Imagine you only had a dozen or so outfits in there, but each one fit your body EXACTLY. Wouldn’t you feel better every day, knowing that you looked amazing in every outfit you wore? I can’t count the number of brands I don’t bother shopping because they fit my hips but not my waist, or they fit my waist but not my chest. Imagine if the 12-15 things in your closet were made really well, and you took really good care of them, and they lasted a long time, instead of the ten pairs of leggings I bought at Target because I knew none of them would last longer than a few months.
Essentially, one of the things I want to do this year is get back into sewing. I’ve set myself a deadline of having ONE dress made in time for the San Diego Comicon. It will be an awesome, retro-inspired, flouncy thing (maybe this one, look at those cute sleeve options) that fits my body exactly and makes me feel awesome. And I won’t care what size it’s supposed to be, because it will be perfectly Sarah-sized.
One of the things that’s been on my mind lately re: the scale is how many times it’s completely derailed me. How many times have I spent two solid weeks eating really well, exercising the crap out of my body, drinking gallons of water, only to find that I’ve actually gained a pound? And is there anything more demoralizing than that? My reaction then is usually to throw up my hands and wonder why the hell am I even trying? There’s no point to healthy eating and exercise, clearly, we might as well eat an entire pizza in one sitting.
I know there aren’t many other ways to track minute changes in weight, but honestly, the scale has made me feel worse more than it’s made me feel better, and when it makes me feel worse I tend to treat my body very poorly, so honestly, it’s just counter-productive at this point. I care so much less about the number on the scale than I do about being able to run for 30 minutes, or having stronger arms. And lately, I don’t know that I even care as much about fitting into smaller clothing (more on that in a later comic). I mean, if I’m biking fifteen miles a day, eating pretty well, running and lifting weights, and my body still wants to be this size, maybe I’m tired of fighting it. Maybe I’d rather channel that energy in other, more productive directions.
Our Japan trip is coming up really really soon, you guys!! Niles and I were researching little day trips out of Tokyo and I came across a little town called “Zushi” and got really excited… until I realized that no, of course it is not a town made out of sushi, it’s not even a town known for its sushi stalls or restaurants, it’s just a small fishing town with a really nice bay for windsurfing. Oh well. Niles’s brother Sam has graciously promised me a sushi tour of Tokyo, so it’s not like I won’t be eating my fill on this trip, even if magical towns made out of sushi don’t actually exist.
I still can’t believe we’re doing this. It doesn’t feel real yet! And of course it’s so much money, but we’ve been really frugal to offset the costs. I can’t wait!