Mushrooms and Dirty Socks

I signed up to be a sort of cultural ambassador, so periodically I’m called on to visit a school and talk about America. I figure it’s good for kids to learn about other countries, and also I pick up a little pocket money. Today I went to a nearby elementary school to talk to the sixth graders. In preparation for the visit, I looked up my elementary school on the Internet. I also looked up some school lunch menus and was appalled to find that everything I learned from “Supersize Me” was true – at one school, the menu features pizza, chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers over and over again. There is no miso soup! Hardly any vegetables! No fish! I’m so glad my kids eat lunch in Japan! Anyway, I packed a lunch in order to show the kids what American kids eat for lunch. I’m guessing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are still popular.

They had so many questions! Do Americans think that matsutake (expensive and rare wild Japanese mushrooms) smell like dirty socks? How do you say ‘war’ in English? What is America’s biggest problem? Do Americans like anime? I was heartened to meet with such curious children.

Just before I left, they gave me gifts – a head of lettuce, a daikon radish, and a bag of citrus fruit.


4 thoughts on “Mushrooms and Dirty Socks

  1. I don’t imagine you could share with them that our biggest problem is “W”? I love the question about dirty socks. What did they think of the PB&J?

  2. I admire your bravery for bringing a ‘typical’ North American lunch to show to J kids. There was a funny piece in the Yomiuri recently by Kate Elwood (do you know her column?) about how Making Lunch is one of those rituals in Japan that she subconsciously capitalizes in her mind when she thinks about it. The poor high school students who go on homestays in Canada — I think they feel like they’ve exited civilization and entered Mad Max territory when faced with their homestay mother’s bag lunch (or told to slap together a sandwich on their own).

  3. Wow, thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading about the curiosity exhibited by the Japanese students. Would you know if there is a penpal program for students that we can subscribe to? I have a daughter in Grade 6 and I know she would just love to have a Japanese pen or e pal!

  4. One kid wanted to eat the sandwich, but I think the teachers, at least, were amazed by what passes for lunch in the U.S. I would have put in a couple of cookies, but I think that would have been over the top!

    Thanks for cluing me in to Kate Elwood, Jean. I’ll be sure to check her out. I agree about Making Lunch.

    Lotus, I don’t know that the average 6th grader can write a letter in English, but I’ll be on the look-out for penpal programs.

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