Thursday, February 23, 2006

Japan: Hiroshima 34 - Baking in Japan

Three words: Don't do it.

I'd like to think I am a pretty good cook and an excellent baker. However, not only does Japan pose challenges in the eating arena, it also throws us a curve ball when trying to cook. Here are the culprits:

The oven - it is my enemy with split personalities. The same unit functions as both a microwave and a conventional oven. How? You either push the button for "microwave," "oven," or "microwave and oven (haven't dared try this one yet).
Example - I tried to bake a chocolate cake. I brought from the US, Duncan Hines box cake (aka cake for dummies). It called for 30 min. at 350 degrees. Our oven only goes up to 300 degrees. After 10 minutes it looked done. Turned out to be burned on top and completely liquid in the middle.

The fish grill (I think) - is in cahoots with the oven. Both determined to starve us. Above the conventional oven, about the size of a toaster oven there is a small door that I guess fish goes in. The knob to turn it on is a picture of a fish. I like toasting bread in there. Til one day I forgot about it and my grilled cheese sandwich caught on fire, literally. WTF? I ruined grilled cheese!

Basic ingredients - It takes about 15 minutes of standing in the aisle to buy the simplest things. Ie. sherry vinegar, hamburger buns, half & half (ended up making it myself), whip cream, worcestshire sauce (this one took a trip to 4 different grocery stores)....

We are learning, but it takes time. We're developing a new system now - when we painstakenly find an ingredient we like, we take a picture of the package and store it on the computer. That way we can print it out and take it to the store when we need more.