Traveling has many challenges – many unexpected surprises, getting lost, not knowing where to get the right food, hotel, even sometimes not knowing how to get a taxi, living out of a suitcase, and what sadly seems to happen with me, losing something I love.
But there are even more challenges when trying to also eat macrobiotically, as well as kosher. Fortunately, for the kosher part, there is always a Chabad almost everywhere for Shabbos. We rent apartments with cooking facilities and I shelp lots of equipment. Can’t say I’ve gotten it streamlined over the years, but it is getting a bit easier.
But the macrobiotics part is also challenging. The best part of traveling is experiencing new things, especially the food. And there aren’t that many places both mb and kosher. So I have compromised and have accepted that I will eat at places that are strictly vegan – no meat or milk products. But even then, there’s just so many questions I can ask, and even less, if they don’t speak English – so I deal. I won’t die if it’s not organic (tho I would love it to be), if they use sugar (which I wish they wouldn’t), or they include nightshades, which I prefer not to eat, but will. But the saddest part is when I look forward to a delicious meal, and it disappoints: too salty, not enough veggies, where are the beans? OK, get used to is, it’s not home, it is different, that’s the point of traveling.
But more to the point, is finding the good in the new. It’s not just about how it tastes – there’s so much more to a dining experience. At today’s restaurant (in Japan, http://da-maeda.shop-pro.jp/?mode=f12) (do look at the photos), first, we had quite a time finding it – as it wasn’t on the street – had to go back alleys to find it. Then as we enter, we find it’s another one of those lovely Japanese places, where people removes their shoes before entering. Fortunately you have a choice whether to sit on the ground (on a pillow) as I guess many Japanese do with a low table, or sit on a chair – the few people there (at most two others) were sitting on chairs). so glad I could also. But I did decide to cross my legs on the chair – I haven’t done that in ages, and glad it wasn’t weird there to do that. Then the menu is pretty slim, or the set lunch (and through experience we found out lunch hours don’t last all day like in America), or a raw food lunch (which I’m not that attracted to) or a noodle dish (which didn’t seem to have that many side dishes. I took the set lunch – but with the quiet of the place, I did what I hadn’t done in a long time – closed my eyes and counted my chews. It was so relaxing to take my time eating the food. And the truth was, some part of me felt it was too little food – but that’s good, good not to overeat – and good to chew the food well, so it satisfies. But the best part was yet to come, as I sit there, I see the waitress shlep a big bag of rice over to one of the tables, and she pours some out onto a plate to check the rice. I ask if I can film her, she giggles (many do, and I really love it) – I don’t think she can understand why it is so meaningful for me to see something that is so familiar and I just didn’t expect to see it. And when after the meal, I told her how I liked one of the dishes and inquired what was in it, she took the time to actually write out the recipe for me.
And that to me is the best part of traveling – finding such kind people, giving people.
A few more details in Japan that has enchanted me: we enter a store, it’s raining today – there’s a gentleman at the entrance (no guards!!) who gives me a plastic bag for my umbrella so it won’t drip in the store 🙂 Lots of little corners on the streets filled with plants – not a lot of space, but every inch taken advantage. Going through a garden, and seeing several employees carefully pulling out, actually not pulling out but rather cutting with their hands, the weeds. So labor intensive, such attention to details. And most of all, just keep looking at how beautiful the people are, mostly thin, well dressed, not shlumpy – such pride in how they look, such pride in how their products look – everything so elegant, quiet on the trains, don’t see people walking down the street eating, or smoking (they have smoke corners, and not that many of them), don’t see litter on the streets, actually haven’t even seen any beggars or homeless people. And it isn’t like we’ve kept to the tourists’ spots.
ok, maybe it’s all an illusion, maybe if I lived here I would see more I don’t care for – but so far, it’s a lovely lovely place.