Thursday, November 22, 2007
How to Dismantle a School Lunch
Japan is a country that, while embracing modern western culture like a long-parted lover, still emanates a deep reverence for tradition and ceremony. The mere act of meeting a friend for a cup of tea can be, in Japan, a delicately orchestrated endeavor with more rules than sips, having more in common with a Freemason's meeting than the consumption of a beverage with company. In another remarkable complicating of a reasonably simple act, the actual dressing oneself (or another) in a kimono requires such refined skill that many Japanese women study it for years. Even the public waste disposal system leaves many an expat perplexed. It is, thus, unsurprising that dismantling one's tray after school lunch is, while simple compared to many activities (juggling and taxes come to mind), quite intense when weighed against the same chore elsewhere. It goes something like this: First set aside your straw and its accompanying wrapper. Then, reverse-engineer your milk carton until it is just a flat sheet no longer able to nobly contain liquids. Take the former-carton and rinse it thoroughly in the sink. When it has been cleansed of dairy, place it neatly atop the others in the gray Tupperware box. Next, empty any remaining food into the several, shining metal containers in which it was delivered, being careful to keep the various foods separate: salad with salad, fish with fish. If a spoon was necessary for the meal, rinse it and slide it onto the spoon rack. Place all plates and bowls in their corresponding slots-keeping the rice bowls separate though they are the same as the soup bowl. If there was a dessert (perhaps a small paper cup of yogurt or frozen jelly), make sure to separate all of the following: paper spoon, cup, cup lid, and paper wrapper from paper spoon. Place each in its designated plastic bag. Then, regardless of what your experiences may lead you to believe, take your straw and its wrapper and through them away. Now brush your teeth with the rest of the staff.