Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kakigoori and the End of the Red Dye Ban

Summer in Japan. It's hot. You will hear people remark on this fact of life all summer long. Although they don't dress like it's hot (black leggings, cardigans, boots) Japanese people do feel the heat and they've come up with some ways to cool down. Most of these solutions involve eating something. Popular summer foods said to cool you down - unagi (grilled eel), goya (bitter melon) and kakigoori (shaved ice). Shaved ice is probably the only thing on this list that will physically make you feel cooler, though I'm not here to dispute a whole country that believes in the magical powers of eels and bitter melons.

If you ever visit Japan in the summer, you will see flags with the kanji for "water" hanging outside cafes and restaurants. (see above) This is their way of telling you to come on in and enjoy a refreshingly cool snack like ice cream and shaved ice. I'm a big fan of shaved ice mostly because it usually involves creamy condensed milk. I usually won't order shaved ice unless it has condensed milk drizzled on top - I find the plain snow cone style a little too sweet and syrupy.

Fresh strawberry shaved ice at the Super Yosakoi Festival. 

Another strawberry shaved ice w/out condensed milk at the top of Mt. Takao last summer. 

I might as well break the news here and now since these photos sell me out: I've dropped my ban on red candy. Yes, that's right. My personal moratorium on ingesting red dye has come to an end. It all started one Friday evening in Walnut Creek, CA. I was watching 20/20 with Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs and they did a story on the dangers of Red 40 - a common dye used in drinks and candies. Apparently all dyes are somewhat carcinogenic but Red 40 is the worst. According to 20/20. Well, this stuck in my head and from that night on, every bag of Skittles, Starbursts, M&Ms had to be carefully inspected and removed of all reds. It actually wasn't so bad because I don't actually like the flavor of a lot of red candies. Artificial cherry flavor is gross. I've never had a red Swedish Fish in my life. I would risk dehydration and avoid the complimentary red Gatorade at gymnastics meets. The only candy that ever broke my rule was, on a occasion, Hot Tamales. I used to quickly discard all the red Sour Patch Kids from the bag before it got to dark to see what I was popping into my mouth. I even had a ziploc bag full of discarded red candies at my first job. I admit it, it was just plain weird. 

What ended it all? I don't know...probably laziness and the acceptance that everything in life can or does kill you. And on that note, have a nice day. 

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