Friday, February 05, 2010


THE MUFFIN IMPERATIVE


When the world seems to be heading for the doldrum-pits (isn't it always?), it's sometimes good to focus on the smaller problems, especially the self-indulgent ones, which are the best kind, to wit:

Like any expat, I have my food rants, relating generally to the cuisinal higher reaches comprising cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream and such ecstatics-- the rarefied air of indulgence. This morning I take a slight tangent, to address the no-less-important muffin situation.

English muffins, which someone in America once told me were in fact of American origin, actually originated in England, where they are now known as "American Muffins." (Expat breakfasts are often confusing.) Here in Japan, the natives too have their own version of such muffins, which for purposes of international muffin clarity I shall refer to as Japanese-American-English muffins, starting with the package that I hold in my hands.

As Asia advances through its cultural juncture with the wider world, we here in the J-boonies have been seeing a finer and finer gradation of imported products (I still remember the surprise I felt a few years ago, upon seeing olive oil(!) on the supermarket shelf in the larger village up the road). So it was inevitable that sooner or later English muffins would reach all the way out here to where I live, but like so many derived and adapted cultural imports from around the world, these local Japanese-American-English muffins are but a distant far-eastern cousin of the American-English muffin, being smaller in diameter, thinner, nonchewy, vaguely sweet, vapidly pneumatic and generally less substantial, i.e., nearly all the things - apart from shape and name - that a decent American-English muffin should not be.

There are 4 muffins in this package of - in a typical Japanese twist - "pumpkin" English muffins, so until I get them finished I must occasionally abide before the toaster and ponder related matters of international complexity, like a diplomat making his own breakfast. As I stand there keeping an eye on a couple of orange-ish (fork-split, of course) disks, my foot-tapping mind ponders the inscrutable pumpkin factor, runs through a quick comparison of Japanese/American/British tastes, the smaller portions here in the Land of Wa, the minimalist flavor requirements, the broad variety of subtlety therein (but pumpkin?), the importance of appearance and unobtrusiveness in matters of flavor and texture, the sad lack of... Bing! My muffin is ready.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Which reminds me, I meant to ask you if you want me to send aspirin, its about a buck a bottle.... Are your muffins relatively priced, considering the lesser amount and size.....!

Joni

Still blog-building, is this the tedious part?

Xibee said...

There is, however, a reverse to this. Think of all you'd be missing that I might possibly never taste again and what make me miss Kyoto: REAL wonderful ramen and udon at my train station; ma-cha and sweets fixed just so in the chic showroom downtown; chunkan nabe; soba manju!!; unagi like I'd never tasted anywhere else; croquets... ::sigh:: so many things.

Only thing I don't miss is the nagging feeling of starving after purchasing a 10,000 yen plate of spaghetti that was the size of a six year old's fist.

R. Brady said...

Joni,thanks for your kind offer, but a good friend sent me a boxful of aspirin a while ago, and though I used some at the beginning, I've gotten so back-in-shape healthy out here I haven't needed them much beyond that (knock on firewood). As to your blog, in its simplest form, i.e. text, it should be pretty much instantly ready to go, if you're using blogger...

Xibee, yes, I certainly do counterbalance my rantyness with all those great foods (I'll dig into my archives and repost some buried raves), it's only when one is alone in front of the toaster...

Kyoto! Ramen! Unagi! YES!

Ojisanjake said...

In the part of england I grew up in they were/are called pikelets!