Big Mac's and M&M's
By Bruce Lonardo
Throughout the two years that I was stationed aboard the Midway in Japan, I was amazed by many aspects of the Japanese culture. I found the Japanese people to be a very traditional, very noble and very likeable people. Some of the things I found magically exciting about Japan were the traditional tiled roofed houses, paper lanterns, torii arches, ceremonial shrines and temples, wind chimes, kimonos and delicious cuisine. Things which have remained unchanged over the past thousand years. Japan is a country over 1500 years old and now in modern times, ranks as one of the most pre-eminent nations on earth in the development of technology. The Japanese people still maintain a perpetual preservation for the simplicity of cultural traditions dating back to their country's earliest days, which they hold very sacred. I myself believe the Japanese people to be one of the most culturally traditional nations on earth and it was an honor for me to be stationed for two years in their wonderful and amazing country.
Japan truly is "The Land of the Rising Sun." One only has to see a Japanese sunrise one time to realize how true that cultural idiom is! From the flight deck of the USS Midway, when she was at port in Yokosuka, Japan, there was a spectacularly clear view of Tokyo Bay with Mt. Fuji on the horizon. Mt. Fuji is Japan's most famous inactive volcano and in the early morning with the sun rising behind it and the surrounding mountains which appear to be floating upon the misty morning air, the view is not only breathtaking, but it so fantastically echoes the most incredibly beautiful Japanese wall murals as well. The view is simply... magical!
Japanese food is, in my opinion, incredible! However, I remember one time aboard the Midway when my American taste buds were quite overwhelming. The Midway had deployed on a small three week shakedown cruise in the Sea of Japan and I was sitting around in the TV lounge of our squadron berthing compartment with Manny Barboza, a shipmate in my squadron. We were just kind of dreaming out loud about McDonald's (there are McDonald's Hamburger Restaurants everywhere in Japan). We ere kind of having cravings and "oasis visions" of Big Macs, large fries, and triple thick shakes! We formed a plan to chow down at the Sagamino McDonald's, which was located right near Atsugi Navy Base.
We had Big Macs on the brain so badly, that while on the train to the base, we made a bet to see which one of us could eat the most Big Mac's. Now Manny was a pretty good sized guy who had a talent for inhaling food, so I must have been truly kidding myself to actually think that I could ever outdo this guy in any kind of contest which involved consuming food. As I remember correctly, I was able to just barely finish three Big Macs. Manny on the other hand, if I remember correctly, was able to make about seven Big Macs disappear. I remember the empty Styrofoam containers that Big Macs come in, or at least used to come in, were all over our table and all the Japanese people in the restaurant were gasping at us in utter disbelief, probably wondering if we were making a commercial for McDonald's. Manny won that bet, hands down!
Of course, Japanese food was far superior to a Big Mac. In that same little Japanese town was one of the most awesome Japanese restaurants around. The name of it was "Cupid's" and it was located just a few blocks from Atsugi's main gate. It was very popular with all of us Navy chow hounds who had insatiable Japanese appetites! The Japanese are also a fun people, as we found out. I and another good buddy of mine, Keith Beyer, were on the train headed to Tokyo. Keith had this enormous yellow bag of peanut M&M's and we were both munching them down. All the Japanese people in our train car were curiously watching us, obviously wondering what we were eating. Keith started offering M&M's to everyone in the train car and began pouring them into the hands of business men, women, students, old ladies, and anyone else who was in our train car. Soon everyone was munching on M&M's and they liked them a lot! It was a splendid moment for Japanese/American public relations! (laughter)
Japanese food by and large, is delicious! However, there is one incredibly gross delicacy I heard about when I was in Japan. The Japanese take wild boars and feed them yams, yams and more yams. Before the wild pig can digest them, the animal is slaughtered and its intestines are removed with the still chewed up yams inside. They are made into sausages which are then marinated and grilled, becoming a very expensive delicacy. Not for me!
There are far more appetizing delicious dishes to choose from in Japan. Three of my favorite Japanese dishes I urge people to try are all incredibly delicious. Don't worry folks, there is nothing gross in these dishes. Katsudon is marinated pork cutlets in a delicious seasoned batter with a delicious soy & honey sauce and the cutlets are served over rice and peapods. Another great dish is called Yakisoba, which is extra fine rice noodles steamed and flavored with sauces and spices and mixed with sautéed vegetables and shrimp. Oh, it’s incredible! The other delicious dish that is very good is vegetable & meat Ramen. Consisting of noodles, water chestnuts, peapods, Japanese radishes, carrots, scrambled egg and Japanese herbs and spices, combined with a meat stock of either pork, chicken, beef or shrimp, this is an incredibly savory broth which is simply delicious. It's best if you eat it with chopsticks and with gusto. Don't worry if the incredible flavor should cause you to slurp your noodles... its proper table etiquette in Japan!