A couple of weeks ago, my daughter looked at me pretty funny. I said we would be having tacos for dinner that night.
To me, “tacos” involve crunchy shells, great handfuls of cheese, refried beans, terrifically spiced beef, lively salsa, the works, all rammed into that shell, daring you not to slop-up your sleeves or look toooo uncivilised about it. Basically, the best non-first-date food ever. Did I mention it’d been a while since I’d had them?
Back to the funny, raised eyebrow-are-you-serious-mom-look. To her, taco=octopus. This is a fun Japanese-English, er, Spanish overlap.
And her mama was so excited about eating tacos!! Huh?
In her sweet, pigtailed mind, she pictured long red tentacles, white suckers, and she, being fully aware, that as Jews, we don’t eat octopus (or squid, shrimp, pork, scallops, mussels, etc, etc), was obviously confused.
Here in Tokyo, octopus is quite relevant. Everyday, we pass outdoor fish markets and a small mom and pop market on the way to and from our hoikuen/preschool where the sweet little taco is wrapped in cellophane, its tell-tail bumps and color all the rage. Here, they come sliced in salads; here, marinated taco is on many-a-menu.
I once witnessed a gorgeous eight-legged guy fished out of a large live tank, jut behind our sushi bar. The chef flung him onto plexiglass where the octopus was a bit of a show, sliding and roving on “dry land” until being thrown into boiling water. All this while I sipped my green tea and added another dollop of wasabi to my small plate. Of course I looked up to see that same poor octopus pulled out of his pot of death, its now purplish body immediately sliced-up. “Ding ding ding! Special taco available right now!!” Everyone called out for their share. It took me a few good swigs of my nama beer to get through the piece of sushi I’d been working on.
Side-note: The first time I visited a Japanese aquarium, I was taken aback. I am used to placards and conversation around tanks involving words like, “endangered, threatened, overfishing, beautiful, nature, wow.” You get the idea.
It was a very different experience at this aquarium in Shizuoka, Japan. Everywhere I turned, no matter the tank, I heard peals of “Oishii so! Tabetai! I want to eat that! That fish looks delicious!!!” Forget nature and preserving.
Following up our deliciously messy dinner, the famous father-daughter duo cracked open another shell–
and dove into our new hardcover book, Dragons Love Tacos.
It was so good.