Acquiring a Taste for Things New

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Like the old story about Eskimos having twenty words for ice; in Japan we have many words for rice. Shinmai (新米) has been a topic of discussion lately. English dictionaries list it merely as ‘new rice’. I believe the rice is harvested, husked, dried, and polished before becoming shinmai. Normal rice, komai (古米), is stored until the next year before being sold. Because shinmai skips the long storage process it has different physical properties, and hence taste.

After the party on Sunday we received shinmai from the rice fields of the school administrator’s father. (Fitting that his name, Yoneno – 米野, means ‘rice field’.) I have cooked it up a couple times and find the flavor sweeter and more fragrant. The texture is also softer, with a hint of gumminess.

Today I was eating late lunch at Sakamoto’s and notice the rice seemed similar to Yoneno’s rice. I asked if they were using shinmai. Fortunately, the man from the rice shop was delivering a large bag of rice at the time. He explained that right now they are using a blend of shinmai and komai.

I was excited that I could notice the difference. Maybe I am learning something while I’m here.

We also have tea called shincha (新茶), which the dictionary translates as ‘the first tea of the season’. I really enjoy the flavor and jumped at any chance to drink it at the Board of Ed. office. I have never purchased it myself, so I don’t know if it has a higher price. I hope I wasn’t breaking anyone’s piggy bank.

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