Love and Burgers

Every now and then I am surprised by what is and is not easy to find here in Tokyo. Before I go on, I guess I should define what I mean by “easy to find” especially when I am about to talk about foodstuffs. There are several small markets close to my apartment. They are small enough where I’m not sure if they actually qualify as supermarkets even though that is what we call them. Within a 10 minute walk I can easily think of 5. Expand that out to 15 minutes and the total jumps to about 10 markets, and including some multistory ones that definitely count as “super.”

Still, to pull us back to the original statement, the only store I can think of than typically has standard, yellow mustard is a good 25 minute walk in the opposite direction from where i normally want to go. This means that once I run out of mustard, it can be a while until I get some back in stock.

To those of you reading this and wondering why don’t I just by some from Amazon, the answer is simple. I’m still not used to buying foodstuffs through Amazon and often forget to check to see if they have mustard. Satisfied? No? Cool. I’ll check later.

Another thing that is relatively hard to find is your standard hamburger bun. Really, even after almost 15 years of living in Japan the only store that I have seen that has hamburger buns in stock charges about $3 for two. I can’t bring myself to pay that much. Fortunately there is a delivery grocery service we use that tends to have buns on available about once a month.

Tonight was one of our burger nights. And we are out of mustard. This is the time where I get to tell you how much I love my wife. She is amazing. Absolutely. We have been a couple over eleven years and married for over eight. In so many ways we are simply on the same wavelength. But every now and then the fact that we grew up in different cultures and countries does stand out.

I feel I should pause a moment and mention that generally speaking this little culturally hiccups have been of the small and humorous kind, and honestly often revolve around food somehow. Even when we disagree about bigger issues, which happens when you are apart of each others’ lives for over a decade, it is because we are individuals, not cultural representations.

But, back to the fun. So, tonight we are both tired. We divvy up what needs to be done. I’ll pick up our son, she’ll wash some dishes and prep some of the meal (hamburgers) I’ll get back, and at some point we’ll trade off. I’ll finish the meal and deal with the washing up after. It’s like we are grownups or something.

Anyway, I mention I’ll try and run by the far supermarket and see if they have mustard.

She responds “Well, we have karashi (spicy mustard). Just use that.”

“Nah,” I say, resisting the urge to to shudder. “There is something about the yellow mustard that adds to the taste.”

“Yeah, but they basically taste the same. Ones just a little stronger.”

“No. They taste nothing alike. Not really.”

“Sure they do. Basically. They both come from the same plant, right?”

“Okay,” and here is where I try and illustrate why I disagree. “If that’s true, then next time we get sushi, let’s just use okonomiyaki sauce instead of soy sauce.”


“Yeah, don’t both sauces come soybeans?”

“But they aren’t the same at all.”


Now, you might read that little exchange and come away with the idea that I ended with the upper hand. You would be wrong. Because I did not get the chance to pick up mustard and here we are adding a little bit of karashi to our hamburgers.

And you know what? It does not taste like yellow mustard. Not even close.

But you know what else? (And this is the important one.) My wife knows I like mustard with my burgers and that it is hard to get. And that sometimes a little bit of the right food can make you feel closer to family that are far away. And that even though she is overworked, tired, and eight-months pregnant she is still trying to look out for me.

And knowing that added the perfect flavor to the meal.


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