Every culture is different, and because of those differences, they tend to look at certain elements differently. Take, for instance, food.
Now I could write a whole post simply about the differences between American and Japanese mayo. In America, I’ve seen mayo on hamburgers and in potato salad. In Japan, I see mayo on rice, layered over bread, poured over tomato, cucumbers, and other vegetables, and in various other circumstances. But mayo can wait for another day, because I’m here to talk about grapes.
Grapes? You might ask, why grapes?
The why corresponds to the “how” because this is the third time I’ve visited Japan now, and each time I learn a new way to eat Japanese grapes.
Japanese grapes look similar to American grapes. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – the only real difference being the fact that the grape skins are much thicker than in America.
So here is a practical guide to eating grapes in Japan.
1. Don’t eat the skins. Whatever you do, don’t eat the skins – people will think you are crazy.
I remember the first time I ate grapes in Japan. When I was 15, I went to boarding school in Hokkaido. For spending money, I used to tutor English a couple times a week, sometimes at the school, sometimes at people’s houses. After one of the lessons, someone brought out grapes. Fruit is incredibly expensive in Japan, so I dug in. First I noticed the skins were bitter. Second, I noticed people were staring at me funny.
In Japan, you don’t eat the skins of the grapes.
See? The peels go in a separate pile.
2. Get the skin off the grape.
You have three options here:
2 A: Peel the grape piece by piece.
I’ve only seen this way a couple of times. And elderly Japanese couple I am found of use this method.
Plus: The grape is clean, and you don’t get any dirt in your mouth.
Minus: This method takes the longest and gets juice everywhere. Make sure you have a towel to clean your hands nearby.
2 B: Squeeze the grape out of the peel using your fingers.
This method sounds difficult… and it is, in fact, rather difficult. Some people are really good at it, though. I’m getting better, but it is still kind of difficult. Hold the grape near your mouth, and squeeze it strategically so that the peel-less grape pops into your mouth and the peel stays in your fingers.
If you do it correctly, you should be left holding a peel that looks something like this.
Plus: You don’t get any dirt in your mouth. It is also fairly fast.
Minus: If you mess up, you might end up eating part of the peel. I mess up about half the time. The juice also drips everywhere, so make sure you have a towel nearby.
2 C: De-peel the grape in your mouth and spit out the peel.
This is the most common method, I think – followed closely by squeezing with your fingers. I tried this for the first time last week, and love it. You pop the grape in your mouth and squeeze it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. The grape should pop out of the peel easily, and then you just spit the peel out.
Plus: This is the fastest method. You also rarely “mess up” and have to eat the peel, and has no mess involved.
Minus: Make sure you wash the grapes completely; you don’t want any dirt left.
3. Place your peel in the “discard” pile, grab a new grape, and repeat step 2. You can mix up your methods if you get bored.
(The grape discard pile)
I wish I had something more witty and clever to say, but eating grapes if fairly straightforward here in Japan, once you get the hang of it.
So good luck!
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