A time capsule

This is the story of the oldest tofu shop in the US (in Portland, Oregon). It was started by a Japanese family in 1911. The article describes the family and the shop, and how both changed over the years. The war-time part of the story is particularly moving and an important history lesson.

“The Secret History of America’s Oldest Tofu Shop” (from Roads and Kingdoms)

I chose the title of today’s post from these line, towards the end of the article:

“As Ota’s new Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese customers acclimate to American foodways, they tend to come in less frequently. But for immigrants, language and food are like time capsules; by maintaining traditional recipes and techniques as the city rapidly changes around them, Ota Tofu honors this.

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Faux-foreign names

This article from Atlas Obscura is about product and shop names that sound foreign but aren’t:

Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Is From the Bronx — So What’s With the Name?

Examples from the article:

Häagen-Dazs ice cream sounds Scandinavian but the company was founded in New York and the name doesn’t mean anything in any language.  Au Bon Pain is a famous cafe chain that originated in Boston, even if it sounds French. And Comme des Garçons is Japanese.

What are some product or shop names in Japan that sound foreign to you? Which do you think actually originated in another country, and which are home-made?

I think of Mos Burger and Lotteria, for example, which both originated in Tokyo in the 1970s.

And Montbell and Uniqlo are both Japanese.

And who can forget Calpis, Yakult, and Pocari Sweat.

Care packages

“Care packages” are packages your mom (or dad, or sibling, or grandparent, or even a friend, but I always think of them as “mom packages”) sends you when you start living away from home. It’s a kind of tradition in the US, at least where (and when) I grew up.

Here’s an article from Tofugu that reminded me of care packages.

“Umai crate: the definitive 7-month long review”

It’s about a subscription box service for cup ramen. There are links there to similar services for Japanese snacks and toys, too. Ok, so they’re not care packages per se because you’re paying for them, but it might be an idea for a gift for someone who has everything… And it’s an idea for a budding entrepreneur, too.

I still get care packages, but from my mother-in-law. She sends us packages once in a while, with homemade (well, home-grilled by my father-in-law) surume (like squid jerky), vegetables grown in their local area, and other fun things like a certain local brand of cup ramen that is my husband’s go-to comfort food. That’s why I thought of care packages when I saw this Tofugu article. And I sometimes send care packages back, with homemade cookies 🍪


Discussion questions / writing prompts

  • Do you get care packages if you’re living away from home? What do you look forward to the most? If you don’t, what kind of package would you like to get?
  • If you could create a subscription service where you get a box of something each month, what would you like to get? Flowers? Fruit? Tea? Books? Would you prefer to choose what goes it in or be surprised?
  • What kind of subscription box service would you like to start? Do you think it would be an easy business to run?