The Rice Cooker Chronicles is a series of essays by JETs and JET alumni on the theme of cooking/eating and being alone in Japan. The brain-child of JETwit founder Steven Horowitz (Aichi-ken, Kariya-shi, 1992-94) (and inspired by the book Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant), this series is curated by Leah Zoller (CIR Ishikawa-ken, Anamizu, 2009-11), the editor of The Ishikawa JET Kitchen: Cooking in Japan Without a Fight. A writer and web administrator for The Art of Travel/ The Art of Japan: Kanazawa, she also writes I’ll Make It Myself!, a blog about food culture in Japan.
New submissions always welcome. Just e-mail it to Leah at jetwit [at] jetwit.com.
by Adam H Lisbon (ALT, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ken; 2004-2007), Program Associate at the North American Coordinating Council of Japanese Library Resources & Instructor of Japanese Studies at the University at Albany. Adam just finished his graduate program, receiving a master’s in information science. He is currently undertaking the perilous journey to become an academic librarian.
I fry eggs in my rice cooker. If I were still in Japan this would the kind of story I’d tell at the enkai, or to junior high students during my jikoshokai, explaining my wacky foreigner ways. But the truth is I got the idea from Japanese reality TV. The premise? Survive on 百万円 for one month. One contestant cooked everything in her rice cooker…at work, to cut back on her electricity use.
Intrigued, I started cooking some of my meals this way, sans the rice cooker making the commute with me across the Kobe. The results could be best described as soggy or squishy. Spaghetti and vegetables did not fare well in the process. The conventional strategy of 1) insert food and 2) pour water in, only seemed to assist with rice. A fool I was not heeding the name of the appliance. Not to be discouraged, I tried eggs, and had amazing results. No water needed, just crack them open and go. Admittedly, my “Eureka!” moment with eggs was more the result bachelor-esque laziness: I was tired of cleaning my fry-pan.
Luckily, my unusual hybrid of sloth, poor decision-making, and adventurousness was successful. Despite being an urban JET with a modern kitchen, “throw it in the pot” was my preferred method of cooking. That probably says more about my inability to cook than any sense of ingenuity, but my success with eggs emboldened me in my quest for perfecting in rice-cookery.
The rest is history: eggs were morbidly followed with steamed chicken. Beef patties turn out great, but you’ll need your shamoji to flip them over. I would advise against toasting your bread. Bacon…always tastes good no matter what you do with it. Chocolate milk, that was just weird for weird’s sake. The only frontier I have not crossed is baking a cake.
Nowadays, rice cooking technology is much more sophisticated. When I was on JET they had started coming out with models that could bake bread and cake. Now, in the US, my rice cooker has all kinds of options and settings, as well as a steaming basket to avoid soggy veggies. It’s easier to clean than pots or pans, healthier because steaming doesn’t break down nutrients like boiling does. And of course, it is still a novel way to prepare dinner, and help me feel connected to Japan half a world away. Eggs, by the way, take about 5 minutes in my rice cooker.