Thursday, June 03, 2010

Summer Weekly Lunch

For the Summer Institute for Japanese Language and Culture, we usually ate lunch together everyday. Of course, that depended on the students--some of whom insisted that they wanted to eat on their own. But every Thursday the Institute bought lunch for everyone and nary was there a student who insisted on eating out.
The first pace we ordered from was a fast food place found in 2000 Penn. It was... um... unsatisfying. I don't want to go into details as I am not a professional food critic, but if you want to eat quasi-Asian food, do not buy it in 2000 Penn. You have been warned.

Fortunately, there were better options for us. One place we tried was Kaz's Bistro. It was pretty good. The Thursday bento box special is chicken teriyaki and came with salad and sushi. But except for the specials, Kaz's can be a bit pricey for our budget. So we actually ordered out from a Korean place that serves both Korean and Japanese food. It's called Yee Hwa 李花. The first time, we order Bi bim bap, which is a Korean rice bowl of spicy meat and vegetables. I kind of liked it. Other days we ordered more conventional Japanese food such as teriyaki beef, salmon or chicken. (Okay, before you say anything, I am aware that these are not strictly Japanese, that in fact teriyaki "meats" are mostly an American invention--or more likely the invention of Japanese Americans who adjusted this style of cooking to their American palates and and the availability of certain meats.) In the photos above, we ordered tempura--full disclosure: strictly speaking it was vegetable tempura and shrimp fry; if you want to know the difference, send me an email.

So anyway, during these meals, we attempted to speak Japanese, to foster a Japanese language eating environment, but many students hung out with friends and chatted away in English. I thought about putting a stop to this, but I soon realized that students at different levels of Japanese who didn't know each other before summer session, soon became friends through these joint lunches. So I had to make a choice, divide them by language ability and foster their Japanese skills or to allow them to develop friendships--Japanese courses being the link--and figure out a different venue for language. I decided that it would be easier to create a different language venue than to foster an environment they themselves created to make friends. As far as I can tell, they are becoming very good friends, indeed, and I do not regret my decision.

So we will be eating our way through the summer every Thursday, making friends.

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