When in Japan you eat rice. My idea of cooking rice is a huge pot of boiling water with a little oil. You wash and strain the rice and splosh it into the boiling water. You then watch it with eagle eye so that you can snatch it off the heat at exactly the right moment so, once drained, each grain is separate and al dente. God forbid that it be overcooked and so soggy and gluey and sticky-together.
Here is different. The rice is different. It is round and held, it appears to me, in great deference. It is eaten pretty sticky-together but firm and you don’t want to f*** up the cooking. So enter the rice cooker. I have never come across these devices before but here they occupy more shelf space than any other appliance.
I ask my colleagues how to cook rice. They reply “Buy a rice cooker.” “OK” I say “But surely there must be a way of doing it without an electric device.” “Yes” they say “But you have to cook the rice very slowly in a little water, keep the temperature constant and it is very difficult. Buy a rice cooker.”
I go to the shop and embark on the well worn path of friendly confusion. There is a vast choice of rice cookers. I mean how can they be so different? Yet they range from the cheapskate versions, which I am looking for, to very expensive brutes. $1000 dollars to cook rice? Once again I am illiterate. Maybe these things translate Homer, or turn water into wine, or base metals into gold, or have speakers and an Ipod connection, or peel potatoes, or have web connectivity so you can read mail while you cook.
I choose my cooker. It appears to be on offer. Instead of 9,990 yen it is 5,990 yen. Cool, I go to check out and the very sweet checkout lady charges me 9,990. I say ” Er , I am a nice guy but I cannot speak Japanese but if you come with me you will see that this cooker is marked as 5,990 yen.” We go and look at the sticker and she says a lot but I do not understand. Another shop person arrives and says in English, “You want old?” and takes me to another part of the store where lo there is my cooker at 6,990 yen. I interpret all this as follows: original price 9,990 yen, some kind of store club price 5,990 yen but they have a display model that is on sale for 6,990 yen. But, hey, I could be very far from the mark.
I buy the display model.
Next I go to another store to buy rice. It comes in 5 kilo bags, er that is a lot of rice. There is a very large choice but I have no idea what distinguishes the different rices because I am illiterate. I buy the prettiest.
The cooker is, I hope, cooking as I write. I pressed a button and I will now enter into a period of clinical trials to establish how to use the thing.