Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To peel or not to peel

I don't know if you have to have lived with a Peeler to realize this, but when eating fruit, most Japanese people remove anything vaguely resembling skin. We are not talking bananas or kiwifruit, but peaches, grapes, apples, pears and plums. They would probably peel the individual sections of raspberries if they could find an efficient way to do it.

I first discovered this shocking local custom when I noticed the beau's brother's ex-girlfriend popping her grapes, every single one, out of their skins before they saw the inside of her mouth. Now I thought a great number of things were strange about this cute little girl who looked like she was in grade school (yes, the idea that his brother has a loli-con, or Lolita complex, has crossed our minds) so I thought this was a custom in the realm of cute girls and fruit. Until the beau peeled an apple before slicing it up for me. When I mentioned that I was hardly ill-equipped to handle foreign objects in my mouth and could probably eat an apple without choking on the skin, he replied that he was merely protecting me from all those nameless toxins. The skin of an apple is the best part! How do you know you're eating an apple and not some sweet starchy mess if there is no Crunch?! And grapes! This whole nation is missing out on the feeling of puncturing a tight grape skin with one's teeth.

So that I am not thought completely Euro centric I will mention that there are several Japanese blog entries about how strange we are for eating fruit with skin intact. Some people mention the toxins, others are of the opinion that a peach tastes better without its skin, but most of these bloggers only discovered our strange non-Peeler customs when living across the Pacific. It's time to spread the fruit skin love! I have failed in my personal attempts and now fruit at Chez Geisha is half-peeled and distributed according to whether you are a Peeler or a non-Peeler.

For those of you who are corporate bitches in Japan, if you really want to start a revolution try eating an unpeeled apple WHOLE at your desk. Or a raw carrot. From people's reactions you would think you had just pulled out a raw chicken drumstick and started gnawing on it. Very caveman 2008.


Nicole said...

I encountered this the first time I went to Japan. My homestay mom gave me a bowl of grapes, and then almost choked on one when I ate one without peeling it first. She told the rest of the family when they got home, and I was harassed for the the next two days on whether or not my stomach felt alright.

Kevin said...

I east most all fruits peeled here and only because of the wide use of pesticides in farming. As recently as 2 years ago I remember reading that DDT was still be used in Japan.

Edo said...

My host family thought I was insane for eating raw carrots. However, after they discovered that yes, I actually did eat them, and wasn't simply pulling their collective leg, it became sort of a running gag, with okaa-san putting raw carrots in a dish for me on the table every time she had them in the house. ...I began feeling like a rabbit after a little while.

And I will never in my life have the patience to peel grapes. Though I suppose one could argue that all the extra work makes them taste better...

irresponsiblyresponsible said...

Heh, when I first saw the title of this entry, I thought it was going to be discussing the apparent miraculous ability of all Asian women to peel their fruit in what seems to be a meticulously practiced manner resulting in a "beautiful" piece of skinless fruit (nightmares about my mom and apples spring to mind for me...), which I hold an interest in, because of my complete lack of said skills. To clarify, my mother literally once told me something along the lines of I wasn't a woman and would never attract a man because I peel my apples like a clumsy barbarian. Mind you, this was coming from the woman that asked me to peel the apple for her in the first place. Personally, I like skin on my fruits.

That being said, though, she ALSO shares this weird phobia about pesticides. She lets me eat the skins on fruit now provided I wash them VERY INTENSELY with this odd,special chemical spray that she dug up from god knows where that is probably going to end up killing me faster than any pesticide ever could. She even goes out of her way to get Concord grapes (which she is convinced comes from her homeland and is shipped to the local Asian market simply because that's where she found it) just to get me some fruit I have to peel to eat. I hate Concord grapes for this very reason. I mean, really, seeds AND a thick, rubbery skin? C'mon. That fruit wasn't meant to be eaten. They'd have engineered a more hapless victim by now if it were. Like seedless mandarin oranges.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog and first of all: kudos on your writing!

This fruit peeling thing is not just Japanese -- even the Chinese do it. My wife who hails from Mainland, peels everything, and only recently switched to eating grapes with skin after a couple of decades in the US (and primarily due to laziness).

I maintain that main difference between Indians and Chinese (I am Indian, BTW) is that the Indians eat the skin of fruit but not the skin of animals while the Chinese eat the skin of animals but not the skin of fruit.