From: Peter Rivard
Date: Fri Dec 6, 2002 8:32:52 PM Japan
Subject: The red food is...
Sometimes, when you're on Mars, you just can't get the Martians to understand how funny they are, even when they've asked why you're laughing. "That's not funny," they say. "That's perfectly normal."
Today, at elementary school, I was eating lunch with the fourth graders. Lunch is prepared in big pots in the kitchen, then put onto carts in the hallway; a group of kids from each class (at this school, it's often most or all of a class because some classes have only four or six students) pushes the cart to their classroom and, wearing white coats, loose white cotton hats, and surgical masks, serves the food. The waist-high first graders are unbelevably cute in their mini-surgical garb, but by fourth grade, especially on the bigger kids, it's starting to look a little silly. About the time we sit down to eat, a committee from one of the classes will make an announcement from the kitchen telling us more about today's meal. Today's announcement was typical. "Today, we receive a delicious meal. Fugita-san, thank you very much. There is rice [there is almost always rice]; please eat the seaweed with the rice. The red food is sweet beans. In the soup, the green food is cabbage; the red food is carrots; the grey food is pork; the yellow food is corn; the white food is... (pause, sound of cook whispering in background) sea cucumber; the thin white food is squid; and the white round food is quail eggs. The orange food is a tangerine."
Oh, well, even if the kids don't think it's funny the way that I do, they at least think it's funny that I think it's funny, and I suppose that's a start.