Simplicity and thrift: two nicer words for “lazy” and “cheap.”

This post should be subtitled, Oh God I’m Turning Into My Mother.


Doling out Domino’s pizza at my birthday party. Note the industrial-sized Amway dish soap in the background!

The queen of simple, thrifty meals, my mother was serving salads for dinner long before the monomaniacal paleo crowd decided “power salads” were cool. Her greatest trick was cooking a large batch of stew on Sunday and serving it all week – until it was gone, rancid, or we couldn’t take it anymore. She had many standbys: Cold macaroni noodles topped with sliced tomatoes, pepper and salt. Marinated cucumbers. Crock pot everything. She was a paragon of overworked 90’s moms, complete with curled bangs, and yet we never once had to resort to Hamburger Helper (whose commercials with their cute little talking rubber glove really enticed me as a child, but which she labeled “crap” and refused to buy). I have as many fond memories of my mom, glass of Franzia in hand, kicking me out of the kitchen for “pestering” as I do of her teaching me how to beat eggs or simmer giblets for gravy (“Watch. Like this. All there is to it. Now out!”). As it should be – leave that cloying mother-daughter stuff to Hallmark, I say! My mom was real and she knew that sometimes the best way to teach is not to say anything at all while your kid experiments with lumpy pancake batter in the wrong kind of pan.

So, on that note: Welcome to the Lazy Beggar’s Guide to Cooking in Japan! I’ve come several years and 5,000 miles from my mom’s cluttered kitchen to a tiny town in Fukuoka prefecture, Japan. Almost immediately upon arriving last year, I developed an interest in the curious new world of the Japanese market, and have taken every opportunity to discover and experiment with what’s available. The results are (usually) pleasing. So, I’ve created this blog as a resource for those of us who want to eat well in Japan while saving our money for the more important things, like all-you-can-drink plum wine and impromptu trips to the Philippines.

The two main principles here:

Simplicity. What’s cooking about? Impressing your friends with elaborate dinner parties? Posting photos of your meals on Instagram and Pinterest? Cooking new, exotic dishes every night of the week? Maybe some of the time, but trying to cook like a Top Chef contestant every night is a recipe for burnout. Cooking, in my opinion, is first and foremost about feeding yourself and those you love. It’s not always a “special event,” it’s a daily routine of fulfilling a basic need. Navigating Japan is hard enough – cooking can be simple while also being healthy and delicious. That being said, if you want to cut carrots into blossom shapes, who’s to say you can’t!

Thrift. I thought Lazy Beggars sounded better than Lazy Thrifters, but thrift is really the heart of the blog. Many people complain that groceries in Japan are pricey – and on some levels, that’s true, especially if you’re only relying on foods you were used to in your native country. But it’s certainly possible to eat copious amounts of yummy food – without resorting to cup noodles – if you shop flexibly. This grew easier as I familiarized myself with the strange, new ingredients in my local markets and slowly branched out from the old familiars I’d relied on in the U.S.

I’ll try my best to feature foods that can be easily found in Japan (or at least my part of Kyushu), for which you won’t pay out the nose, and that don’t require exhausting amounts of time to prepare. I’m not Japanese, so if you’re looking for traditional Japanese recipes, or if you’re some sort of washoku purist, this blog is only going to piss you off. I find Japanese food to be inspiring, and sometimes I attempt my own miscegenated versions of Japanese dishes, but often what I make wouldn’t be claimed by any culture. Yet the meals are fresh, healthy, and tasty – that’s good enough for me.