Balanced

The lunch tray at the train depot in Sapporo, Japan, was the Goldilocks of lunches, balanced in every regard—neither too small nor too big, slow yet fast and as indulgent as it was austere. It consisted of three small chicken meatballs, takuan pickled radish, miso soup and onigiri rice balls wrapped in nori, one with salmon, the other with an ume pickled plum. Photo by Natalia Osiatynska, taken in 2009 with the Ricoh GR Digital 2.

Spring. Renewal, rebirth, awakening. The seasonal equivalent of a sunrise. Thus, maybe also the seasonal equivalent of the East.

From there, it’s not a stretch to suggest that springtime is for Asian fare. Think about it. We’re done eating stew. We want lighter, vibrant foods. Eagerly we wait for the local radishes and bunches of asparagus to catch up with the times. Alas, we’re relegated to food that’s been flown to our shops from the Antipodes. Here’s an idea: instead of preempting the local spring offering, we can embrace this vernal break from being good locavores to explore Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai or Korean. It’s a way to fill our bodies with nutrients and sensations we haven’t been getting. It’s a way to cut out dairy, wheat, meat or all of the above—without deprivation. It’s a way to diet without dieting, travel without traveling. It’s a (fascinating, sensual, complicated) shortcut to restoring balance, and isn’t restoring balance really what springtime is all about?

Balance appears absolute: just enough without spilling over into too much; necessity and sufficiency; speed and endurance; lightness and strength. Achieving balance, however, is a subtle, relative quest. What is needed, after all, depends on what is missing. And excess? Excess must go.

At our house, when we want to restore balance, we make Japanese.