Cat Food Meals ... But Please, Not in Public

Cat looking up from rice bowlOne of the nicer things that's happened to me this year is meeting Seth and Vickie. Items on their life accomplishment list include teaching English in Japan. Besides hearing some great stories, it's fun talking with them about Japanese culture from a western perspective. Blog posts from Sarah Marchildon's Hollywood North Report are a common starting off point.

During one of these conversations (which started at a Malaysian restaurant as I ladled a tasty curry onto my rice) I was told how evil it is to adulterate your rice in Japan. Soy sauce on rice = ketchup on steak. But — and this is a big but — the Japanese are not without a white rice guilty pleasure . . . there's this thing called "cat food meals".

Compliments of Vickie, a pointer to this explanation from Blue Lotus Blog: Back to food:

Neko manma literally means "cat food" (manma being baby talk for solid food) and it refers to the dish that results from mixing the leftovers of a meal together, which is then fed to the cat. It's usually rice mixed with miso soup or the liquid from stews like the one above and happens to be an absolutely delicious way to finish a meal, but it is bad manners both to mix food and to add stuff to rice (people here have a weird thing for the sacred purity of white rice and would drop dead with shock if they saw a westerner pour soy sauce directly onto her rice). So even everybody loves eating this way, they all know it's bad manners and continue to call it cat food. Even when there's no cat and they have every intention of eating it themselves. Anyway, try neko manma for yourself, but do it at home--this is not something to do in company.

It seems Japanese cats are no more the beneficiaries of cat food meals than North American dogs are of doggy bags!

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