Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

CHRISTMAS MEALS GALORE

CHRISTMAS DAY is less than two weeks away. In preparation thereof, I’m reading The Annotated Christmas Carol to get the inside story of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. Wife Dottie and I expect to watch A Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd’s warm take on a kid’s gift from Santa (parts of the movie shot in my native Cleveland). And I just learned an interesting tidbit about Christmastime in Japan.

A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story and the tidbit all have elements of Christmas meals.

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The Annotated Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol in Prose (The Annotated Books), by Charles Dickens, illustrated by John Leech, with introduction, notes and bibliography by Michael Patrick Hearn, Clarkson N. Potter, 1976.

When Scrooge is visited by the second of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Present, his room “had undergone a surprising transformation…. Heaped upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn [flesh of a boar, per Samuel Johnson], great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long links of sausage…” and another nine items of holiday fare.

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Scrooge’s third Visitor (counting Marley), The Ghost of Christmas Present. Image by John Leech from The Annotated Christmas Carol.

Even Bob Cratchit and his humble family dine well on Christmas Day. “Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family.”

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A Christmas Story (Full-Screen Edition), 1983, starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin and Ian Petrella, written by Jean Shepherd.

(Spoiler alert; some of us already know the movie scene-by-scene.) Ralphie Parker has his heart set on an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, despite the universal warning, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

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The Parker family’s Christmas dinner. Image from A Christmas Story.

The family’s Christmas turkey is stolen by the next-door hillbillies’ dogs, and the Parkers end up at the local Chinese eatery, the only restaurant open on Christmas Day. Peking Duck (whack!) replaces the turkey in a memorable Christmas meal.

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Karaage, only part of the Japanese love story with fried chicken. Image from cooklikejapanese.com.

Karaage (KAH-rah-AH-ge) is a technique of Japanese deep-frying, popularly chicken. So it should be no surprise that Japan is the third-largest market for KFC, after China and the U.S. The first KFC in Japan, a joint venture with Mitsubishi, opened in 1970. Today, there are more than 1100 restaurants in Japan where you can “Shake hands with the Colonel,” one of the most successful advertising campaigns in the country’s history.

 

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A typical KFC restaurant in Japan. The sign reads Kentakkii. Image from digitaljournal.com.

A bow, not a handshake, is the traditional Japanese greeting. So to familiarize customers with American ways, each KFC has a statue of Colonel Harland Sanders standing out front, his hands outstretched in greeting. He’s slightly downsized from real life, all the more approachable, and countless Japanese have had their photos taken “shaking hands with the Colonel.”

Another tremendously successful campaign came in 1974 when KFC encouraged “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” Ever since, Christmas with KFC has been a ubiquitous pair in Japan. No more than one percent of Japanese are Christians, but the holiday is celebrated throughout the country. Christmas Eve is KFC Japan’s busiest day, with the Colonel often appropriately attired.

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Shake hands with Colonel Santa. Image from Smithsonian.com.

Though 70 percent of KFC Japan’s business is takeout, there have been attempts of enriching the experience. In 2012, a three-story KFC in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa Station put a fully stocked bar on its top floor. Alas, a comment at its Facebook page seems to imply it’s no longer open.

On the other hand, an Adult Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in 2014 in the Yomiuri Shimbun Building of Tokyo’s Otemachi district. Its “Adult” aspect is a selection of beers with an expanded KFC menu including pasta entries. The food looks appetizing, though the Colonel is nowhere in sight, Christmas-attired or otherwise. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015

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