The Origins of Natto
In the beginning was a God of Beans. He was shaped like a bean, and cultivated all kinds of beans on his vast land, and absolutely loved eating his harvests (which explained his bean-shape). He was always experimenting with bean cuisines, to make them more interesting, because really, no matter how much one loves beans, you can get sick of them after some time. So He came up with "tofu", "beancurd", "bean paste", and many many other dishes, most of which tasted delicious.Then one day, the God of Beans decided he wanted to be even more adventurous. He decided to use soybeans and ferment them with "Bacilius subtilis" which is a form of BACTERIA (but good bacteria, He said) via a long chemical process. This "fatal" combination resulted in the most pungent of dishes, strongly flavoured and slimy, and many thousands of years later, Takuya Kimura became a die-hard fan and credited it as the secret of his immense good looks. Natto is now a popular breakfast dish in Japan.
The Famous/Infamous Natto
I am sure you can tell that the above Natto story was entirely fabricated. If you are interested in the real, but boring history of Natto, there is always Wikipedia. But what is NOT fabricated is the fact that our dear Kimura-san is a Natto freak. According to my evil girlfriend (yes, that same evil one who has been tempting me into all sorts of things), she was getting tuition for Japanese, and her wonderful Sensei, knowing her crazed obsession with Kimura-san, went through a Japanese article on "100 Interview Questions with Takuya Kimura" and found this little unknown fact about his Highness.
Now, it is not a secret that I also ADORE Kimura-san. But I absolutely HATE Natto. I remember vividly the ONE and ONLY time I tried this Japanese dish, and it was on our most recent trip to Tokyo. As a result of our jet lag from the flight from New York, we were up bright and early as usual - 6 plus, 7am?? and the only restaurants opened at this hour in Shinjuku were the 24-hour MacDonalds, First Kitchen, and Yoshinoya. Since we had already eaten at First Kitchen, and I would NEVER eat MacDonalds in the Land of Great Japanese Food, we were left with Yoshinoya, which had several outlets in Singapore as well, for our breakfast location.
Let me start off by saying that the Yoshinoya in Japan looks nothing like the ones in Singapore, and the menus were also vastly different (they do have beef bowls though). Since there were only rice set meals on the menu, we placed our orders by pointing at the pictures (I had yet to start on my Japanese lessons). Surprise! The waiter was a young Caucasian male (likely a foreign student in Japan) who tried to ask me in his broken English if I wanted to change this side dish (Natto) to something else, and he was pointing at a gooey yellow lump. "What is that?" I asked. He replied, "Beans." He was struggling to tell me more, and couldn't, but he had an odd expression on his face. I was thinking to myself, "I like beans, and I never tried Natto. What could go wrong?" Well, everything went wrong.
I took two beans into my mouth and almost spat them out immediately. How can I describe it? It was like the equivalent of my food nightmare, with its overpowering strong taste and smell, and it was DISGUSTING. Some have compared Natto to the most pungent of cheeses, where it is an absolutely acquired taste for you to stomach something like Blue Cheese (shudder). Samurai also tried to eat the Natto, and he is never fussy about foods, but he almost fell off his seat while tasting it. IT WAS THAT BAD.
In conclusion, no matter what Kimura-san says about his great love for Natto, and how they made him beautiful (or handsome), I am NOT going to eat Natto ever again. Unless of course, I get to eat Natto that is strategically placed on his naked body, then maybe, just maybe, I can overcome my aversion and have another go at it (and him).
As always, another delectable Kimura-san picture to end the post and whet the appetite.
Takuya: Quick! Get me some Natto! Me: Yes baby, coming right up!