Friday, November 14, 2014

Trying Nattō なっとう For The First Time

This week, i went on a bubbletea date with a new friend I made at a japanese movie set recently. We got into the topic of unique Japanese food and she told me to try something called "Nattō" but warned me that though it tasted great, it did not smell great. Always up for a food challenge, I invited her to go for a walk to a nearby Japanese grocery store so I could buy some.

If you've never heard of Nattō (なっとう or 納豆), it is fermented soybeans typically mixed with shoyu or soy sauce as well as mustard. It's usually accompanied with a carb like rice or bread and boasts a variety of health benefits.

I took a long sniff of the package and didn't think it smelled too bad so it can't possibly taste that bad right? Besides, i've liked everything Japanese that i've ever tasted so I was confident this wouldn't be any different.

At this point, i am excited and curious about what i'm about to get into.

I opened the package and sniffed again... still not too bad. I proceed to open each sauce packet and peel off the plastic layer covering the soybeans. Stringy. Oh boy.

I start to mix and see how truly stringy, ooey-gooey, and slimy this is. Oh boy x 2.

The moment of truth. It's hard to understand how incredibly slimy this is until you mix it and see it for yourself. I took a deep breath and put a heaping spoonful of fermented soybeans and rice into my mouth. Smell: not too bad. Taste: Tolerable. Texture: ......... (O____O) It felt like I was swishing around a spoonful of mucus inside my mouth. It just felt wrong! I guess this is how some people must feel having (bubbletea) pearls inside their mouth for the first time.

Would I try it again? Sure... but maybe mix it with something sweet or have it as part of a smoothie as others have suggested.

Would you try nattō?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Best Job Ever?

This week, I made $250 in cash eating chocolate for 4 hours. Best job ever? For a chocolate lover like me, it's pretty high on my list of "best jobs ever"! It all started with a survey...

photo from

Since after high school, I've been signed up with a consumer research company where I fill out short surveys for a chance to qualify for paid focus groups. Companies wanting the research are usually very specific in the demographics of the people they are looking for so in the 7 years that I've been a member, i've only ever qualified and completed one study... until this one, and this one just so happened to be the best focus group this company has ever conducted (their words!)

A well known chocolate company wanted us to try different variations of one of their existing flavors and they wanted to know how we liked or disliked every aspect of the chocolate. We had to rate everything from the size of the chocolates to the shininess to the chewiness, sourness, bitterness, hardness, softness, and more.

Our chocolate tasting was split up into an hour each day for four days. There were 5 rounds of tasting each day and for each round, you are presented with a bowl containing about 10-15 chocolates. You are welcome to eat as little or as many as you want in order to form your opinion. Of course, I went with the latter and on day 1, round 1, I finished almost the entire bowl. I started regretting this decision in round 3 when my teeth started to hurt and I was starting to get dizzy from consuming so many chocolates in such a short time frame!

By day 2, we all knew what to look for as soon as each bowl was presented to us. We finished the questionnaires in almost half the time and learned our lesson to only eat as much as we needed to. By day 3, we all felt like chocolate experts and by day 4, I reverted back to my day 1 habits and ate as much as I could... just because it was the last day and when would i be able to get paid to have a buffet of one of my favorite chocolate brands again?

It's now nearing the time that I've been doing the chocolate tasting for the last 4 days. My head kind of hurts and my stomach growling, as if it's saying "where's my chocolate!!!???" It was an awesome experience but i don't think i'd want to do it full time. I'd probably get sick of chocolates and have sky high dental bills!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Experience as a Movie Extra

Last Friday, I experienced being a movie extra for the first time. I've always enjoyed acting and in fact, since I was a kid, I dreamed of being in the entertainment industry. When other kids were dreaming of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or a dinosaur, i dreamed of becoming a singer or an actress. But little by little, as i grew up, I started to believe that i could never achieve that. That, people in the entertainment industry are a different breed, a special kind of talent, and that wasn't me.

I went on to go the "normal" route of finishing school, going to post-secondary school and finding a good paying job. I eventually did what I had long wanted to do, which was to quit my job in pursuit of an entrepreneurial dream. I love being an entrepreneur, but through the years, opportunities to be in front of people or in front of the camera just started presenting itself to me without me looking for it. News interviews, hosting gigs, speaking engagements, and eventually a commercial. My husband encouraged me to continue pursuing that childhood dream, but i brushed it off, putting up my own limitations... "nah, i'm not good enough for that.", i would say again and again. After being in a slump for most of 2014, I finally just said "screw it! i may not be good enough, but i'll at least give it a shot" so I went online to start looking for opportunities and landed on one that said "looking for young asian adults, aged 17-25". I am past 25 now but being in the "screw it!" mindset, i decided to submit my photo and resume anyway and see what they say. Immediately, they said yes.

I wasn't going to get paid for this extra gig but there was promise of LOTS of free food so I was definitely down for that! Besides, I wanted to get more experience in the industry to see if it was really something I wanted to pursue further.

The movie was going to be directed by someone who had worked on films such as Avengers, Ender's Game, and Sin City so I knew it was legit and didn't have to be afraid it was some kind of scam and I would end up on the 5 o' clock news. It was a Japanese film and we were instructed to come dressed as people going to a party during Fall season so I put together my best party outfit and went on my way.

When i got there, there was a tent full of Japanese people and another tent full of food. I got nervous as 99% of them were Japanese (with Japanese as a first language) and they all either came with a friend or a group of friends, I was alone. It didn't take long though before the ice was broken and everyone started to form friendships. Trying to get a non-Japanese person to memorize and recite a tent full of Japanese names can definitely break the ice.

After an hour of waiting, chatting, and eating - we were told that we would be called in, in groups of 5, for costume fitting. Costume fitting? I thought what I was wearing WAS going to be my costume. We eventually found out that this Japanese party was going to be set in the 90's. When it was my turn to get fitted, the costume designer ran her hands through each outfit hanging on the rack and paused at an outfit involving a furry bright green coat. She started to move on as I sensed that she thought "there's no way she'll want to wear this" so i quickly piped in and said "i'll wear it!" and with a happily surprised look on her face, she handed me the full costume which involved a patterned orange crop top, a jean/leather mini skirt, a neon green see-through plastic backpack, and the furry green coat. She asked for my shoe size and handed me a pair of really high heels and asked if I was wearing white socks underneath. I told her that unfortunately I was wearing pink socks with donuts all over it, to which she responded, "perfect! the tackier the better" Ha!

Call time was 7pm but by 11pm, we were still waiting outside in the cold and by this time I had probably consumed 3 pizzas, 50 gummy bears, coffee, 2 cheese strings, chips, and trail mix so I wasn't complaining. Finally, we were called to the party scene which was outside, under a tent that was decorated with lanterns, balloons and lights.

We were instructed to dance (with no music) and talk amongst ourselves but with no sound. It felt awkward at first but it didn't take long to get used to the pretend dancing and talking. We had to do a few other fun scenes and for the last scene, they wanted us to talk amongst ourselves again but this time with sound and ONLY in Japanese. Uh-oh, i thought. Thankfully, my new Japanese friends were quick to give me training and taught me a few easy words that I could just say in between pretend laughing. 

Me and my fellow pretend party-goers / Japanese instructors :)

6 hours later, we wrapped things up, i exchanged contact information with new friends, and said my goodbyes. I couldn't stop grinning and was on such a high that I could hardly sleep that night. The following day, I was to host our church's 14th anniversary party and I couldn't wait. It made me think about why I was feeling this way. While it would be my husbands worst nightmare to stand in front of hundreds of people and speak, it made me excited. While most people would complain about sitting around in the cold for 6 hours and mingling with strangers only to be put in front of the camera to do the same thing over and over again, i couldn't get enough. I'm nowhere near a superstar, my gigs are very humble and "small time" but by the end of all the festivities this weekend, I turned to my husband and said "i've never felt so alive." Perhaps this is what they say about loving what you're doing, even when you're not being paid. I don't get paid to host, I don't get paid to be interviewed, heck, I didn't even get paid to be an extra in that movie but... I just can't seem to stop smiling.

What would you keep doing, even if you weren't paid?