Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign–“Tako” Bell Then and Now

Grandpa and Tako

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
T.S. Eliot

When I was a kid, my Hawaiian grandfather used to take me octopus fishing. After we cleaned our catch, my grandfather would always force me to eat a piece of octopus. Being a good suburban boy, I retched at the thought of eating a slice of slimy steamed octopus tentacle with the suckers hanging off. Having watched my grandfather routinely rip the back off living crabs and suck the meat out while the crab’s legs clawed at the empty air had already given me reason to distrust my grandfather’s palate.

Years later, a group of sorority girls chided me for not knowing the names of all the different kinds of sushi at a posh Santa Barbara Japanese restaurant. Looking back, I realize that me not knowing the contents of a Dragon Roll was the equivalent of a Mexican American not knowing what a Taco Bell Enchirito was. Sushi for me had always been the futomaki rolls and aburage inari zushi that my Japanese grandmother made on Thanksgiving and New Years.

Being the insecure nerd I was, I felt the need to regain the respect of these sorority girls who had memorized all the Japanese names for tuna, eel, monkfish liver, and salmon eggs, so I ordered tako. For those of you who didn’t fall for the sushi trend, tako is octopus. With the look of someone who loved the rubbery caress of octopus tentacles on the back of their throat, I devoured both pieces of sushi to a chorus of sorority girls squealing with delight. It should be noted that this was the only time in my entire college career that I ever made a sorority girl squeal with any sort of delight.

My Hawaiian grandfather would have been on the floor laughing.

I can still hear his voice, “Eh, Makala, you one smart fella–I mean, fart smella.”

This was my grandfather’s way of saying, “Don’t get cocky, because everyone poos.”

I guess the lesson to be learned is that sometimes the most foreign things can be found in our own backyards and the most provincial things can consist of something extremely foreign. It all depends on how open your mind is.

God, I miss my Grandpa Wood.

Have you every felt foreign in your own family? What can we learn from these experiences?

Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling–my first Weekly Photo Challenge.


36 comments on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign–“Tako” Bell Then and Now

  1. writecrites says:

    I tried tako poke once, but not for me. I do love watching he’e catching crabs in tidepools, though.

  2. Kozo says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jennifer. My friend had an octopus in an aquarium, and we used to love to feed the octopus crabs. They are such lethal hunters. The octopus would grab the crab with all its tentacles and apply constant pressure. When the crab grew tired, the octopus would pull the entire crab apart with one clean jerk.

  3. Love that picture of your grandfather (I assume?). Looks like a smart fella. 🙂

    • Kozo says:

      Very funny, TW. My grandfather was for me the original everyday guru, if I’d only had the wisdom to know it at the time. Thank you for your comment and visit.

  4. As a kid I used to dive for sea urchins for my relatives who could reach the bottom. As soon as I brought them to the boat, they cracked them open and ate them raw with a squeeze of lemon. Yuck! But I do love octopus:) Thanks for sharing.

    • Kozo says:

      Where your relatives eating the yellow sea urchin eggs? If they were, they were exploiting the hell out of you. Do you know how much a pound of “uni” goes for?
      Thanks for the comment.

      • Well, I did it out of enjoyment for free diving. Don’t worry, I was well rewarded, and well fed! Oh, and yes, I was instructed to only gather the female (brown) sea-urchins which contained the orange eggs…

  5. sequoia101 says:

    Congrats on your first weekly photo challenge – well done! I enjoyed getting more than just a quick (and sometimes old) snapshot. Solid storytelling too 🙂 Hope to hear more from you.

  6. I had raw tako in Japan, and it was a gross experience. Takoyaki is delish, however! You grew up in Hawaii? Such a beautiful and amazing place! I love the people there, no matter how touristic some corners get the people are so nice, authentic and welcoming. You can get awesome japanese food everywhere and man, hawaiian food is amazing!!!

    • Kozo says:

      Thanks for the comment and visit, Marie-Pierre. I grew up in NorCal, but my parents sent me to my grandparent’s house in Nuuanu, Oahu every school vacation. I think if I grew up in Hawaii, I would have eaten the octopus with pleasure, but I was a silicon valley suburban kid who found my Hawaiian grandfather rather strange, but loveable. I wish I could tell him how much I appreciate everything he did for me.
      By the way, I love your blog. Having seen Star Wars 40+ times as a kid, I am a wannabee geek anthropologist.

  7. Kozo says:

    It is the end of an era, but Disney can’t mess things up any worse than Lucas did with the prequels, imho. I’m kind of excited for a new Star Wars in 2015 with new special effects.

  8. NIKOtheOrb says:

    To feel foreign in within one’s own family can be a learning experience in some ways. To feel foreign within any group, you can learn to see things from a different perspective, you can experience outside the box (sure you may be called names :-D), and this is something that can help throughout your entire life. When others may be stumped by a problem, as the foreigner, looking in from the outside, you may see a simple solution. Feeling foreign in a group can make you turn out to be a wise one. 🙂

  9. […] and family in NYC; the compassionate meeting I will have today at 2 pm; all the likes I got on the photo challenge post; the Aloha spirit my Hawaiian grandfather gave me;  parents helping with the boys when we need […]

  10. eof737 says:

    I love this post… and while nothing comes to mind, I bet I’ve felt the spirit you express. 😉

  11. Tiffany says:

    Great post. I loved it! Am now following your blog 🙂

  12. Adam S says:

    Great post!! Subtle humor is the most enjoyable kind of humor to read.

    I love this: “Looking back, I realize that me not knowing the contents of a Dragon Roll was the equivalent of a Mexican American not knowing what a Taco Bell Enchirito was.” brilliant!

    I grew up to a father that was born in Austria. On that side of the family, everyone is German. At times it almost felt like being an outsider in my own family. I never learned a whole lot of the language, and that’s what they primarily spoke when everyone got together. It didn’t help that the culture believed that “Children should be seen and not heard”….

    This helped a lot :
    “Du vilst a bier?”
    “Ya vol !”

    (I butchered it, I know)

    • Kozo says:

      Hilarious, Adam. “Du vilst A bier?” Do you want ein beer? I love how we are such a mishmash of cultures in this country.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
      By the way, I really admire how you answered 200+ comments when you got FP’d. I was rolling just reading the comments section–“Thanks for catching the irony.”

      • Adam S says:

        I know, we’re like a big volatile salad bowl!! I really did enjoy the post. I always picture the characters in my head when something’s written well.

        It was like being a *court reporter* for three nights — I swear. There are some weird people out there though! Speaking of volatile…I hope you’re ready. It’s about to get real…very soon my friend.

      • Kozo says:

        Bring it on, but be careful. I think that is what Fonzie said right before he jumped the shark. Wouldn’t want you to STBB–a futile attempt to promote my own acronym. So sad. haha

      • Adam S says:

        I have so much shit piled up on my desk right now. It’ll take be a year before the doodie hits the sheets!

  13. Adam S says:

    Kozo: Post of the week! Check the sidebar on my page. Loved this post!

  14. The sushi pic is making me drool~

  15. Jean says:

    Christmas Eve consisted of oyster stew when I was growing up. My mother thought I could “learn” to like it if I started out by sipping the warm, buttery, oyster-flavored milk with crackers. Yeah, that went down like an octopus tentacle suction cupped to my uvula! Unfortunately, the oyster stew thing ended with my generation.

  16. H. Stern says:

    Found you from Adam S. I really enjoyed this post. I find myself dancing in and out of my own culture, and am constantly redrawing the lines that define who I am.

    “Who I am,” however, does not involve octopus, and I’m quite thankful about that! 🙂

    • Kozo says:

      Haha. I used to hate octopus as a kid, but I really like tako sushi now. It is a good kind of chewy. Hard to explain.
      I bet you can find something in everyone’s culture that seems gross to someone out of the culture.
      Thanks for the visit and comment.

      • H. Stern says:

        Absolutely. If you’re interested, feel free to google “Gefilte fish.” I love it. Email me, though, when you stop gagging. 🙂

  17. sofiasiberia says:

    Hahaha nice post, Kozo! 🙂 I always get disgusted by the idea of catching a living octopus from the sea and .. well process it the way they do, yuk and I feel so sorry for the octopus creature 😥
    Would never it that))
    Sushi is my Love though! 😉 I wish my Siberian grandmother would be making sushi for Thanksgiving, well, that would be a blast! )))

    On my part, when I take a trip to my relatives and get offered to eat something “traditional”, which always includes a lot of meat, garlic, onion and grease, I usually say ‘No’ politely. Cause that seems foreign 🙂 I don’t have to eat what my ancestors used to eat 100 years ago in order to survive in a cold Russian taiga :)))
    Plus I am a vegetarian and having lived and traveled so much abroad, I truly don’t stick to any traditional/national dishes 🙂 Veggies, bread and cheese are quite international and fairly native, I believe, no matter where we are 😉

    • Kozo says:

      You are turning out to be one of the most unique individuals I have ever met. I can’t wait to read your memoir. Thank you for shining your unique light on my blog and in the world in general. I just ask that you dim it a bit while Sunshine, Maddie, and I are trying to sleep at night. haha.

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