Wife says Japanese meals should be eaten in a triangle formation. 

Japanese meals aren’t always as straightforward as they look. Even at breakfast time, a traditional spread can consist of multiple side dishes served alongside rice and miso soup, and while it might look like a free-for-all feast, there can be some taboos and pet peeves involved, depending on where you are and who you’re living with.

Some dining taboos, like dipping the rice-side of your sushi into soy sauce, and waving your chopsticks about while you talk, like Jordan Schlansky did during his visit to Japan with Conan O’Brien, are widely known. Then there are other examples of etiquette that are slightly more obscure, like eating your food in a triangle formation.

The notion of eating your meal in a triangle shape is one that made a stir online recently, following a complaint made by a disgruntled wife on the onayami free online discussion board. The site is a place where people can get answers and advice to all sorts of problems, and this wife’s vexation was that she couldn’t stand the way her husband eats.

What prompted the woman to air her grievances was the fact that she’d recently put a lot of care and effort into making a great side dish for dinner and was keen for her husband to enjoy the taste of the food. However, when she set it down on the table for him, instead of eating the side dish on its own, he put some of it in his mouth along with a portion of rice at the same time.

This set off a big argument between the couple, as the wife became upset that her husband had mixed up the flavours and therefore couldn’t fully enjoy the taste of the side dish. “Why are you always turning everything into a donburi inside your mouth? It’s disgusting,” she fumed, referring to donburi, a hearty one-bowl dish like gyudon or oyakodon, consisting of rice with a topping.

▼ Donburi are served in big bowls and are the polar opposite of expensive, multi-course kaiseki meals

Online commenters were quick to side with the husband on this one, saying that the no matter how good the meal is, it will become far less delicious if there’s no freedom in how it can be eaten. However, what this wife wanted her husband to do is follow the “sankaku tabe” (“triangular eating“) method, which is said to be the most balanced way to enjoy a Japanese meal.

“Sankaku tabe” has been taught in elementary schools around Japan since the ’70s as a way to ensure that children get the most nutrients out of their school lunches. As school lunches typically consist of rice, miso and a side dish, with milk on the side, it’s not difficult to follow the triangle method of eating at school.

Young children are taught to alternate between dishes in a triangular pattern (see image below) to ensure an equal amount of each is eaten.

▼ The act of chewing through different textures is also said to create a feeling of fullness to help prevent obesity.

Once you leave elementary school, things get a little complicated, as students eventually move on to eating bento lunchboxes, often without soup, and then as adults, it becomes a free-for-all, where old rules are forgotten and nobody is around to admonish you for the way you eat your meals.

Some people, however, remain lifelong fans of the sankaku tabe method, especially when eating traditional meals, which are based around the concept of “Ichiju Sansai” (“one soup, three dishes“). Triangle eating here takes on a few more angles due to the extra dishes, but the concept remains the same — alternating between each dish to enjoy their individual flavours, and not finishing all of one dish before the others.

Given its purported health benefits and the fact that it’s taught in schools, sankaku tabe is considered to be a conscientious, polite way of eating. At the opposite end of the spectrum is “bakkari tabe” (“only eating”), where the diner finishes each dish before moving on to the next, while “kouchuu choumi” (“seasoning inside the mouth”) describes the act of mixing the different dishes together in your mouth.

Kouchuu choumi is what the husband at the centre of this debate was caught doing, or as his wife puts it: “turning everything into a donburi inside your mouth”. While the married couple in this situation appear to be bickering over different eating methods, the advice she received after venting her frustrations was to refrain from making judgmental statements like “It’s disgusting”, and instead say something like: “I spent a lot of time making this dish nice so I wanted you to taste it on its own”.

▼ Another alternative would be to just ditch the rice and cook a meal at the table together instead.

The general consensus amongst Japanese commenters online has been leaning towards freedom of eating as you please, especially in the comfort of your own home. And as long as you can learn to communicate with your spouse respectfully, there’s scope for different eating methods to exist peacefully in the same household.

Although if you’re married to a woman who’s made a 100-plus-item menu for you to select meals from, you might want to bow down and yield to all and any of her requests, especially if giant rice cooker okonomiyaki pancakes are on the menu.

Source: Onayami Free via Livedoor News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (12, 3) Flickr/Osamu Iwasaki (edited by SoraNews24), Wikipedia/Michael Maggs
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