When I was little, talking maybe 6 or 7 here, I had my grown-up years all planned out. I was going to be a farmer's wife. Not because I particularly liked animals or growing things (not too green of thumbs here). Definitely not for the hard, back-breaking work. And if I knew I would have to wake up before the sun every morning, I would most assuredly have found a different occupation to fulfill my true dream. No, I wanted to be a farmer's wife for the simple reason that I would have milk every day, and better yet, it would be free!
Growing up, I loved milk. Still do. Without even trying I can drink, by myself, an entire gallon in 6 days. I laugh at those who buy milk by the quart and have to throw away the last cup or two because it went bad. But growing up in Japan--which was the best experience I could have ever dreamed for--stuff's kinda expensive, and with a family of five, one cup per person per day uses up the liter of milk pretty quickly. Maybe that's why I loved it so much, it being like a precious commodity to my elementary mind and all.
When I was 12 and 13, we lived in this orange-roofed house that shared a wall with the neighborhood park. On the other side of the park was a little mom-and-pop store. At the front of our house was the road, but our "back yard" if you could call it that butted up against what my siblings and I called the red brick road. It was a road strictly for pedestrians (and bikes, and rollerblades, and skateboards, you know--anything but a car. One time a motorscooter drove on it) and it was made of, you guessed it, bricks painted red. We would walk up and down it singing "We're off to buy some milk, some rolls, and some cheese. Because because because because becauuuuuuuuse! We're all out of them at home!" People are generally very private, but they stared at us for that. We didn't care.
I was often sent to this mom-and-pop store for milk or rolls. The bell above signaled my entry, and the guy behind the cash register would belt out "Irashaimase!" Which, in translation, means, "Welcome to the store!" You know how they do at Cici's, every time a new customer walks in the door every person on the payroll hollers "Welcome to Cici's!" and after the third time you visit, it's really annoying? It's kinda like that, but without the annoying part.
One time I went up to buy rolls for dinner. My dad went with me and on the way told me a horror story from a couple years ago when he went to buy rolls alone. They all look alike from the outside. The packages have written on them what kind of roll each bag contains, but it's all in Japanese. He grabbed what he thought were nice, fluffy rolls and when he got home, my mom read the label and turns out the rolls he picked up had bean paste in them. Not a pleasant surprise if you have unrefined American taste buds. :-)
Then I heard about the time my mom was a single missionary in Japan, and she had been outside and it was really hot. (This was before she learned how to read Japanese.) She went to a store similar to the one by our orange-roofed house and went directly to the ice cream section. She found this amazing-looking fudgesicle but when she took a huge bite (because it was so hot outside) all she got was a mouthful of frozen bean paste.
Here is what some bean paste looks like. You can click the picture for a recipe on how to make it. I don't suggest you do.