Monday, March 03, 2008

二 二九 (229)

Aomori Prefecture, where I live, is noted for agriculture. Particularly famous throughout Japan are Aomori apples and GARLIC.

So on Sunday, Chris rolls in from Snowboarding at Hakkoda, with a bag of garlic. The garlic came from coworker and fellow foodie, Crocker.

Generally, in keeping with the Japanese tastes, garlic in Japan is mild. Mild to the point of flavorlessness. So when I opened the bag and got a whiff, I was thrilled. If my schnozz was Japanese, the whiff would have been noisome. But thank goodness, my nose is not Japanese and neither is my palate. Redolent, if not down right stinky, stubby fat bulbs of fresh garlic. Hooray! Thanks Crocker!

I lopped the tops off the seven bulbs, stuck them in a baking dish, gave 'em a squirt of olive oil and a roast at 350 for an hour. The I proceeded to eat three bulbs' worth of the roasted cloves, hot from the oven -- squishy and nutty and slightly carmalized and totally delicous.

My breath is so bad right now, I am making my own eyes water. S'alright.

One of the great things about the Japanese language is opportunities for wordplay/puns because of the amount of homonyms present in the language. Actually, I think of a former co-worker, John Jenkins, whenever I see/hear puns or wordplays. The two of us once spent almost an entire afternoon during a slow day at work, making lots of puns, each more obnoxious than the last. There was a pun involving brassieres and brasseries that was a killer. I can't take credit, that one was all John's.

So puns. And Garlic. One of the most well known brands of garlic around here is the 229 brand.

2 is "NI" ( nee or "as in the knights who say") and 9 is "KYU" (kyuu). So 229 could be pronounced as two-two-nine, or in Japanese, ni - ni - kyu ( 二 二九 ). You could also say two hundred and twenty nine, or nihyakunijyukyu ( 二百二十九), but then the joke wouldn't work!

Here's the "punchline" (aside from the fact that I ate so much roasted garlic that I have heartburn right now):

The word for garlic is ninniku (にんに in hiragana; ニンニク in katakana; 大蒜 or in Kanji), which sounds very much like ni-ni-kyu, or two-two-nine (229). So the brand is literally "Garlic Garlic." Clever bit of marketing to select name with a built in mnemonic/catchphrase.

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