Last time we dealt with the mysterious “poisonous potato”, and today, in honor of the increasing temperatures of the approaching summer in the northern hemisphere, we’ll be looking at something that frequently pops up in anime: food poisoning….
Let’s set the scene: In episode 13 of K-On (season 2), Azusa dreams of visiting the Hirasawa household with an ice cold watermelon as a house gift. Ui serves it up for her sister Yui, who is too busy studying and playing her guitar to come down and greet Azusa. After Ui brings the watermelon up to her sister, Azusa asks her what they had for lunch, to which Ui responds that they ate tempura! With a look of horrified realization on their faces, they race to the stairs to warn Yui not to eat the watermelon, lest she get food poisoning!
But, it’s all a dream, and Azusa wakes up with a start….
Then, at the end of the same episode, Yui returns home from the summer festival where she ate a snow cone. She sees a plate of tempura on the dinner table and decides to eat it… Just as she’s chowing down, she gets a call from Azusa who asks her if she received the postcard she sent. Yui finds it, and reads Azusa’s warning not to eat tempura together with snow cones…
But, it’s too late! And, this time, it’s not a dream… Yui doesn’t feel so well!
So, is it true? Eating snow cones or watermelon and tempura causes food poisoning?
The answer would have to be… False! (sorta…)
I wasn’t able to find any conclusive evidence that eating these foods together or in succession causes food poisoning, per se…. After all, food poisoning is an illness that results from consuming contaminated food (such as by a virus, parasite, bacteria, or toxin), and wouldn’t generally be present in properly prepared foods.
If we assume that Yui ate properly prepared foods, and that the food she ate was not spoiled in any way, then what could have caused her sickness? Where did this food myth originate from?
From what I was able to find (and, admittedly, it wasn’t too much), I have determined that the “food poisoning” is simply a case of an upset stomach! Eating greasy foods (such as tempura) in excess is never a good thing to do, and many sources say that it can cause indigestion all on its own. Adding in extremely cold foods (such as snow cones) could exasperate the indigestion, and cause an upset stomach.
Another reason behind this anime food myth could be the philosophy behind the classification of foods into pairs that should not be eaten together, according to traditionalEastern medicine. These pairs may have something to do with yin/yang theory, or even the classification of foods into “hot” and “cold” categories, as per traditional Chinese medicine. Coincidentally, among these pairs are watermelon and tempura, and unagi (eel) and umeboshi (picked plum), both of which are listed on Azusa’s postcard as food combinations for Yui to avoid.
So, should you eat snow cones and tempura together? Well, you won’t get food poisoning, but you could get an upset stomach/indigestion… I think it really depends on the person and how sensitive their stomach is!
For more information about tempura and snow cones causing food poisoning/upset stomach/indigestion:
- Wikipedia article on food borne illnesses
- Mayo Clinic page on indigestion causes
- Book: East Asian Medicine in Urban Japan : Varieties of Medical Experience by M. M. Lock
- Wikipedia article on Chinese food therapy (“hot” and “cold” foods)