Mottainai Grandma: How a Japanese expression grew into a global movement

Julia Marino
HolaTomorrow
Published in
7 min readAug 28, 2020

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My first taste of a language has always been through food.

“Arroz con leche, me quiero casar con una señorita de Portugal…”

These playful lyrics and their accompanying melody bring back memories of a childhood in my beloved Bolivia. I can still taste the warm, comforting canela, pasas, and sweetened milk and feel how the “Rs” rolled fluidly off my tongue as a toddler, a talent I later lost after returning to the States. Later, while growing up in Ohio, we’d take an annual road trip to Philadelphia where we’d visit the big Sicilian family and share big family meals together at my grandparents’ old place, a majestic house with wooden shingles, mossy ponds, and a kitchen that always smelled of pine, garlic, and grape juice. Few of us in the house actually spoke Italian, but we knew the names of all the ingredients and aromatic dishes that would adorn the table — manicotti, spaghetti, ravioli, rotini, Pecorino-Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, penne, and pesto!

Fast forward to Tokyo, 2017, and my first foray into the Japanese lexicon of food — tako, toro, unagi, meguro, soba, yakitori, tempura, gohan, gyoza, rame — the daily Japanese menu revolved routinely from my lips like the constant spiral of conveyor belt sushi. I ate them up with a…

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Julia Marino
HolaTomorrow

Let's make the world better, one step, one breath, one bite at a time. life designer. food lover. nature explorer. seeing beauty in the imperfect.