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The Olympic rings in noodles and cucumber

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Perky pork

What connects deep-fried pork cutlets, black and pink noodles and the Beijing Olympics? An appeal to Japan’s ancient fighting spirit or a clever marketing trick, depending on how you look at it.

All Nippon Airways served what appeared to be an ordinary, tepid airplane lunch on its Tokyo-Beijing flight – “katsu” pork with curry, beefsteak with a cheesy crust, “somen” noodles. But a look at its in-flight magazine revealed that in fact, the aluminium trays contained a small homage to Japan’s athletes, and each ingredient had been carefully selected for its pun value.

“Katsu” means “breaded cutlet” as well as “to win”*; the chewy, cheesy crust is meant to resemble a gold medal; the noodles evoke the five Olympic rings; the red snapper, in Japanese, is golden and therefore another symbol for sporting success. Even the cucumber slices were hollowed out to give them a ring shape.

And in case you still didn’t get the message, the headline in the magazine spelled it out for you: “Gambare, Nippon!” (“Keep fighting, Japan!”)

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