What’s With That: Cream puffs, HPV, and Barbie

What’s with the news: Tokyo-based confectioner Hirota has joined forces with Yamani Soy Sauce to release a new, slightly unusual dessert.

Soy sauce ice cream and … soy sauce cream puffs? Wow, that sounds terrible. Naturally, palates are impacted by culture and geographic locale. Slather some Vegemite on your toast tomorrow morning and experience the jarring phenomena for yourself.

However, there is a greater purpose behind Hirota’s venture. Yamani is located in Rikuzentakata, a city devastated by last year’s tsunami that left over 15,000 people dead and even more without food or shelter. A portion of the ice cream and cream puff sales will go toward aid efforts in Rikuzentakata.

But seriously, are people actually going to eat this stuff?

Screw dessert – let’s go, shot for shot.

What’s with us: Renowned sushi chef and Mikuni Chief Dreaming Officer Taro Arai was born in Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan. In 1987 he and his family moved to Sacramento, where they opened their first Mikuni, now one of the most successful restaurant businesses in our region.

“I appreciate their thoughtful project,” said Arai. “I really like the unique idea — to use soy sauce flavoring. Maybe they are trying to catch people’s eyes by creating something different. It makes sense to work with Yamani. At Mikuni, we sold over 4,000 Rescue Rolls at $12 each to raise money for the tsunami fund. I think, to raise money, it might work better to create very tasty soy sauce-flavored rice crackers, which are already popular, with some unique shape to represent the city or city mascot. Or they could create a special bottle with an eye-catching package and announce that some percentage of the sales will go to the tsunami fund.

“The Japanese palate is different from the American palate. When I had just moved to America from Japan, I thought all the flavors were too strong. For example, I thought cake tasted too thick and sweet. The Japanese palate is more simple, delicate and light.

“I would try it though!” Arai said about the desserts, “I used to make wasabi yogurt, but I can’t imagine that soy sauce-flavored ice cream would be my favorite. My family members said it sounded disgusting — we use soy sauce in everything except for dessert. It is somewhat too salty. I don’t think Americans would like it, definitely. I haven’t seen any ketchup or mustard-flavored ice cream or cream puffs.”

I like to fancy myself a culinary adventurist, but I certainly won’t be making the trek to try these any time soon. There are easier ways to support relief efforts, ones that don’t require a Coke back.

What’s with the news: Not too many parents worry about their 11-year-old contracting venereal disease, but a number of health organizations are suggesting that perhaps they should.

The debate centers around the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, traditionally recommended for women ages 11-26, though the topic of male immunization is also growing more popular. The vaccine prevents cervical cancer in women, and both genital warts and other forms of cancer in men and women. While HPV is traditionally associated with sexual intercourse, research suggests that any genital contact can easily pass the virus.

A lot of people think the vaccine is great. A lot don’t. If you don’t like those links, a quick Google search should still prove that I am not lying to you. Parental hesitance in regards to overvaccination is not necessarily new. However, it seems that the mere idea of one’s preteen bumping uglies is extra unsettling, and perhaps a bit too much for a lot of parents to swallow.

Hold still sweetie, it’s time for your harlot vaccine.

What’s with us: Jessica Brown is a public heath prevention specialist who has worked with Planned Parenthood, Sutter Physician Services and the Department of Health Care Services. She currently works with her nonprofit, the Encouraging Life Organization, to create community health initiatives for the purpose of eliminating disparities in underserved communities. Last month she weighed in on quick-fix weight loss methods, and this week she’s here to talk HPV.

“HPV is very common,” said Brown. “Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected and 6.2 million become infected with it each year. Fifty percent of sexually active men and women acquire HPV at some point in their lives.

“There are a lot misconceptions regarding HPV. One is the belief that a person can only get HPV by having vaginal sex. This is clearly not true. A person can get HPV by engaging in any sexual contact with a person who is infected with HPV. Another is the belief that a person can only get genital warts if the warts are visible. This is not true either. The virus sheds on top of the skin and can still be transmitted to another person without being visible.

“Cervical cancer typically does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced. It is important for women to get regular checkups such as pap smears, which screen for abnormal cells that are linked to HPV. However, there is no routine test for HPV. With the exception of cervical cancer screenings, there is no routine test for genital warts, and patients are usually tested only after exposure and the appearance of symptoms. There is no approved test to find HPV or other related cancers in men.

“The vaccine prevents females from contracting genital warts and cervical cancer,” Brown concluded. “In males the vaccine prevents HPV cancers and genital warts. There are no known side effects of the vaccine, except reports of soreness of the arm after the dose is administered. Planned Parenthood offers the vaccine and has a program that can assist with getting the shots for little or no cost.”

At the end of the day, "genital warts" simply doesn’t have the same acceptable ring to it as "rubella" or "polio". Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter whether a parent believes HPV is caused by sexual intercourse versus sexual contact. To people opting out of the vaccine for their children on such grounds, splitting hairs is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. While the whole issue of required vaccination is dicey at best, there’s something to be said for being better safe than sorry. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t care what they are carrying, and even more simply do not know.

What’s with the news: Barbie is back in the news, because we all know that bitch doesn’t get nearly enough attention.  Model Katie Halchishick, co-founder of Healthy is the New Skinny, posed for a photograph with Barbie’s proportions outlined on her own body a la “Dr. 90210" to illustrate just how weird and wholly unnatural Barbie’s body is. 

Barbie on a real girl is more than a bit horrifying, especially when you note that Barbie’s waist is only slightly larger in diameter than this model’s freaking bellybutton. And those eyes are borderline extraterrestrial. What on earth are we teaching young girls, or boys, for that matter?

Cancel our dinner reservations – it turns out my pelvis is not wide enough to support the overwhelming weight of my breasts.

What’s with us: Elizabeth Sweet is a UC Davis doctoral candidate in sociology whose current research examines the role of gender in children’s toys and toy advertising over the 20th century. She is also the mother of a 10-year-old daughter who she considers to be her best research assistant on toys. She offered her thoughts on not only Barbie-imposed body dysmorphia, but also gendered toys in general.

“I would say that Barbie is definitely emblematic of the changes that have been happening in children’s toys, especially over the past 40 years,” said Sweet. “Not only have toys become increasingly gendered over this time, but the messages about both the body and gender roles have become, in my opinion, increasingly problematic. While Barbie has never been representative of real women’s bodies, the doll has undergone several transformations over the years that have exaggerated both her unrealistic body proportions and her über-femininity.

“In terms of bodies, we see the same kinds of exaggeration going on for action figures aimed at boys. The earliest action figures look a lot different than those of today. Researchers have actually studied the changes in body proportions of figures like G.I. Joe and have found them becoming more and more muscled over time, to the point where now they seem like a gross caricature of the masculine form. So both boys’ and girls’ toys seem to be growing more distinct from one another, and convey increasingly exaggerated and stereotypical ideas about masculinity and femininity.

“The problem that I see with toys for girls these days is the messages they convey about what it means to be a woman, and the same thing is true of the messages about masculinity embedded in toys for boys. Girls’ toys tend to emphasize characteristics like beauty, domesticity, nurturing and being sexy — and rarely relate to other characteristics like strength and intelligence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that girls are grappling with serious issues related to body image at increasingly young ages.

“The toy industry tends to argue that they offer what people want, and that what we see happening in toys is demand-driven,” Sweet said in closing. “To some extent this may be true. Nevertheless, it seems surprising that toys are becoming more gendered while, in some ways, our actual society is moving closer toward gender equity. My hunch is that as men’s and women’s roles have become more similar in both the workplace and the home, things like gendered toys become a means of reinforcing the idea that the two genders are still really quite different. It maintains the status quo in terms of our ideas and stereotypes about men and women, and makes the fact that we’re doing more similar things seem less threatening.  But researchers have found that ideas and stereotypes matter a lot in terms of what people actually do – they can steer people towards some things and away from others. So if the idea that science is for boys and nurturing is for girls becomes even more prevalent than it was in, say, the 1970′s, this may have worrisome consequences for increasing gender equity down the road.”

So to tie it all together, everyone get your daughters that damn HPV vaccination. Barbie has already given her a license to tramp around  town anyway.

Sad news all – "What’s With That" will be on sabbatical for the duration of the month while I make a sojourn back to the land of my people, the great state of Wisconsin. I shall return though, more insightful and hilarious than ever (if you do not think I am hilarious, you are wrong).  I know this will be difficult for all of us, but fear not – absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Each week "What’s With That" will find local experts from the Sacramento area to weigh in on national and international news stories. Stumble across an interesting item? Wondering, "What’s WITH that?" Email whatswiththat.sacramentopress@gmail.com
with your ideas!

Disclosure: Allison Joy is employed by Mikuni Restaurant Group Inc.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

August 10, 2012 | 8:31 AM

On the soy sauce flavored ice cream, my motto is to try anything twice, because you just might not “get it” the first time. What is interesting about the HPV virus and the Barbie/G.I. Joe dolls and their exaggerated gender roles, is that they expose different aspects of this country’s historical views on sexuality. The myths and the ethos that have been passed on through the decades and centuries appear to more outdated and destructive over time. Burying our collective heads in the sand will not make HPV virus go away any more than ignoring the underlying messages sent through popular media of what an idea man (six pack abs) and woman (hourglass figure) are supposed to look like, rather than highlighting the importance of who they are (the content of their character) as the measure of their worth. Allison, have a great vacation. I know you have earned it.

Leave a Reply