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Showing posts from March, 2010

Kimchi in the Bathtub

A friend recently gave us a crash course on making kimchi , and after our trip to Korea last year we were eager students. We'd made sauerkraut in the past, so kimchi seemed like a logical step in fermented foods. Our take home prize from the evening was a five liter jar of that healthy, tasty, spicy fermenting brew . (Ok, it's not really in the bathtub anymore, but we do keep it in the bathroom for the cool temperature, and because it's easy to mop up if the brew overflows with enthusiastic fermenting.) Haksai, or Chinese cabbage was just finishing up, and it seemed like a logical use for the extra heads in the Takashi's field. We peeled, cored, and sliced twelve heads, and then worked them over with a sprinkling of salt. The salt on the cabbage caused it to almost immediately wilt and release water. We continued adding cabbage and salt and massaging with our hands until the bowl in question was well full of wilted cabbage and frothy brine. (The froth resulted fr

Mottainai: Garbage in Japan

A recent article about students at Wisconsin working on simplifying the garbage system at a cafeteria just made me smile. Tokyo residents have been doing this since 2005 , and the Japanese even have a word for the philosophy behind this - Mottainai - that expresses regret at the loss of respect for the inherent value of something. There's also a campaign by the same name that has made this expression part of daily life. I have to say, too, that after one year of living here and sorting our garbage this way it really isn't so bad. Each day a different kind of garbage is picked up (plastics - three kinds - on Monday; burnables - compostable food bits, mostly - on Tuesday and Friday; non-burnables - clothes, batteries, etc. - on Wednesday; and paper on Thursday). We made a few mistakes at the beginning and found our bags with the bright yellow stickers on them telling us (and our neighbors) of our error, but now we've got the hang of it. Sorting our garbage and recycl

JA Maps: Tracking the Neighborhood Farm

When I can't make it to one of the farmer's markets or my garden is at in-between stage, I pull out of our best finds yet. It's a handy little map from our local JA (Japan Agriculture) office. One side shows a map of the area with all of the local farms and farmstands clearly marked. On the other side are photos of some stands with a short description of their produce, plus a handy chart showing when assorted vegetables are in season and can be purchased. The best part of all? More often than not the field or orchard where the kiwis came from is visible just over the fence. The map is all in Japanese, but that isn't much of an obstacle. Familiar friends like broccoli and cabbage will undoubtedly lead to experimenting with an assortment of new vegetables - daikon , satoimo , and komatsuna , to name just a few - as well as a little language practice!

Snow in Tokyo

We thought we'd left the snow in America , but it turns out it followed us all the way here. Gray skies full of rain that turned to snow by the afternoon with damp, bone-chilling cold.

Tokyo Garden Greens Ready to Eat!

I stopped by the garden on an early morning foray. (Jet lag is good for that sort of thing.) I found beds ready for harvest! Komatsuna, red and green karashina, big heads of broccoli and cabbage, and spinach planted late last year are all ready to go. Arugula and wasabina are all showing signs of regrowth, and the kale is showing signs of life, too. Picture note All of the rows have covers - netting or plastic with ventilation holes - to keep the plants a tad bit warmer as well as keep out some critters. The photos of the cabbage, arugula, and broccoli are hazy due to the netting of the floating row cover, and the edges of the plastic row cover shows on a couple photos, too.

A Forty-One Year Old Cake

As our visit winds down my mother is trying to get in every last flavor she knows we love or remember. We've had meatloaf (twice), blueberry pie, chicken and rice, tatertot casserole, homemade coffeecake , good sharp Wisconsin cheddar and German sausage. (We've also gained about seven pounds, as one might expect.) At a recent family gathering, my mother prepared for dessert a cake she's been making for my birthday as long as I can remember. She confirmed, as well, that she's had the recipe since the year I was born. Coincidence? Perhaps. This recipe turns the average angelfood cake it into delicious layers of bitter chocolate and coffee that simply melt in your mouth. The recipe, a battered and besplattered piece of magazine paper that my mother reports is perhaps from a 1969 or 1968 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine is tucked in the cookbook she keeps on the counter . My mother's adage, "It's only air." as she encourages us to eat some