Archive by Author

Salmon: Self-caught and Cooked

1 Nov

In the opening scene of The Setting Sun, Kazuko describes her mother’s strange way of eating soup.  For Kazuko, this meal is memorable because it’s defines her family’s decadent decline.  In other words, this meal will always invoke memories of her family’s “fall” in society.  Thus, Kazuko defines a memorable meal as any meal that can immediately be associated with a significant memory—good or bad.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Alaska on a cruise with my family.  One of the highlights of our trip to Alaska was going salmon fishing.  Catching the salmon, reeling them in, and posing for a picture with my catch was an enjoyable experience in itself.  But the fact that we were able to have the salmon that we caught shipped home made the experience even more special.
One of my most memorable meals was eating the salmon that my family and I had caught and shipped home.  Dad grilled the salmon with some special herb rub that we bought in Alaska.  And of course, living in Hawaii, the herb-grilled salmon was complimented perfectly by a steaming bowl of rice.  While eating that delicious meal, it wasn’t hard to conjure up memories of our wonderful trip to Alaska.  But even to this day, whenever I reminisce about that meal, memories of my fun-filled trip to Alaska flood my mind.  Likewise, whenever I think about my trip to Alaska, I can’t help but recall that memorable meal of salmon and rice.  Just as the soup defines Kazuko’s family’s decadence, for me, the salmon and rice meal defines my family’s trip to Alaska.

The Power of Soba and Ozoni

18 Oct

In the classic Japanese story, “Momotaro”, the boy hero sets out on his quest with a type of “special power”: Japan’s number one millet dumplings.  These millet dumplings serve as a type of “mythic” food that empowers Momotaro to conquer the ogres/devils awaiting him on a distant island.  The importance of these magical millet dumplings is emphasized by their repeated occurrence in multiple “Momotaro” accounts.
My two favorite “mythic” foods are soba (coincidentally) and ozoni (a flavored mochi soup), which are both consumed on New Year’s Day.  In the Japanese culture, soba is eaten to ensure long life—the length of the noodles symbolizes this.  And Ozoni is eaten at the beginning of the New Year because it supposedly provides “good luck” for the coming year.
Whether or not these “mythic” foods actually provide their “special powers” is another issue.  I enjoy eating these foods at the start of the New Year simply because they taste good.  Each year, my family spends New Years eve at my grandma’s house and undoubtedly, the best part about our New Years gathering is the soba.  My grandma has perfected her soba recipe and each year I try to consume one more bowl than the previous year (recently, this hasn’t gone so well).  I go home stuffed and tired, but I’m already looking forward to coming back to grandma’s house in less than 12 hours to eat multiple bowls of her equally delicious ozoni.  In short, eating my grandma’s soba and ozoni is one of the main reasons why I so look forward to my family’s traditional New Year celebrations.

The Garden 9/30

30 Sep

Yes, the garden is looking quite good.  Going there, I was expecting a very depressing scene.  But as you can see, the transplants seem to be doing well and the originals look ready to be transplanted.  In fact, I think we might have a problem of overcrowding.

Sushi Magic

27 Sep

In “The Gourmet Club” Tanazaki describes a magical food as something you have to taste with your tongue, your eyes, your nose, your ears, and your skin.  In other words, a food can only be considered magical if you taste it through all your senses.
One meal that I would consider magical was my family’s “make your own sushi” dinner. After going to the market to buy everyone’s favorite toppings and cooking a pot of rice, we were all set to begin our sushi creations.  To authenticate the atmosphere, I even wore a happi coat and a hachimaki (Japanese headband).  I, being the salmon lover of the family, was in charge of slicing a salmon fillet into nigiri-sized pieces.  I felt quite powerful as the slick blade of my sushi knife flowed effortlessly through the slimy orange meat.  Quickly, the smells of raw fish, eel, crab, avocado, and nori filled the air.  As this smell grew stronger, I became hungrier and so I began to cut faster.  When I was done, I went to assist my sister with the ahi (apparently she wasn’t affected by the smell of fresh sushi as much as I was).  Finally, after what seemed like hours, our masterpiece creation was laid out and I could tell by the look in everyone’s’ eyes that we were ready to feast.

Our menu:
Salmon nigiri
Ahi nigiri
Unagi nigiri
Garlic salmon roll
Spicy ahi roll
California roll
Unagi avocado roll

With each bite, I ascended further and further into food heaven.  The fact that my hands had prepared this food made eating the sushi that much more enjoyable.  That dinner was one of the largest (in terms of food consumption) and most satisfying meals I’ve ever had.  I can’t wait to do it again.

the garden on 9/23

23 Sep
the garden

You Don’t Know What You’re Missing Out On

15 Sep

spam musubi...mmm

In Kanagaki Robun’s “The Beefeater”, the beefeater is fascinated by Japan’s newest delicacy. Until recently, beef had been reserved only for the emperor.  But with the new westernization movement as part of the Meiji era, beef was now socially acceptable for anyone to consume.  With such a unique flavor (as compared to traditional Japanese meats, like deer or fish) that did not sacrifice taste, the beefeater is left to wonder why such a novel food took so long to become a part of Japanese culture.

One food that I’ve had a similar experience with is spam—Hawaii’s favorite meat.  Yes, I know as you’re reading this, you’re probably cringing and trying to get that disgusting image of a juicy slice of pink spam out of your brain.  Don’t worry.  This reaction is perfectly normal for people who have either not grown up in Hawaii, or not had the pleasure of eating a spam musubi.

From what I’ve gathered growing up in Hawaii, the main reason why foreigners are so opposed to spam is because it was generally viewed as a “lower-class” meat.  Just as the emperor was the only one who could eat beef in Japan (pre-Meiji) because it was seen as an elitist food, most people outside of Hawaii view spam as a food for the lower class.  So, similar to how it was in the Meiji period when one’s food choices indirectly conveyed his/her social status, spam also is a food that apparently shows one’s social inferiority (outside of Hawaii).  People in Hawaii however, are just fine with that judgment.  They could care less how foreigners view them because only they know what those anti-spam people are missing out on.  I though, like the beefeater, am quite curious as to why spam has failed to gain more of an appreciation in the other 49 states.

Garden Update 9/9

9 Sep

Garden at 4 pm

It was a very nice day today.  The sun was out, the sky was clear, but it still wasn’t too hot.  Not much new info to report.  No sprouting yet.  Looked like there was still some moisture  in the ground from the drip system, which must have run earlier today.  If it’s possible, I  think we should try to fix that water hose ASAP–it gets kind of annoying after a while.

Going Healthy

5 Sep

In terms of food, one thing that defines me is that I’m a rather healthy eater.  This doesn’t mean that I torture myself by counting calories and reading food labels (I fall victim to a juicy burger or yummy desert every one in a while).  But given the choice, I’ll usually choose the healthy option: whole wheat bread over white, fat-free milk over reduced fat, fish and chicken over beef and pork.  Now that you know my personal preferences, hopefully you’ll understand why my mom’s blueberry oatmeal bars are one of my favorite foods, which also happens to be a great example of vernacular creativity.

I first came across this recipe on the back of an oatmeal box.  However, the original recipe actually called for raisins and chocolate chips instead of blueberries.  The original recipe also used ingredients such as white sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and white flour.  After successfully baking my first batch of oatmeal bars with this recipe, I asked my mom if she would help me make this recipe more conducive to my liking by using “healthier ingredients”.  She agreed, and after our Whole Foods run, we were ready to try out our own healthy version of the oatmeal bars.  We replaced the raisins and chocolate chips with fresh blueberries; the white sugar with unrefined, organic brown sugar; regular butter with low-fat butter; reduced fat milk with fat-free milk; eggs with only egg whites; and white flour with whole wheat flour.  What came out of the oven 45 minutes later was a gift from oatmeal blueberry paradise.  The smell alone was heavenly goodness, but after my first bite, I knew we had discovered my new favorite healthy vernacular creation.

To this day, that blueberry oatmeal bar recipe remains one of my favorite comfort foods.  In fact, last year, on more than one occasion, my mom mailed me a whole batch of blueberry oatmeal bars.  Then, as soon as I got home for the Summer, that was one of the first foods she made for me.  And even though school just started, I think I’ve already begun to miss those blueberry oatmeal bars—made just the way I like it.