Archive by Author

The Meal that Saved Tiger’s Life

9 Nov

Although I am an old cat with a diminishing memory, I can still remember the day my life turned around for the better. I was a two-month old kitten abandoned at the side of the road. Although I was extremely disturbed that someone would just leave me to die, I focused on finding something to nourish my two pound body. I knew that if I did not eat soon, I would not live to see the morning sun. As I had just begun to lose hope and prepare myself to die, I was suddenly lifted by the neck by a strong black cat. I was frightened, but since I was so weak I could do nothing but let him carry me to the unknown destination.

It turns out the cat belonged to the people who are now my owners, and he dragged me into the house thinking I was a rat he could eat. However, after examining me closely, the youngest human, about eight years old, realized that I was a kitten. She quickly grabbed some canned Friskies and put it in a bowl on the ground for me to eat. Although my standards of good food have definitely changed, that can of Friskies was definitely the most memorable meal that I have ever had in my entire ten years of living. I still remember the way the salmon tasted in my famished mouth–absolutely amazing. The humans were astonished to see me gobble down twice my body weight in nearly an instant.

I was so grateful to these people that I never left them. Every day they are graced by my presence, so I would like to believe. I miss the young human. She used to live at home, but one day she just disappeared, and I only see her about once every three weeks. Oh well…as long as I have my Friskies I’ll survive.

Garden Update 10/25/10

25 Oct

I found that I had to water the garden less today because there was still moisture from yesterday’s rain. The radishes are doing especially well, but for some reason the plants on the bottom left of the garden are smaller than the rest of the plants in the garden. Were those the transplanted ones? Another thing I noticed was that the bugs seem to be leaving holes in the leaves. As long as this damage is kept to a minimum, our garden should be fine. I am truly impressed with the way the garden is coming along, especially the radishes. They look like they are ready to be harvested any time soon.

The Power of Reese’s Puffs

19 Oct

I am sure many of us have seen the Reese’s Puffs commercial in which the cereal is presented as the gateway to good fortune. As soon as the boy puts one spoonful in his mouth, his life becomes infinitely better. His parents suddenly treat him as their master and allow him to do anything that his heart desires. After just one bite, he becomes extremely popular and catches the eye of a famous music group. Not only does this advertisement portray Reese’s Puffs cereal as something absolutely fantastic, but it also brainwashes young children to believe that they too can make their dreams come true after eating some. The boy’s sister seems to carry on with her drab life, probably due to the fact that she herself has not yet had a bite of the wondrous cereal. This definitely underscores the fact that it is indeed the Reese’s Puffs that have forever changed his fate. However, the real propaganda tool is the sister, who desperately tries to get her hands on the cereal box. She represents all the young children who are also dying to try just one bite of Reese’s Puffs. By observing her, they truly believe that the cereal is the key component to success.

Similarly, after becoming familiar with Momotaro’s myth, it is rather likely that millet dumplings became extremely popular in Japan because they were associated with effortless victory. People truly believed that if they too were to consume these “magical” dumplings, they would be guaranteed lifelong success in anything they tried to conquer. Almost everyone loves to eat food–what better way is there to distribute the message of Japanese nationalism through patriotic millet dumplings?

 

Katsuya–a Gateway to Heaven

27 Sep

Tanizaki describes magical food as something that allows you to escape the boundaries of reality. This is paralleled when Count G. “escapes” Japanese food and city life and travels to what seems to be a Chinese gathering in a back alley. Despite the unclean and poverty-stricken atmosphere, the count acts as if he has found a treasure. He then brings back this “luxury item” to his fellow club members, who start to experience foreign sensations as they eat types of food they never dreamed of eating.

Last week, my friend Kat and I were so hungry that it felt like we had not eaten in weeks. However, the thought of eating food from Parkside was not very appealing. We had now been eating there for about a month, and we were ready to try something new. Since we had nothing better to do on a Saturday evening, we decided to take a shuttle to LA Live, the small district near the Staples Center. The sushi restaurant Katsuya caught our eye, and we decided to go in. I honestly didn’t think the sushi was going to be that good, but at that point, I would have eaten almost anything. Boy was I mistaken! That first bite left me absolutely speechless–I had never tasted better sushi in my entire life. The glazed fried shrimp went perfectly with the spicy tuna roll, and for a moment, I thought I was in heaven. I looked over at Kat, who could not believe how good the food was. We kept ordering and ordering, as if the delectable taste of the sushi had hypnotized us into burning holes in our wallets. We finally had to stop because if our parents found out, they would scream at us for wasting that much money for one meal. It was as if a magical force stopped my stomach from filling up. I did not know how this happened, but I did know that I would be back very soon.

26 Sep

I went to the garden today at about 3 PM. It was extremely hot outside, so I knew that the plants needed a lot of water because of the current heat wave. I noticed that the plants in the shade appear to be larger and leafier than the ones in the sun, and we originally believed the plants receiving more sunlight were not growing as well. However, we found out that the plants in the shade are weaker and therefore need to grow more leaves and stretch to receive the same amount of sunlight. Also, like other people mentioned, we should probably space the plants out because some of them appear to be growing too close to each other. Since the next few days are going to be blazing hot, it is important that we water the garden a little bit more than in the previous days.

Garden Day Notes 9/23

26 Sep

On September 23rd, we had a special presentation from our guest artist, Ari Kletsky. He educated us about the unconventional use of traffic islands. Did you know that..

  • …islands were developed before cars? Very ironic, because we think of them today only as traffic dividers.
  • …islands are considered to be the freest place in the American city? There is a twist to this. Although they should be protected by the First Amendment, they have a very peculiar standing in the Constitution. Since islands are a free public space, you would think you could do almost anything on there right? Wrong. In Santa Monica, you can walk or run over a traffic island, but you cannot simply stand there.
  • …the city considers the appearance of traffic islands a trivial issue? This should not be the case. As citizens, it is our duty to make sure we do the best that we can in order to make our neighborhood look nice. Guerilla gardening is not exacly encouraged–get permission from the city first. Be a good citizen and transform your traffic island into a piece of art.

Back to the Garden

It is our turn to be good citizens and care for our little community garden. So far, we have been doing a good job, but Florence Nishida returned and gave us some more tips to ensure that we have the healthiest garden possible.

  • Add organic fertilizer. The soil appears to be drying out because of the hot weather we have been experiencing lately. Remember that aside from water, plants need plenty of nutrients to grow healthily. Also, keep in mind that the fertilizer concentrates in certain spots. It is very likely that the plants growing in areas with more amounts of fertilizer are growing much better. In order to ensure that all of our plants can be healthy, we must make sure the fertilizer is uniform throughout the garden.
  • It is definitely best to maximize our production. Right now, we have our plants growing in separate rectangles, but it’s okay to spread them out in a nonuniform manner. This way, instead of wasting so much space on borders, we can grow as many plants as the space in the garden permits.
  • Tie up plants with long stems. If we leave them hanging, they will shelter smaller plants, thus blocking them from sunlight.
  • Some plants in the sun are dying because they are not receiving an adequate amount of water. when watering, we have to be sure they are getting more water than the plants in the shade because the moisture will evaporate more quickly out in the sun.
  • We have recently been discussing transplanting. Florence has recommended that we wait until the plant’s true leaves have grown. The plants in the sun are at this stage already, but the ones in the shade still have their heart-shaped (seed) leaves. Once the longer set of leaves has grown in, we will know the plant will survive if it is transplanted.
  • When transplanting, selectively pinch the plant with your fingernails or a pair of scissors. Be careful–don’t damage the roots! We already know that without roots, the plant cannot survive because it will starve.
  • Increase space between the plants in case something goes wrong. That way, you won’t have to pry them apart once they are done growing.
  • Although it appears as if the plants in the shade are doing much better, the opposite is true. The plants in the sun are smaller because they are receiving adequate sunlight. If you notice, they do not have as many seed leaves as the plants in the shade. However, the plants in the shade have to stretch in order to receive solar energy, which gives them a larger appearance. So, even though they look a lot healthier, they really aren’t.
  • Be careful when stepping on the garden bed! You don’t want to destroy the environment needed for the plants to grow adequately.
  • You don’t have to wait till the plants are huge. In fact, picking and trimming the leaves will be better for it.

Hope this was helpful!

Garden Update 9/19/10

19 Sep

I went to the garden today at about 3 PM. The sun wasn’t really shining on our plants, but rather the plants on the opposite half of the bed. I also noticed that the plants hugging the edge of the bed are growing much more rapidly than the plants in the middle of the bed.

P.S. I scraped my leg while hopping the fence 🙂

Is Snow White the Only One Eating Poisoned Apples?

16 Sep

So what exactly is a foodie? A foodie is defined as an individual who keeps up with the latest trends in food. Sometimes these foodies get a bit carried away and try to impose their passion on other people, like the man in “The Beefeater” who claims that those who do not eat beef are barbaric. Although these individuals insist that they know the best things to eat, Masanobu Fukuoka begs to differ.

Many people will pay anything to eat fresh produce out of season. According to Fukuoka, this obsession drives food producers to make things like fruits and vegetables, which are supposed to be gifts from Mother Nature, as artificial as possible. They do this because they know how much profit they can earn by selling as little as one crate of apples. If merchants were to sell the actual amount of successfully grown fruit, their revenue would be so little that they would barely be able to keep themselves from starving to death. Keeping this in mind, Fukuoka explains to readers how bruised apples “magically” turn picture perfect after the process of artificial coloration. If the majority of the apples in the crate look delectable, it is highly possible that a very large number will be sold, thus resulting in a greater profit for the merchant. Not only is this unfair to the consumer who expects to receive quality fruit for the amount that he is paying, but it is also extremely unjust to the farmer who works for hours in the hot sun for wages close to nothing.

Fuokoka would call the modern day foodie an idiot, to be quite frank. They may know where the best apple pies are served, but are they aware of what has to be done in order to make these apples look fresh? If they knew the amount of chemicals they were ingesting, they would probably never touch an apple pie again.

Dragon’s Breath & Heart Attack Balls

6 Sep

I have to say, this past summer has probably been my favorite one. Why? Because for the first time in ages I was not burdened by the cruel load of high school summer homework. I was really excited about the fact that I was able to enjoy summer anyway I wanted without having to worry about due dates. To top things off, my favorite cousin spent the entire summer with me. Aside from lazy days and late night 7-11 runs, we experimented with the food we found in my mother’s kitchen. One meal we made in particular stands out in my mind the most.

As usual, my mother had boiled some pasta for us before she left for work. By the time we made it downstairs, it had become cold. However, instead of microwaving it, my cousin and I decided to change things up a bit. “Why not have a cold pasta salad?” we asked each other. So then it was settled. We did include the traditional ingredients, like cherry tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan, and a honey vinegar dressing; however, we also mixed in some unconventional items, such as crushed kettle cooked potato chips. But that was not the best part–to add a finishing touch, we diced onions and put them into the bowl. The newly formed pasta salad looked absolutely delicious, but would it taste as good as it looked? We were about to find out. That first bite was absolutely amazing. We ate the entire pasta salad so quickly and ferociously that it seemed as if we had not eaten for weeks. It was not until about an hour later that we came up with a name for our new dish. The salad itself was good, but the aftertaste was enough to kill anyone. Hence, we named the pasta salad “Dragon’s Breath.” Despite the foul odor in our mouths after, Dragon’s Breath was perhaps one of the best things we have ever eaten.

Experimenting with our main course simply wasn’t enough for us. After our delicious lunch, we decided to make our own dessert. I was really craving fried ice cream at the moment, but the nearest restaurant that served it was about 20 miles away. Then I remembered that one of my best friends taught me how to make fried ice cream from scratch. It’s quite simple really. Take a piece of bread and put a scoop of your favorite flavor of ice cream on top of it. Then, form a bread ball around the ice cream–the bread should completely cover the scoop of ice scream. Lastly, deep fry the ice cream ball on a pan, and after the bread turns a golden brown, turn off the stove. You don’t want to keep it frying for too long because then all the ice cream will melt. That ice cream ball was probably better than any fried ice cream dessert at an expensive restaurant. However, since it is probably 5000 calories, you can have one about every year or so if you don’t want to die of heart disease.

Experimenting this summer was definitely a blast. Now that I am on my own and am not blessed with my mother’s cooking skills, I have a feeling that I will be using vernacular creativity a lot. Parkside Restaurant, here I come.

Garden Notes from 9/2 (Updated)

5 Sep

Compost

Things to avoid:

  1. animal scraps/bones–these may attract rodents into our compost pile
  2. feces–there is a risk of disease and/or bacterial transfer
  3. plastics–these won’t break down in time for us to use

Items used for compost should be close to the target ratio of 30 Carbon-1 Nitrogen.  Some common compost materials include:

  1. cardboard 350 C-1N (bad)
  2. corn cobs 75-1 (ok)
  3. fruit 35-1 (excellent)
  4. leaves 60-1 (ok)
  5. newspaper 175-1 (not too much)
  6. peanuts 25-1 (good)
  7. coffee grounds 20-1 (good)
  8. grass 20-1 (good)
  9. vegetables 25-1 (excellent)
  10. egg shells (good because of their Calcium Carbonate shells)

Compost should be watered once per week because the invertebrate living in the compost need water.  Before watering, mix the compost thoroughly, then water for about 5 minutes.  The compost should feel moist and spongy.

Fertilizer

The key ration of fertilizer is Nitrogen-Carbon-Phosphorus.  Our fertilizer has a ratio of 7-4-5.  Before we mixed the fertilizer into the soil, we tilled the soil with the spade fork and the hand cultivator.  In total we used 15 cups of  fertilizer.

Some Good Planting Techniques

There is a big difference between planting seeds and seedlings. When spacing seeds in a garden, you don’t need to waste too much space spreading them apart; it is extremely inefficient. Instead, estimate how wide the diameter of each plant is going to be so that adjacent ones do not merge together. Even if this occurs, it is not a big deal; all you have to do is cut them apart with a knife after they are picked.

Some things to keep in mind if you are planting a seedling or a potted plant:

  • Do not aggressively tug the plant out of the pot. Doing so may result in root damage, which will severely shorten the plant’s life. The correct approach is to handle the roots with intense care and make sure they are harmed as little as possible.
  • It is really important not to let roots dry out. Keep in mind that the roots are the ones taking in the water and nutrients from the soil. Without the roots, the process of mineral uptake is nearly impossible, and plants will be unable to photosynthesize because they are not receiving anything that can be converted into glucose (aka expendable energy).
  • When planting a potted plant into the soil, make sure you dig the hole as deep as the soil mold of the pot. The surface of the soil of the potted plant should line up with the surface of the soil in the garden. This way, the plant will have a better time adjusting to its new environment, and the roots will continue to grow.

Watering the Garden

Aside from using compost and fertilizer on top of the garden bed, one of the most crucial elements of attaining a healthy garden is to water consistently. Here are some tips and information to ensure that you water not only efficiently but also correctly.

  • Many people are not aware of the fact that the amount of time that plants should be watered depends on what time of day it is. The sun will cause a lot of the water to evaporate, so it is probably best to water the garden more during the day than at nighttime.
  • Temperature is a direct function of seed germination. Make sure that your seeds are receiving as much sunlight as possible. If not, they will never receive the signal to start growing.
  • In order to ensure proper plant growth, water consistently (morning and evening). Forgetting to turn on the sprinklers is one of the biggest reasons that plants die prematurely.
  • During the day, plants use their water to carry out photosynthesis. It is crucial that you water enough so that there will still be enough moisture after evaporation takes place. At night, keep in mind that you do not have to water as much because it will not evaporate as quickly. However, make sure that there is enough water in the soil to last through the night.
  • It is important to know that water goes directly down into the soil, so make sure you are watering directly above seeds and their roots. If you water next to the seeds rather than on top of it, you lessen the chance that the roots will properly receive the water.
  • Over-watering is another factor of plant death. Normally, in Southern California gardens, it is so dry that this is not really a problem. One of the few times that over-watering causes premature plant death is in houseplants. The soil in the pot gets so wet that there is no space for oxygen. Fungi start to accumulate and rot the plant roots. Again, since we will be dealing with an outdoor garden in a dry climate, this should not be a problem.

If we keep all of these things in mind, we should have no problem maintaining a healthy community garden throughout the semester.