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Fukuoka makes seed balls

14 Jun

Here’s a YouTube video from 1997, in which he shows the method. He’s already about 90 years old…

Fukuoka meets fusion–“lasagna gardening”

13 Jun

In the US, a woman named Patricia Lanza has made popular Fukuoka Masanobu’s techniques of “do-nothing” farming–she followed, in turn, the earlier work of a woman named Ruth Stout.

Her concept selects and adapts particular features of FM’s work, and is known as “lasagna gardening.” It’s called this because it starts off with sheet mulching and wild mulching–laying sheets of cardboard over grass to tame it and get rid of weeds, and using plant matter on the spot for compost, letting it have its unruly way, rather than putting it in a tidy (“”) pile in a corner to gestate. It’s a kind of translated version of do-nothing farming that still involves some of the processes (sheet mulching, notably, and lack of interest in tilling). But it also drops some key features, such as the compelling autobio, the relation to a general critique of modernity, and questions about the role of the local vis-à-vis spiritual/mystical/Romantic/poetic histories.

Cover of Lanza's Fukuoka adaptation/localization

See what you think, by paging through it at Amazon

Is anything added? Anything lost? How does she imagine the task of adapting, localizing, translating? And what does “culture” (i.e. from cultivare, the word meaning ‘to grow’) mean to her, do you think?

In the news: tomatoes demystified

10 Jun

This story has obvious links to the Fukuoka reading for Tuesday. A critique of food–>a general critique of modernity, and re-connection with the sources of food is urged…

How we ruined the tomato

The plump red fruit has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with modern agriculture. An expert explains why

How we ruined the tomato

iStockphoto

Americans love tomatoes. As our second-most-popular produce item, we’re accustomed to the sight of them: plump and bright red, marble to soft-ball sized, and piled in abundance year-round in the refrigerated fruit and vegetable aisle of the grocery store. Many of us eat tomatoes every day: if not au natural, in ketchup, salsa, or marinara sauce.

Yet our favorite fruit may not be quite as innocuous and delicious as it appears.

continued, on Salon.com

Sustainable Food, Where It’s At

13 Dec

In the past week or two I’ve come across 2 TED talks related to food (I do realize this is a bit late for anyone who was looking for possible essay topics):

The first is about adding insects to our diet!

And the second is on creating Sustainable Restaurants!

Please comment if you watch either of these.  I’d like to know what you guys think!

Sayonara, Hashima

16 Nov

A bit more info on Gunkanjima (the slang name for Hashima island). The mine closed in 1974, when demand for coal petered out (and prices stabilized after the big “oil shock” OPEC oil embargo of 1973). A nice article in the nifty magazine Cabinet has some testimony from a Korean guy who was mobilized to work there, and explains how it was a “company town” for Mitsubishi.

The mine was deep under the sea, the workers reaching it by elevator down a long narrow shaft. The coal was carried out from a spacious underground chamber, but the digging places were so small that we had to crouch down to work. It was excruciating, exhausting labor. Gas collected in the tunnels, and the rock ceilings and walls threatened to collapse at any minute. I was convinced that I would never leave the island alive.

Schoolchildren spelling out "Sayonara Hashima" in the schoolyard in 1974.

The writer of the article gives some specs, too:

Indeed, Mitsubishi owned the island and everything on it, running a kind of benevolent dictatorship that guaranteed job security and doled out free housing, electricity and water but demanded that residents take turns in the cleaning and maintenance of public facilities. Thus the people of Hashima huddled together, all under the wing of “The Company” and all bent on a common purpose.

But coal is not edible. The community depended completely on the outside world for food, clothing and other staples. Even fresh water had to be carried to the island until pipes along the sea floor connected it to mainland reservoirs in 1957. Any storm that prevented the passage of ships for more than a day spelled fear and austerity for Hashima.

The most notable feature of the island was the complete absence of soil and indigenous vegetation. Hashima, after all, was nothing more than a rim of coal slag packed around the circumference of a bare rock. A movie shot there by Shochiku Co. Ltd. in 1949 was aptly entitled Midori Naki Shima (The Greenless Island).

Some links to “ruins” blogs

16 Nov

A relic of the 1980s "bowling boom." Source: michaeljohngrist.com

When we look at the mystery-horror novel OUT, one important precedent to keep in mind is the gothic novel: the novel of architectural decrepitude and feminine confinement par excellence.

OUT‘s 1997 publication coincides nicely with a small boom in gothic tourism, to abandoned industrial properties located on the outskirts of towns. They are not necessarily feminine spaces, but still, they evoke similar senses of gloom, abandonment, and strange lyrical beauty. Here are some links to “ruins” (haikyo 廃墟) blogs which document and brood upon these abandoned spaces.

Michael John Grist is an American guy who has caught onto the ruin trail.

This guy is more nostalgic, and includes images of bygone foods you might have eaten in the ryōkan of ages past…

And finally, I include this one because it shows and links to the Amazon.jp page for several of the amazing sub-varieties of ruin appreciation–railroad, amusement park, and most famously, Gunkanjima

DVD cover. Source: Amazon.co.jp

Article in Washington paper on Sonoko & Akila

25 Oct

It turns out that Akila is in the States not only to teach a round of classes, but is looking for a more local supplier of buckwheat to use in making his soba here. This Washington State paper published an article today about some of their journey, and conversations with WA farmers.

Source: tricityherald.com

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser event

19 Oct

This is way off, in February, but is very exciting!

Food, Inc.: Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser in Conversation

Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 : 7:00pm

University Park Campus
Bovard Auditorium

Admission is free. RSVP is required. To RSVP, click here beginning January 13 at 9 a.m.

The best-selling authors talk about the industrialization of food and its devastating impact on personal health and the environment.

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, authors of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, respectively, are two of the country’s leading voices on issues of food, the food industry and sustainability. Their groundbreaking work has started a revolution in how Americans think about what they eat. Pollan and Schlosser both appeared in the Academy Award–nominated documentary Food, Inc., which Schlosser co-produced.

Join us as they come together for an important, fascinating conversation.

A reception will follow.

For the past 20 years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs and architecture. He is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, winner of the James Beard Award, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was named one of the 10 best books of the year by both The New York Times and The Washington Post. His book The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World was also a New York Times best-seller and received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001. PBS created a two-hour special documentary based on The Botany of Desire. Pollan’s most recent book is entitled Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. A contributing writer to The New York Times magazine since 1987, Pollan has received numerous awards for his writing, including the James Beard Award for best magazine series; a John Burroughs prize for his book Second Nature; the QPB New Visions Award and Reuters-IUCN Global Award for environmental journalism for his reporting on genetically modified crops; and the Humane Society’s Genesis Award for his writing on animal agriculture. In 2009 he was named one of the top 10 “New Thought Leaders” by Newsweek magazine.

As an investigative journalist, Eric Schlosser explores subjects ignored by the mainstream media and gives a voice to people at the margins. Over the years, he has followed the harvest with migrant farm workers in California; spent time with meatpacking workers in Texas and Colorado; told the stories of marijuana growers, pornographers and victims of violent crime; gone on duty with the New York Police Department’s bomb squad; and visited prisons throughout the United States. His work defies categorization, earning praise not only from liberal publications like The Nation, but also from Fortune, the Financial Times and the National Review. Schlosser’s first book, Fast Food Nation, has been translated into more than 20 languages and remained on The New York Times best-seller list for two years. His second book, Reefer Madness, also a New York Times best-seller, looked at America’s thriving underground economy. Schlosser has also worked in the film industry, serving as co-producer of the award-winning documentary Food, Inc., in which both he and Pollan appear. He was also an executive producer and co-writer of the feature film Fast Food Nation, directed by Richard Linklater. The screenplay was named one of the best of that year by New York Times critics A.O. Scott and Mahnola Dargis.

A bit of reading before Tuesday’s talks–Michael Pollan

18 Oct

So, the organizer of Tuesday’s event told me that the basic theme of the 2 talks is the “industrial food structure.” It’s part of a series of talks on various kinds of infrastructure. Here is a chapter of Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, on industrial feedlots & ranching.It will give you a frame, or 3 frames, really, to customize it for OUR class and the questions we have been pursuing–

1) what industrial farming is, and how industrial ranching is part of that package;

2) how American his example is (or occasionally global), which may prompt you to reflect on what you have learned about Japanese contexts;

3) how our practice of local gardening differs in significant ways (magnitude, labor and skills, nutrition, variability, sustainability, social life, etc.) from this Hulk of an industrial model.

Pollan_Feedlot

Soba Class Notes

12 Oct

Apologies for the late posting from the soba class! If there’s anything I missed or noted incorrectly, please do comment and let me know! I’ll correct it promptly.

Cutting the soba noodles

What we saw Inouge-san make during the soba class was apparently only about 39% of the total amount of flour he usually makes. He used

  • 800 g of buckwheat
  • 390 g of water
  • 200g of flour
  • mirin (does anyone remember the amount?)
  1. Smooth the surface of the dough with your palms
  2. Use rolling pin(s) to flatten the dough to 5 mm **keep turning the soba dough to flatten evenly and in a circular shape!**
  3. Create 2 corners in the dough by rolling the dough around the pin, rather than just under
  4. Unroll the dough sideways to create the other 2 corners **make sure to flour the board, dough, and rolling pin thoroughly**
  5. Unroll the dough at a 45 degree angle to create an almost rectangular shape
  6. Correct the shape to more rectangular slowly with a short pin to the final 1.5 mm thickness
  7. Roll over pin once, turn around, and unroll the dough halfway
  8. Put a thin layer of flour over the unrolled half
  9. Unroll the rest over and put a layer of flour over that too
  10. Fold the second half over the first half and flour half of the top of the folded dough
  11. Repeat until the dough has been folded into a good cutting size for the length of your knife
  12. Put a thin layer of flour over cutting board and layer over top of flour
  13. Use a board over the flour to cut in straight lines **a 1.3 mm width cut is the most traditional size**
  14. Cook the noodles, drain the water, and eat

This is Inouge-san’s own recipe, which uses less water than usual. This keeps the ingredients’ characteristics, creates a stronger taste, and keeps the noodles not too soft.

Condiments used with the soba noodles were:

  • Okinawa brown sugar syrup (dessert style)
  • Sliced green onion
  • Wasabi
  • Daikon oroshi (grated daikon)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tosa joyu (seasoned with bonito)

The broth was made from: a soy sauce base, granulated sugar, bonito dashi, and mirin.

The softer soba dumplings that were made after the soba noodles were made with 2.5x water by weight with the buckwheat flour. To make these, just stir while heating on stovetop until the water and buckwheat mixture has a dough-y consistency!

According to Inouge-san, since soba has 92% more protein than eggs, eating soba with foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium is the perfect meal.