Friday, September 18, 2009

Aging Well

Forget the Fountain of Youth, I'm drinking from the Aging Well.

This comes from my nephew, E.S. (that stands for Extra Special), on the occasion of my birthday:

"...when cheese ages it either gets moldy or more delicious- now this could be taken many ways but let's just say you have the wisdom of sharp cheddar. In another light one might say that age is like wine: you become more refined and sophisticated. I would say you are on par with a wine and cheese party, which is a very good thing."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hot and Cold Potatoes

This is beni imo (scarlet potato) ice cream. A delightful puple sweetpotato-flavored frozen treat from the Blue Seal ice cream company of Okinawa, Japan. Founded in 1948, Blue Seal's tag line is "Born in America," and it virtually was. From the time Okinawa was first occupied by US troops after WWII until it was officially returned to Japan 27 years later, it was under US military rule. For years the currency was the US dollar and residents were required to carry passports when traveling to other prefectures of Japan. While US administration and occupation ostensibly ended in 1972 the US military presence looms large on this tiny island prefecture. The issue of enduring US military bases is a political hot potato in Japan and has more often than not produced frigid relations between Americans and Japanese.

To learn more about potatoes visit the potato portal.

Check out the 12 most bizarre ice cream flavors at:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What I Ate for Supper

スロッピージョー, コールスロー 、チプス

Many readers (see the comment under Dinner at the Shiritori Cafe)following the Shiritori Café series have been wondering what's going to go down my gastrointestinal tract next. Well the pièces de résistance of the last supper I ate was tomato sauce or in Japanese, sousu . So according to the rules of shiritori since the sound "su" follows the sound "to" in the Japanese syllabary, the next meal had to begin with the Japanese sound "su." My first inclination was to go with sushi but it's kind of pricey (like everything else here), so I decided to go with an American equivalent (well almost), the suropi jo. Otherwise known in English as the Sloppy Joe.

My Sloppy Joe Recipe (serves 4)

Combine 150 grams (maybe) of chopped beef, pork and okara* chopped onion, chopped pepper (any color), garlic, tomatoes, ketchup, 3-4 tablespoons of brown sugar, pinch of salt, and a little pepper with lots of artistic flair in a skillet and cook it up until it's all done. That's it.

*Okara is I believe an edible byproduct from the tofu production process. It's great stuff that's used to make all sorts of dishes and I've discovered it can be used to stretch or substitute for lots of ingredients including chop meat and ricotta cheese. Ricotta is difficult to find in the Tokyo area. If you do find it, it's likely to be in a gourmet grocery store, probably across the aisle from the Skippy's peanut butter (yes Skippy's is a gourmet food, it's all a matter of perspective I guess). A half-pound container of imported Italian ricotta (they don't make it here) will set you back about a thousand yen (about ten dollars give or mostly take a few cents) for an 8 ounce container. It's probably even more expensive at the Tokyo Dean & Delucca's gourmet deli where they don't sell Skippy's but do sell gourmet peanut butter for about three times the price of ricotta cheese. Marscapone cheese is much easier to find in Japan and a lot cheaper. I think Japanese consumers generally prefer softer foods. Whenever I cut open a melon in my house, my wife and I will both say, "Oh!" Only the intonations will be exactly the opposite, mine the sound of disappointment because the melon has gone bad and hers the sound of joy because the melon is perfectly ripe. It's like the Skippy's peanut butter, all a matter of perspective. To some people it's a gourmet delicacy and to others it's just plain peanut butter.

Did you know...

Did you know that the all American Sloppy Joe's appellation isn't derived from the fact that it's a ten napkin meal? It actually gets its name from the place where it was invented, Sloppy Joe's of Key West, Florida. Sloppy Joe's wasn't always Sloppy Joe's though. It was a regular patron of Russel's Bar, a one Ernest Hemingway, who persuaded the bar owner to change the name of this watering hole to Sloppy Joe's. It was in this newly christened establishment that on December 5, 1933, the very same day Prohibition was repealed, the sandwich later to be forever dubbed the Sloppy Joe was born. The fact that this auspicious occasion was accompanied by streams of free flowing legal liquor could have alot to do with what went so wrong (or so right)with this hamburger. The rest is as they say... one heck of a mess, except in Jersey where Sloppy Joe's are neat, but that's a whole other story.

South Orange; Where Sloppy Is Neat (NY Times)

*When I was in school Hemingway was always my first go to author whenever a book report assignment came up. He wrote some excellent books like The Old Man and the Sea starring Spencer Tracy orFor Whom the Bell Tolls with its unforgettable characters, Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman as well as many other classic works of literature.

This photo of Ernest Hemingway in Kenya was taken by a LOOK Magazine, staff photographer. It's from the LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress. Look's publisher, Cowles Communications, Inc, has given the public all rights to these images.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flying Over the Serengeti

Sometimes when I'm walking in my garden I like to pretend I'm looking out the window of a big plane soaring high over the Serengeti. Can you see the zebras and elephants? I can.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dinner @ the Shiritori Café

The order of the day at the Shiritori Café was "to" so I made tomato sauce.

Ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, oregano, basil, meatballs, time and effort

Patrons: 4

In shiritori "su" follows "to." Su let's see now, hmmm.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Breakfast at the Shiritori Cafe

The breakfast menu at the Shiritori Café was toast after all! A Paraguayan friend of mine who lives not to far from me in Yokohama once recommended natto* (fermented soybeans) as an excellent way to top off your toast. Many people, including natives of Japan, find it difficult to stomach this sticky delicacy with a pungent aroma. It’s really not to bad once you get used to it. I was looking forward to trying it on toast, maybe with some melted cheese even (yummy!) but the stuff is so popular in my household there was none to be found in the refrigerator. I had to defer my epicurean adventure and settle for somewhat less exotic but decidedly delicious homemade orange marmalade. Let’s see, today’s feature dish at the Shiritori Café was toast, or in Japanese, tousto. That means tomorrow’s featured menu item will begin with “to.” All I can come up with at the moment is toast, but we’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow’s tide brings our way.

*Have a look at this video on how to eat natto that I gleaned from Youtube.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just a Little Reminder

Somebody's birthday is coming up (and it's not George's).

Shiritori Cafe

We opened the doors of the Shiritori Cafe today. Shiritori is a word game played by virtually every Japanese kid. The game uses the Japanese hiragana or katakana syllabaries. In addition to Chinese characters, written Japanese has two phonetic syllabaries, hiragana and katakana (the latter used primarily for loan words), as well as romaji or the Latin alphabet. Shiritori is a chain game that starts off with one person saying a word. It could be just any word or a word related to a particular theme like animals, or food. If we were playing shiritori I would sart with the Japanese word for apple, ringo. The next person in turn then follows by saying a word that begins with the last syllable of the word spoken by the person who went before him. In this case I said ringo, with the final hiragana syllable of "go," so the next person in the chain might say, "goma," meaning sesame. Play continues in this fashion until someone says a word that ends with the "m" or "n" sound. Since there is no word in Japanese that begins with either of these sounds the game ends (with one single solitary loser who will forever hang his head in shame or until the next round begins, which is usually immediately).

Our Shiritori Cafe is themed on this Japanese kids' game. Since shiritori always begins with the syllable "ri" our opening night menu was risotto. That means tommorrow night's menu will feature a meal that begins with the hiragana syllable, "to." I'm thinking toast right now but nothing is set in stone.

Here is what the hiragana and katakana syllabaries look like (they are written and read right to left, up and down):

Risotto ingredients: 2 cups brown rice, garlic, onion, olive oil, chicken, shimeji mushroom, love

Customers: 4