Friday, July 25, 2008

Fed at last, fed at last, thank god almighty, I'm fed at last.

I've been sick for the past week, which means I've not been eating well or enough. Lots of cold soba, pancakes and rice and beans. Well thankfully, I feel better and Eiko dropped off three huge bags of fresh basil she picked up from a farmer we got to know when I was going though my licensing ordeal (from the farmer: big bag = 100 yen. from the grocery store: ten leaves = 100 yen). The gift was not only to make me feel better, but to apply subtle pressure for me to make her more pesto (she doesn't have a food processor or a blender...). She came over last night for a two person pizza party (which we do every month or so) and I made her make the pesto herself. It turned out great! While she was doing that, I made some basil-tofu ricotta (from Vegan with a Vengeance), which is like drugs it's so good. We topped the pizza with our two basil creations, tomato sauce, shredded komatsuna, eggplant and garlic. I almost always put eggplant on pizza because once it gets soft in the heat of the oven, it has a really nice bite to it - something like cheese but altogether more pleasing. The flavor of the eggplant is all ninja-like, it hides so well, so even if you're a hater, you'll enjoy it.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Procrastination gone horribly right.

Tomorrow is my friend Adam's birthday. I was supposed to make his cake today. I skipped out on class tonight to do so. I didn't make his cake. I went to the store to get almond powder to make marzipan (they were out), I went to a farm to by basil (the only place that you can buy basil at a reasonable price; they were closed) so I came home and made bread - naturally (of course I chose to procrastinate with something several times more difficult my original plan).

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I love that Japan has square (rectangularly-prismatic) bread pans. It really adds something. Also, I would like to add that this is my first successful sandwich-style loaf. All of the others have been utter failures.

Another thing I've come to understand that the phrase, "The greatest thing since sliced bread," is a lot stronger of a sentiment that I had originally thought. Slicing bread is a pain, and requires more skill thank I actually have.

Anyway, there you have it. Rectangularly-Prismatic Whole Wheat Bread. 

You've been foodened!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ooops! no Pictures

We had a nyerd-fest this weekend. I brought my camera, but I guess I'd forgotten how un-photo-worthy a bunch of guys sitting around playing video games is. I completely forgot to take out my camera. However, it was still fun times, and I even won at Smash Bros. a couple of times... go me!

I don't want to post with out a picture - so here is the lunch I made to fortify
myself for the 3.5 hour drive to Sapporo. It's only left-over veggies from meals earlier in the week - but they stood on their own pretty well. 

Garlic-Sesame Stir-fried Quinoa with Squash (thanks Eiko!), Red Bell Peppers and Spinach. I wasn't expecting this, but the quinoa is quite frisky when you fry it; little grains staged an assault on me towards the end - popping out with complete disregard to self preservation.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Goodbye Camping

This weekend we said goodbye to the teachers who are going back to their countries this Summer. We went camping up in the mountains in Shikaoi, a town in the district where I live. Quite a bit of fun all-in-all. 
My parter-in-crime, Eiko, and I drove up Saturday around noon, after making one of my students take a picture of us, and landed at the campsite a few hours later. I'm no veteran camper, but I was a little sad that the campsite was very campsite-y. Although, it was still really nice. Among the other campers, there were a couple cranky-with-the-loud-foreigners types, some sustainable culture group and some families with cute kids who found things like deer jaw bones and didn't appreciate them. 
After setting up camp, we grilled up some food, explored the shallow parts of the lake and sat around chatting. I learned how to chop wood and
 had an epic (25 picture) battle with one piece that just didn't want to split. 
Once I was done proving my manhood, we headed down to the lake-side onsen/hotel area to watch the White Snake festival (Ainu legend tells that they were led to the area by two white snakes). I was pretty cynical about the whole thing (wrongful appropriation of subjected cultures and all; though, I'm in no position to judge). However the festival it self was interesting, except I could not stop commenting about how amazing it was that they've managed to preserve this (26 year old) tradition so long, and how they were able to, so authentically, replicate the traditional Ainu spotlights and fog machines. After the dances, we wrote wishes on paper lanterns and set them to drift out over the lake. They were really pretty, for 5 minutes, until the
 100 yen candles inside went out. It's nice to know that you can combine economy with with appeals to the universe. I hope the sheep-god will be able to read my wish even when it isn't lit up...
Back at the camp site, we grilled up a few more snacks over our
 very large fire and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Some friends from the town joined us for a while and treated up to a little music and fire-dancing. I ended up going to bed a little early, happy to be sleeping in a tent again. It had been too long.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bento! Bento!

My town has the best school lunch in all of Hokkaido. However, it's all meat and animal-y, so I bring my own lunch. Almost every day, for the first month I did this, my coworkers would always make some comment expressing their shock that I was able to make my own lunch.

Well, now the magic has worn off, but I have to say - I'm getting better at packing lunches. I have had a lot of trouble with leaky bento boxes. I have books that have suspicious soup stains on them as a result of sharing my backback with deviant chilies and stews. I finally invested in a better bento, one that actually seals well...
This is a pretty standard example of my lunch. From front to back, I have: rice (I'm trying to use up my white rice and switch to brown), rasins and walnuts (cause I need me my sweets) and Chickpea and Spinach Curry (from The Asian Vegan Kitchen). I am going to be really full for my fifth period class today - but not as full as I would be if I was eating school lunch. It's always at least 900 calories! I made the curry last night before going out to Karaoke to celebrate Lauren's sister being in town and only got to take a bite - but it was delicious. Most definately the best curry I've ever made!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Great Crepe Debate: part 1

Eiko, Lauren and I tried to make some crepes this weekend and were pretty successful. We used the crepe recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance and decided that we would tinker with the recipe if we used it again (it was for savory crepes... they were a little too garbanzo-y to go with the fruit). Next time we are thinking we will cut out the chickpea flour (substituting rice flour for a little extra elasticity); add some sugar and vanilla (maybe lemon or orange zest for color); and use pastry flour instead of bread flour (here in Japan they only have "strong" and "weak" flours - no all purpose, which is what the recipe called for). We will try again this weekend...

The Welcomening

Let's starting!

I guess I will start out with my mission statement:

To share my experiences with food and Japan with the people I love and complete strangers.

For example:

The Nom

This is one of my favorite things I've ever made - a result of improvisation in the kitchen. It's Chilied Kabocha Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Asparagus. Kabocha and Asparagus are by far my two favorite veggies. I liked this so much because there was a nice blend of Spicy, Sweet, Salty and Green flavors. Also, it was one of my first vegan creations - so it's got a special place in my heart.

See, that was painless and a nice quick foodening.

Also, I might share little gems about living in the Japans:

Yesterday, I went to apply for the application to take the test for my drivers license (you read that right). Unfortunately, my application for the application was rejected. Why? Bad timing and two massive bureaucracies working in unison to hassle me.

Before I left for Japan, I had to renew my driver's license because it was going to expire on my birthday last year. Usually, you can't renew you license until shortly before it is due to expire - they made an exception for me because I was going to leave the country before the renewal window would open for me. How nice of the DMV. Little did I know, there was a huge international conspiracy going to aimed at screwing me over.

Fast forward to yesterday, when my friend Eiko and I went to the DMV in Obihiro to apply for the application to take the test to get my Japanese Driver's License (since I'm an American, my international permit only is valid for the first year of my visa, thus I have to get a Japanese license in order to drive). However, in to apply for the application, the issue date on your license must be more than 3 months prior to your arrival in Japan. Thus my application (squared) was rejected and I now have to jump through some serious (and seriously time consuming) hoops to apply for my application.

It seems like there is a lot of back-scratching going on between the two institutions. The DMV is hell, internationally.

There you go. I hope you enjoyed the knowening.