I couldn’t resist buying a box of 10 large (230 g), gorgeous tomatoes for only 598 yen at the grocery store a few weeks ago. Tomatoes in Japan can be quite expensive, and although the price drops in the summer when they are in season, 600 yen might get you 5 if you are lucky.
How did I use my 10 tomatoes?
While at Omicho Market a couple weeks ago, I spied a fish-seller with sashimi-grade sawara (サワラ, 鰆), Japanese Spanish mackerel, on sale–for 250 yen, I could get a plate of huge filets much bigger than the ones I usually get at the store–about 500 grams’ worth.* “Two, please,” I told the clerk (the fish monger?). “Onê-san,” he said, “I’ll give you 3 for 500 yen.”
This was probably the only time I’ve had a whole kilo of fish at one time. I don’t know how to gut a fish (it’s on the to-do-in-2012 list, promise), so my choices are more limited than chefs braver than I am. Still, since moving to Kanazawa, I’ve found my supermarkets carry a great selection of filets caught locally, so I’ve finally really learned how to cook fish.
There are few phrases I hate more than “guy food.”
As it’s now mid-June, Father’s Day has come and gone, and, like any proper holiday, we celebrate it with food. However, as a food blogger and perpetual recipe-hunter, I’ve been bombarded with so many blog posts, articles, and recipe suggestions for “guy food,” “guy-friendly food,” and “meals for dad” that I’m starting to wonder if the gender police are about to knock on my door and arrest my husband and me for willful negligence of the hunter-gather roles we so clearly agreed to in our wedding vows. Because all gender roles are totally fixed and set from time immemorial, and culturally-informed personal preferences have nothing to do with food consumption!
Somewhere along the line, American culture decided that cooking meat over charcoal was the epitome of manly cookery, as it combines the three tenets of heteronormatively masculinizing your home-life: gadgets, the outdoors/the yard, and meat. Continue reading
Who needs meat when you have the bounty of summer produce? Today I’m happy to share a recipe I think would be amazing at a dinner party–or simply to make something nice for yourself on a quiet evening at home. Bring out the best in summer tomatoes and eggplants with fresh basil, garlic, and a bit of cheese.
When I first moved to my new place, I spent a lot of time watching Food Network (thanks to Food Network Humor) on my phone while was waiting on my internet to be installed. Ina Garten and her friend Antonia made this amazing-looking eggplant pasta–at least until they added 2 whole pounds of cheese.
Health concerns aside, I don’t even know where you can buy that much cheese in one place in Kanazawa. My policy is that a little flavorful cheese goes a long, long way, and in this recipe, I’ve reduced the amount cheese from 900 g (32 oz., 2 lbs) to 55 grams (1.95 oz, .12 lbs)–that’s a tiny fraction of the original! Japan-dwellers, I will recommend that you go to your nearest gourmet supermarket and get some nice Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano and some nice mozzarella, because it’s okay to treat yourself to nice cheese in Japan on payday. You have my permission! Hundred-grams blocks are more common and quite affordable if you can spread your cheese usage over several recipes.
In the first half of my 20s, I spent a lot of time thinking about my personal gender expression and how I wanted to present myself outwardly to reflect the person I was in thought and in deed. (I swear this is about food. Just give me a minute.) At some point in the last year, my gender expression resolved itself. I developed a fashion style I liked. I realized that super short hair with a poofy skirt with pockets is just as good as with skinny jeans, and also that I shouldn’t reject the “feminine” styles and give into the cult of masculine = good, feminine [sissy] = bad. Provided that the skirts have pockets and the shoes are comfortable, anyhow.
Mushroom wrap at Cock & Bull, Cincinnati
My later 20s have been rife with a growing sense of discomfort about my food habits, particularly the consumption of meat. Growing up in the Midwest, I was used to meat as the center of the meal and veggies as less-worthy side dishes. At university, I drastically cut down my meat consumption, rarely eating red meat (dining hall…) and eating poultry once a day or so. At language school, I was presented with amazing vegetarian options. Then I moved to Japan, where meat, particularly chicken, is more expensive. I disliked the fatty cuts of meat at restaurants–not fine marbled beef, mind you, but just badly cut meats with fat left on. Sans my oven and a supply of lean cuts at the rural grocery store, I was even less inclined to have meat for dinner, though I longed for burritos and hamburgers.
While on my coast-to-coast beer-adventure, my friends and I stopped in a brew pub around Buffalo because when is it not time for delicious beers when you have good company?
I love brewpubs, but I confess that I’m not skilled at pairing beer with food. The great thing about brew pubs is that they know what pairs well, since they make it all. So here we four (two heterogamous couples) are, torn between the maibock and the amber ale. Female friend decides she wants the maibock, but the rest of us decide to ask for the waitress’s recommendation.
I don’t want to be able to see through it.
“I think the amber ale pairs well with most foods because it’s really smooth,” she says. “The maibock is also smooth.” And literally right as I’m about to agree with her that a smooth amber sounds great with this veggie dish I am about to order, she says to the group, “Oh, but that’s just my girl brain. Maybe your boy brains are different.”
Slight change of pace today as I have just returned to Kanazawa from an ambitious trip to the US. Since food and food culture are never far from my mind, much of my culture shock was culinary: actual vegetarian options! The cereal aisle! The peanut-butter aisle! Food labeled with allergy and dietary restriction information! Take-away boxes for large meals! Sourdough bread! Being able to substitute side dishes and ingredients!
Mostly it was neutral or positive shock; I was really happy to have plenty of choices to eat in the major metropolitan centers, rediscover some hometown favorites, and–you guessed it–have a constant flow of craft beer on draft. You all know how much I love Michigan and Michigan beer, but we didn’t visit my beloved second-homestate on this coast-to-coast whirlwind adventure. But between the two coasts and the Midwest, everyone I visited in the US, from my high school friends to my parents and in-laws, were determined to show me the beer time of my life on my trip home. Even the bride made sure there’d be nice dark beer for me and our real-beer-loving Japan cohort at the West Coast wedding! As a result, I got to enjoy some old favorites and try some new contenders, including some from Mt. Carmel Brewing Company, a microbrewery in my hometown of Cincinnati. Continue reading