Monthly Archives: August 2012

Kitchen Library – 8.28.2012

Who wants to go behind the scenes of I’ll Make It Myself?

Not everything I do culinarily makes it to the pages of this blog. Some recipes require a special trip to the cheese counter of a department store–seems a bit unfair for my readers in rural Japan, and trust me, I have been there. Some articles are interesting but don’t merit a full rant–er, analysis.

If you, dear readers, are interested, I’d be happy to make this “What I’m Cooking & Reading” a weekly affair. Rather than a laundry-list meal plan, this feature can be like an online salon. You’ll just have to clue me in on what tea (or beer) you’re drinking while you read. Help me with the format, too–would you like a weekly or monthly post just on recommended recipes and another on articles of note, or should I just do one long post like this one? How about monthly book and cookbook reviews? What I Ate Wednesdays?

By the way, if you are on social media, follow me on Twitter and Facebook to keep abreast of what I’m eating and reading (including The Onion); I use Pinterest for my recipes, recipes I like, and recipes I want to make.

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The Jam of Oppression?: Feminism, “New Domesticity,” and Gender-Neutral Home Cooking

A friend linked a really interesting article from the Washington Post: Emily Matchar‘s “The new domesticity: Fun, empowering or a step back for American women?” (26 Nov. 2011). I know this article is nearly a year old, but it demands contexualization. In this piece, Matchar discusses American women’s new-found passion for cooking, crafting, and DIY projects and her concerns about the relationship between feminism and “domesticity.” To elaborate, she writes,

My grandmother died nearly a decade ago, but I can imagine how puzzled she’d be to behold my generation’s newfound mania for old-fashioned domestic work. Around the country, women my age (I’m 29), the daughters and granddaughters of the post-Betty Friedan feminists, are embracing the very homemaking activities our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shucked off. We’re heading back to jam-canning and knitting needles, both for fun and for a greater sense of control over what we eat and wear.

But in an era when women still do the majority of the housework and earn far less of the money, “reclaiming” domesticity is about more than homemade holiday treats. Could this “new domesticity” start to look like old-fashioned obligation?

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Café Mojo (Veg* Out in Kanazawa Series)

One thing I dislike about eating out in Japan is “secret meat.” For whatever reason, the Japanese concept of meat and the English one are quite different: if you chop up meat small enough, it’s no longer considered meat; fish/seafood aren’t meat; there’s fish-based dashi stock in miso soup; some shokupan (white bread) contains lard; and, even if you’re really good at Japanese, clearly labeled menus are a luxury. For example, if I order a pizza margherita, I expect it to be vegetarian, and yet some places will throw bacon on it. If I order a “vegetable soup,” there might be chicken in it that wasn’t listed on the menu.

Luckily for me, I’ve found a lot of great restaurants in Kanazawa that specialize in or offer vegetarian/vegan fare. In Kyoto and Tokyo, there are vegan and vegetarian guidebooks being published, but Kanazawa and Ishikawa don’t have their own yet. I can’t be the only one out there who hates secret meat, so I want to highlight my favorite veg* restaurants in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, and Japan here in addition to my other restaurant reviews. I’m including a quick overview to the restaurant (location, type, veg* type) before the longer review so you’ll know at a glance if this place is for you. If you have suggestions about the reviews or for more restaurants, please leave a comment!

I’d like to kick off this series with one of my favorite cafes in Kanazawa, Café Mojo.

Café Mojo

Café Mojo (カフェモジョ)
Location: Kanazawa City, Ishikawa pref.
Type: Café, Lunch
Veg Status: Primarily vegetarian and vegan fare; meat options (bacon)
Languages: Japanese, English

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Together in the Kitchen with a Whole Bunch of Eggplants: Eggplant Curry

This time on “why did I buy a whole box of this vegetable?”: what to do with six eggplants?

Cheruko is harvesting her eggplants–many, many eggplants. She brought eleven of them to dinner a couple weeks ago to distribute, and I took six. My go-to recipes when I am cooking for myself are Italian- and French-style dishes that  pair the eggplants with tomatoes, basil, and parsley: ratatouille, gratin, vegetable lasagna. When I am alone in kitchen with an eggplant, these are the dishes I make. However, the texture of these dishes is, unfortunately, precisely what our spouses dislike about eggplants. (Though mine does like Summer Pasta with Eggplant Sauce because the eggplant is cooked down a lot.)

Instead of swapping dinner partners for the duration of the harvest, we brainstormed ways to eat eggplants that would change the texture and feature different flavor profiles than the standard eggplant-tomato-basil that I like so much. (It’s a standard for a reason!) In Japanese cooking, miso and eggplant and pickled eggplant are staples of the summer, but that didn’t fix the texture issue. However, one thing that the Indian restaurants of Kanazawa do exceedingly well is to make curries out of any local vegetable: kabocha, lotus root, eggplant–and if they could do it, why couldn’t I?

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Tanabata Beer Festa Toyama 2012

Note to self: when you are at a beer festival, it’s best to go with your gut instinct of voice-recording your comments on the beers into your phone instead of trying to write them down. You can barely read your own writing when you are sober, and participating breweries will fill your commemorative half-pint glass full each time. With your penchant for stouts and, speaking of half-pints, your stature, you can’t expect to produce anything legible or necessarily logical three drinks in, let alone five or six.

Also, don’t forget to begin each audio entry with, “Diane–.”

The Tanabata Beer Festa Toyama, held the first full weekend of July each year in Toyama City, Toyama, is one of Hokuriku’s only beer festivals. Miraculously, my husband and I were both free of obligations that Sunday and hopped the train south with a couple of our friends for an afternoon of craft beer. I hadn’t been to a beer festival since I left Michigan three years ago, so I was beyond thrilled.

What does one drink when confronted with 20 breweries’ worth of Japan’s finest craft beer? Make a game plan. When I attended the Michigan Brewers’ Guild Summer Beer Festival, I decided to only drink cherry beers, as those are much harder to get on draft than stouts. This time, after three years of living deprived of regular access to stouts, I circled 5 stouts I’d like to try, got a pizza for lunch, and set to work drinking.

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