Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taking A Break

Instant "Soup Curry"

Right now I'm at my refugee place, my aunt's house. This is the lunch I just had. My aunt is on a long trip until mid December, 2009, so at her house I can be totally alone and enjoy the fast Internet service as much as I want. It's "Silver Week" here in Japan now, the weather is just gorgeous (except that the sea is rough from a distant typhoon), birds are twittering and a couple of butterflies are floating right outside the window. I'm taking a complete break from being a family member, a daughter, a cook, a person who is in charge of cleaning certain parts of my parents' house, etc. Now I'm being totally MYSELF, nothing else.

And here's a good news. I got a nice job offer -- a paid job, though very short-term. Some people from abroad are visiting my hometown next week, and I was asked to accompany them for three days to help with the language. It's going to be mostly sightseeing with one presentation at the city office, so it'll be fun. Actually part of the reason for coming to this refugee place was to do some research and preparation for the next week, but right now I'm taking a break from that, too.

I took this shot on my way here.

Hope everyone is having a good time.

*BTW, "soup curry" is a new name for very runny, soup-like curry here in Japan. I have no idea how it is different from "curry soup," but I don't really mind... as far as it tastes good.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Now Being Dehydrated...

Sicilian Rouge being sun-dried

I thought I would have to wait until next summer to make sun-dried cherry tomatoes, because when they were abundant the weather was nasty, and when the weather got better, the tomato season was over. These are (probably) the last harvest of our Sicilian Rouge.

Four days ago

The tomatoes didn't look quite ripe when harvested, but they are turning redder and redder as they dry.
Now, how much longer do you think I should dry them?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homemade Goya (Bitter Gourd) Tea -2-

Goya (Bitter Gourd) Tea

My previous post is dated Sep. 12th, but it was actually Sep. 6th that I sliced up the goya and started drying them. And yesterday I finally decided that they were dry enough. I roasted the dried goya slices and brewed them with hot water.

Goya tea before roasting (Sep. 13, 2009)

After being dried for a week, the goya slices looked greenish brown like above photo. After roasting, the color turned much darker.

Yes, this tea was bitter, but I thought it was tolerable. The bitterness can be easily adjusted anyway by using less amount of dried goya or brewing it shorter. So I'm happy with the result.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homemade Goya (Bitter Gourd) Tea -1-

I thought goya (bitter gourd) season was already over for this year. Usually my family harvest them mostly in July and mid August, and see only a few left on the vine in September. But perhaps because of the strange weather, we couldn't harvest them almost at all until late August, and then BOOM! Goya season came.

Yes, we make goya juice almost every day and stir-fry about once a week. But my family does not care for bitter food very much, and we seldom use one whole goya for anything we make with it. So we ended up having more than enough of this green, warty vegetable in our fridge and on the table.

I googled for recipe ideas, and found out that you can dry and make tea with goya.

Sliced Goya (September 6th, 2009)

They say that dried goya tea is good for the people with diabetes and high blood pressure. There you go again. It sounds like ANY food has certain medical effect or health benefit, doesn't it? But even if the medical effect of the goya tea is too subtle, drinking it wouldn't do any harm, at least. Then I would be just happy with the fact that the tea keeps longer and easy to use than fresh goya.

Now Drying...

To be cont'd to Goya tea -2-.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

And the Challenges Go On .. Part 6

The weather has been great lately. It's much cooler in the morning and evening, and hot enough in the daytime to dry laundry hung outside. If the waves were not rough like this, I could have spent hours on the beach, fishing or possibly sketching the scenery. But the ocean is stormy because of a distant typhoon, and I've been wanting to wash mom's car but unable to decide when to do that. It's amazing what the salty air and wave spray can do to your car windows. :(

It seems that we human are not the only ones that are feeling active now because of the good weather. In the past week, I killed at least one baby centipede a day in my room. It's strange that I saw almost none in July and August -- when it was hot and humid -- and now they're suddenly wanting my attention. Good thing that all I saw was only babies. By the time they grow up, it will be too cold for them to come out.
... Wait... How fast do they grow???

Mom has been doing much better, though she still has the habit of avoiding to eat with us when she is upset. It happens about once a month, which is much better compared to how it was last May and June.

I know I've been saying, "I'll write about mom's issue in more details sometime soon," but as you see, I haven't done it yet. I did start it, but it is taking way longer than I had thought, because I'm trying to give enough background information as well as describing what mom said and did. :P But anyway, just in case some of you are concerned about the result of my mom's health check, here's a brief summary: The MRI scan showed absolutely no atrophy (shrinkage) of the brain, and the young doctor told her that her memory impairment was nothing but "age-appropriate forgetfulness."

Mom was really happy about this result, but I was happy and unhappy at the same time -- happy that it wasn't serious, but unhappy that I lost the chance to educate mom and dad about MCI and lure her into healthy eating and exercising in the name of "dementia prevention." Now when I tell her to do something to prevent dementia, her answer is, "No, the doctor said there was nothing wrong with me and all I needed to do was taking memos often so that I don't forget important things." Dad threw away the printout of "understanding MCI" which I had downloaded and given to him, and now he is less hesitant to argue with mom. Gee, thanks, Doc. (Grrrrrrr)

There's one thing I learned after moving into this house. (Well, I think I've learned more than one thing, and mostly in a hard way, but this is one of the biggest discoveries.) I used to think that the elderly people do not care for greasy food and love light-tasting food. In other words, I thought that they would welcome the dishes they have never had before as long as they taste light.

W - R - O - N - G.
Or at least, it doesn't apply to my parents.
They like the food familiar to them. Period.
And as far as it is familiar, strong taste or greasiness doesn't matter. Or actually they may prefer stronger taste as they get older because they loose their sense of taste with age.

I tried not to make a big deal out of this, but it has been really discouraging to see my parents obviously forcing themselves to eat what I cooked, saying, "Yeah, this is good. Really tasty." In the first couple of months here, I googled like crazy and tried out recipes for Japanese traditional dishes that were light, low in calories and said to be "old people's favorite." But soon I figured out that "I've never tasted something like this before" was not a compliment. And after hearing enough of "Country bumpkins like us are not used to eating something different... It upsets our stomach," I lost interest in exploring "old people's favorites."

Both my parents just want to eat THEIR favorite foods only. That's it.
The difference is that dad wants to look and sound health conscious, but mom doesn't. Dad doesn't stop eating food that is rich in sugar and/or purine, saying things like, "Oh, just a little bit only once in a while is OK." "You shouldn't be too compulsive about this," blah-blah-blah. And when he is with his friends, he keeps lecturing on healthy eating habit.

AH, when was the last time I truly enjoyed preparing a meal without worrying if it was too "different" or "foreign"?

Let's take a look at the bright side: My driving has improved. And now I can change tires.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Mushipan (Steamed Cake)

Ah, these cakes almost make me cry from nostalgia. Mushipan was one of a few homemade desserts my mom used to make when I was very small.

No, it's not that my mom was terrible at baking or making desserts. It was just not a popular thing to do in olden days in this rural area. When my grandma was young, this place was nothing but a poor village, and sugar was a luxury for most farmers and fishermen. With some exceptions, sweets were usually something to be bought at stores on special occasions. And my mom's generation was the one that experienced the extreme poverty and starvation after WWII in their childhood. So, you see why not many dessert recipes have been handed down in my family? (It was in her early fifties that my mom learned to make jams and sugared orange peels and to bake bread.)

Anyway, I can recall three desserts mom used to make when I was a kindergarten kid, which were: very simple pancakes, doughnuts and mushipan. She made the pancakes and doughnuts from scratch, but used "mushipan mix" (pre-mixed baking mix) to make her mushipan.

I really like the ones made from the mushipan mix because they are so light, so fluffy and not too sweet (and darn easy to make). But I couldn't find the baking mix at our regular supermarket the other day, so I tried out a recipe from that Japanese recipe site again.

Matcha Swirl Version

These home-made ones were pretty good, too, but much heavier than the ones made with the mushipan mix. 


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