I love my Macs in a way that is hard to explain, unless you’re like me and have been using Macs since the ’80s. Well, my trusty 12 inch Powerbook suddenly decided to die. Thank god for backups. So the last 36 hours or so have been spent transferring, backing up and other things to a brand new Macbook Pro. It’s a bittersweet feeling; while a new Mac is always nice, that little Powerbook was a true workhorse, a perfect fit for me in so many ways. I’d resisted upgrading it for a while, but all good Macs must go to heaven some time.
At the same time that the Powerbook decided to die, it was decided that I would be going through with some elective surgery that I needed to get but was holding off on too. So, updates here and on Just Bento will be a bit slower. I have some things already written up which I hope will be postable by me or a helpful elf, but replying to comments and things will have to wait.
I didn’t know I had so much synergy with my Powerbook! I hope I can revive her as a media server or something, and I hope I can revive my body parts too.
I was just opening a new pack of umeboshi (pickled plums) today, when I noticed this warning on the lid in Japanese:
WARNING: Umeboshi have seeds, and sometimes the seeds can be pointed.
So please be careful.
Here’s the label, with two pointy seeds.
(Edit: I could understand the umeboshi warning if it was in English (or language of the country in which the pack was being sold), since people may be unfamiliar with umeboshi. But this was a pack imported from Japan, with Japanese writing, so they are warning Japanese people, who are, or should be, familiar with umeboshi and their pointy seeds. Ume are related to apricots, so maybe apricots should have pointy-seed labels too.)
WTF? So…has it come to this now? We have to have warning labels on natural foods?
I can understand warning labels on manufactured products, say a pesto sauce, to warn about the existence of finely ground nuts. A small percentage of the population is very allergic to nuts.
But, surely the nut-allergic shopper knows to stay away from whole peanuts for example. Or will we have to have labels on those too? “Warning: This bag contains peanuts.” ….
What about warning labels on bags of beans? “Warning: This bag contains beans, which may cause flatulence and socially awkward situations.” Meat? “Warning: This pack contains meat, which comes from an animal. Vegetarians are known to have an aversion to meat.” A bunch of bananas? “Warning: Bananas have slippery skins. If dropped on the ground, they may cause an accident, or a horde of circus clowns to show up.”
Is this labelling gone too far? (Japan is not as litigious as the U.S. for example, but it’s slowly getting there.) Are there any other nanny-state labels you’ve seen?
The three finalists of the BBC’s MasterChef 2008 wait anxiously for the winner to be proclaimed…
Here are the results of the latest poll, which asked the question: Should there be more restaurant authenticity verifiers? The poll results with comments and nifty graphics are here. continue reading...
- Yes, I want to know if the food I’m eating is authentic. = 43% (80 votes)
- No, it’s a bad idea - 49% (91 votes)
- Other - 6% (12 votes)
- Don’t know - 2% (3 votes)
Look what came in the mail today! continue reading...
As I wrote about last year, Valentine’s Day in Japan is fraught with social stress. Somehow, the chocolate manufacturers have managed to convince the whole society that a girl or woman can’t just give chocolates to the ones they love. (And it’s only the women who give chocolates in Japan on the 14th, not men, unlike other countries.) She must also give giri choco, or ‘obligation chocolates’, to people she ‘owes’; bosses, teachers, and fathers-in-law.
Now you can see this kind of social giving in miniature! Re-ment, the maker of amazingly detailed diecast miniatures which I’ve also written about before, has this set of two types of chocolates: Honmei or giri?! (Your real target, or obligation?!) The caption says this: continue reading...
Just like it’s a good idea to take inventory of your pantry sometimes, I find it useful to take a look back at my sites occasionally and take stock of what I’m doing. continue reading...
Here’s a new poll to chew over this Monday. The Japanese government has been ruffling some feathers in the restaurant world with their attempts to set up a program to certify the authenticity of ‘Japanese’ restaurants around the world (read about it here). Should more countries start such schemes, government-sponsored or not? Should a Spanish group be going around the world verifying if a paella is properly Spanish? Should the Germans inspect the quality of wurst? Or, what about the Americans - should they go around the world inspecting bagels? (You can get some mighty unusual bagels in Japan for instance, I can tell you.)
What do you think? Have your say! continue reading...
I’ve decided to be more selective about the links I post here, so instead of relying on del.icio.us auto-posting, I’ll be doing it manually and less frequently. This allows me to be more verbose in my comments than 255 characters, and you all to comment if you want too.
So, here we go for this snowy Saturday morning: continue reading...
Early last year, a movement to set up an authentification program for Japanese restaurant was proposed, to mixed reactions. Now it seems the people behind it are getting going: the inspectors are already in Bangkok, Shanghai and Taipei, and this year they’ll be invading, er researching London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris. continue reading...
Chocolate. It’s such a lovely, malleable substance. It can be shaped into anything really. Anything.
But, one wonders what kind of twisted mind came up with this idea…chocolate truffles shaped like kabutomushi (rhinocerous beetle) larvae!
Avert your eyes if you are squeamish. You may not want to read this while you’re eating.
(If you’re getting here from the front page, pause and breathe in deeply before clicking that ‘continue reading’. continue reading...
Tuna with a side of mercury, and all that. continue reading...
I should have done this a long time ago, but hey, better late than ever. I’m going to try to assemble a list of Japanese grocery stores worldwide, that people can refer to. Obviously I cannot do this without your help! I can list info for places I’ve lived, and there have been some great comment posts in the past here that have included such info, but I’ll try to put it all in one place.
So, please head on over to to this constantly updated page and add any information you have about in the comments!
I’ve added the categories Food related shopping places you shouldn’t miss in Japan and Places that ship Japanese food-related things worldwide.
[Update:] Of course this turned out to be a way bigger job than I thought :) But I’ll try to add as much as possible over the weekend. I’ve found that there are quite a lot of Japanese pages that list stores and so on, for expats obviously. I’m collecting those and adding them, together with your suggestions in the comments. continue reading...
The UK government is instituting an interesting school policy. Starting in September, cooking courses will be compulsory at schools in England. (I guess it’s not for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland yet?) It’s part of their campaign against childhood obesity. (Read more about it on the Guardian Word Of Mouth blog.) It’s a very appealing idea, though I’m not sure if it will accomplish their goals, if they aren’t eating right elsewhere. But we shall see.
I had to take what were called kateika (domestic science) courses in Japan, in the 5th and 6th grades in elementary school and the first 2 years of junior high school. (In junior high it was for girls only; the boys got to do gijutsuka, which meant mostly building fun things. I wanted to do that more than the cooking and sewing!) I don’t think we did a whole lot of cooking (I remember doing more sewing for some reason) but I do remember some of the things we made.
- A basic vegetable soup - though bacon was used for the “dashi”.
- Rice with green peas (mame gohan)
- Sweet potato paste with chestnuts (kuri kinton), a standard osechi (New Year’s feast) item…except that the teacher couldn’t get a hold of chestnuts so we had to use apples instead…so that was actually ringo kinton…
- Some sort of freeform rock cakes or such
- Pork and ginger buta no sho-ga yaki
- For some reason, a fancy sole meunière
- Sandwiches, the Japanese way - with soft white bread, mustard butter, the crusts cut off neatly, and the whole thing kept nice and moist (shittori) with moist kitchen towels!
I’m not sure if any of that was very useful - we never learned fundamental skills like how to wash rice, how to make a dashi, and so on. The only one that was useful was the sandwich class, so if I want to hold a tea party I’m all set! There were time constraints of course, which prevented the teacher from doing anything too complicated. I do remember that the classes were always chaotic - and we’re talking about fairly well-behaved Japanese schoolkids! I wonder how the British teachers will fare.
Did you take cooking classes in school? If so, what did you learn? Do you think cooking classes are a good idea?
To my post about why Japanese people in Japan don’t get that fat, Kim left this terrific comment:
I’m not Japanese (I’m Korean). I was adopted and grew up in America. I didn’t have a weight problem growing up, my weight happened when I hit high school and beyond. When I was in college, I had a chance to go back to Korea for 3 months. I was just a little overweight, maybe around 10-15 pounds. While there, I ate everything in sight, but I also walked everywhere. I also ate more veggies, and more rice, and again, I walked everywhere…usually in atypical day I was walking close to 3-5 miles. When I came back to the states, my Mom automatically thought that I had been starving because I was so slim. Sure enough,1 month later I had gained back all my weight.
There was a big diet trend a little while back that spoke to that. It had people focusing on what their heritage is and then eating and being like the people from their heritage. Now whenever i feel the need to drop some weight, I heavily go back to my Korean roots and the weight just seems to come off. I usually have more energy and just feel more at peace. But it takes so much time, and that is a premium these days.
I must have missed that diet trend Kim mentioned somehow, but it resonates a lot with me. I do enjoy eating a wide variety of cuisines, but when I want to get back into balance and feel good physically and mentally, I always go back to Japanese cooking. I know that Japanese food is generally held to be quite healthy and things like that, but maybe there is more to that.
What do you think? Does going back to your own food heritage help you to feel better and healthier? continue reading...
You may have noticed that you can now comment here and on Just Bento without moderation. I’m seeing if it works out - so far the anti-spam measures seem to be holding up. (You do still have to pass at terribly difficult math test…) I hate comment spam - to me it’s the interweb equivalent of someone walking their dog on your lawn and leaving a poop. But on the other hand I know it can be a bit frustrating to see your comment not be displayed immediately. So, we’ll see how it goes…if problems arise I’ll turn moderation back on. continue reading...
The first poll about chickens (the original question, the actual poll, and the results summarized) was so interesting to me, that I’d like to make polls a semi-regular feature on Just Hungry. I think that polls and the answers to them on difficult issues can help qualify one’s thinking on the subject. So, here is another one for you about on the subject of the ethics of eating. The subject is cloned animals.
Yesterday the The U.S. government approved the sale of food from cloned animals. Here is the Food and Drug Administration’s report. The European Union issued a public call for consultation on the scientific issues regarding food derived from cloned animals. The draft opinion of the agency (link, PDF) is that such food is safe for human consumption.
How do you feel about this? Remember that food from cloned animals would include eggs, milk and milk products as well as meat. Please include your opinions in the comments to the poll too.
Here are some rambling thoughts on why, to paraphrase the title of a book, Japanese People Aren’t That Fat. continue reading...
Around this time last year I immersed myself in studying the subject of losing weight. I read a lot of related sites and blogs, bought a few books, and joined some online programs. Since you may be in that situation right now, still flushed with the determination to carry out your New Year’s resolutions, here are some of my thoughts about online diet programs. continue reading...
A couple of years ago, I wrote about our visit to a most unusual Zürich restaurant, the blindekuh, where sighted people can experience what it’s like to dine in total darkness. Yesterday it was announced that the founder of the chain Stefan Zappa, was honored as the Swiss Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
According to the story, “The “Blind-Liecht” charitable foundation was set up in December 1998 by Zappa, a partially sighted psychologist, with help from three other blind people.”
It’s still the most unusual restaurant experience I’ve ever had. If you have a chance to visit Zürich, I’d highly recommend a visit there if you want a dinner you’ll never forget. There is a blindekuh restaurant (it seems it’s officially spelled in lowercase) in Basel also.
The raffle results for Menu For Hope have been announced on Chez Pim. This year, $91,188.00 was raised. Wow. Thank you to everyone who bought raffle tickets, and to my fellow food bloggers who offered such a great variety of prizes - a collective pat on our well padded backs!
The winner of the Just Hungry prize of a box of 53 bars of Swiss chocolate is Sonja. Sonja please get in touch with me at maki at makikoitoh dot com so we can discuss the where, how and whats of your prize. (I will not, however, be responsible for Sonja’s dental bills at the end of the year :))
It may well be that 2008 is the year when questions of ethics and choice really come to the fore. In the UK, coincidentally or not three major TV programmes on the subject have been airing this week. As I mentioned earlier the BBC is airing a second season (series) of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, a program about the slaughtering of animals for human consumption. On Channel 4, two heavyweights of the TV cooking world, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, are tackling the issue of battery raised chickens. In the U.S. Michael Pollan, author of the seminal The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a new book out, In Defense Of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (I haven’t read this yet). Here in Switzerland, the leading supermarket chain stopped selling traditionally raised fois gras, at least in the German speaking parts of the country.
I don’t really have hard-and-fast rules on food. I’m not a diehard locavore, I’m not a ethically-motivated vegan, I buy conventionally farmed produce as well as organic. One food I do have a firm line on is chicken. Ever since I found out in what conditions factory farmed chickens are raised, I have only bought organically raised ‘happy’ chickens and eggs, as I wrote about two years ago. I think that chicken is a sort of bottom line type of food. A lot of people nowadays may be avoiding red meat and pork (is pork a red or white meat? I’m never sure), but they do eat chicken. And even if you don’t eat chicken, you may eat eggs.
So, I’m curious. What are your personal policies when it comes to chicken? I’ ve put up a poll about it - please vote, and tell me your opinion in the comments there.
I just realised that Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, the BBC Three show that brings you into a real working abattoir, is also back for another series (season) starting tonight at 10:30PM BT/11:30PM CET (also repeated at 12:45AM/1:45AM). I mentioned it yesterday as one of my top food TV shows of last year. It will be shown every night for this week, and the lineup looks interesting, to say the least. They are going for the baby animals…
- Monday (today): Suckling Pig
- Tuesday: Kid Goat
- Wednesday: Veal
- Thursday: Milk Fed Lamb
- Friday: Omnibus (recap of the week I guess)
For more information, see the BBC Three site.
My favorite food tv show is back! Plus, a look back at the best and worst of food television in 2007. continue reading...
I have yet another cold, and am not in a food mood. So I’m writing elsewhere, about language and Wii. continue reading...
Thank you so much for your kind words of condolence. 2007 has certainly been a year of ups and downs, but I feel that 2008 will be a big year somehow, and I’m feeling quite excited about it.
We were in the habit of toasting the arrival of the new year every year with Martha with a little champagne or local sparkling apple wine (Blauacher Chlöpfmoscht, with a few nibbles (apero) to go along. We’ll be keeping up that tradition by ourselves now. continue reading...
A little about Martha Wyss-Gerber, who passed away in the early dawn of December 26th. continue reading...
Martha, Max’s mother, passed away quietly in her sleep last night.
We were prepared for it, I suppose, but you can’t really be fully prepared for the passing of a parent either.
There are a few articles that I’ve already written, which will be posted here and on Just Bento over the next few days but replying to emails and comments etc. will be slow. Thanks for your understanding.
This is the very last day you can donate to Menu For Hope! And a nice bonus - take a look at the beautiful poem about Lesotho here by Rethabile. (Yes, if you also read Just Bento you’re getting this in double…but it’s a poem worth visiting more than once!)
Just Bento and Just Hungry (which is mostly me anyway) are taking a few days off to take care of a ton of offline duties. (Thank you for your nice emails…we’re hanging in around here.)
We decided not to get a tree this year, so the only Christmas decoration of sorts we have up is this wallhanging/advent calendar, that I finally finished last week.
In this day and age when things I have made or worked on exist only in digital form, it’s really grounding and satisfying to create something that has a physical form and presence, that I can touch and hold. That includes food too. There’s nothing better than the warm feeling you get when your friends and family’s faces light up when you present them with delicious food that you made with your own hands. Especially around the holidays.
Happy Holidays everyone!
We received a PR release the other day from LeShop, Migros’ home food delivery web site, that they are no longer going to be selling traditionally raised (with the gavage method of force-feeding) foie gras to German speaking Switzerland. This didn’t come about because of government legislation, but apparently was a decision made by Migros, following the results of customer surveys which were overwhelmingly against gavage. continue reading...
The nuttiest TV food show I’ve ever seen aired last night. Despite the rather somber mood around here these days, we were laughing out loud several times as we watched it. If you missed it you’ll want to catch a rerun. continue reading...
Some time ago, I realized that I was often using food to deal with anxiety and stress. I can’t say I’ve gotten out of that habit totally, but I know the symptoms now and can deal with them a bit better. One way is to read about food instead. I’m sure I’m not the only one who takes cookbooks to read in bed. continue reading...
A look at preorder New Year’s feasts in Japan. continue reading...
I realize that compared to a lot of other food blogs, I don’t get that personal on this blog most of the time. I just wanted to mention though that posting may slow down a bit for a while. I know that I’ve promised some articles such as one on pressure cooking, and I had planned some festive Christmas-y recipes and such. However, yesterday we heard that Max’s mother Martha, who is in a nursing home, has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. So, it will be a rather somber Christmas around here.
My pressure cooker actually used to belong to Martha, until she went into the home a couple of years ago. Except for replacing the rubber gasket, it’s as good as the day she bought it more than 20 years ago. She used it all the time, mainly for steaming potatoes, but for a few other things too. I hope to put those recipes up here in due course.
In the meantime, here is her authentic Swiss cheese fondue recipe, which is the absolute best I’ve ever had. A cheese fondue with crusty bread was always one of our favorite meals to have together.
As I’ve mentioned her before several times, I’m not a diehard locavore. But I do try to keep an eye on how far my food has travelled to get to me. Admittedly, many of my seasonings and such have travelled a long way, because I need my Japanese food and I’m here in the middle of Europe. For fresh produce and meats and things like that I do try to buy things that haven’t travelled too far as much as I can. I think I’ve fairly typical in that respect these days. continue reading...
I’ve been following a certain story in the UK with interest. A rich old lady died recently there, and in her will, she left her £10 million estate to the owners of her favorite Chinese restaurant. The family (actually her nieces and nephews) contested the will, as you might expect. On Friday, the High Court upheld the will. continue reading...
Just Hungry is happy to announce that once again, we’re donating a prize for Menu For Hope, now in its 4th year. Menu for Hope is an annual charity event contributed to by food bloggers around the world. It was instigated by Pim of Chez Pim, and this year’s regional European host is Fanny of foodbeam.
And what is Just Hungry donating? Just Think Chocolate… continue reading...
Here’s another bit of food related shopping news for my fellow Swiss residents, expat or not. I recently got an email about a new site called The Cheese Club. They are still in pre-launch mode - the official launch is scheduled for February. One thing that makes they quite interesting is that they are run by an English and Swiss couple and will be selling British cheeses, as well as Swiss and Spanish cheeses. As far as I know, British cheeses aren’t that widely available here in Switzerland (Jelmoli has a limited selection, at least in Zürich) so this could be good news for a lot of people. (There really is no substitute for a good Stilton, for example.)
Although they haven’t officially opened yet, they are already selling a cheese tasting pack, which includes wedges of blue Stilton and Wensleydale, for 69 CHF. They guarantee delivery by December 21st. Could be a great gift for your favorite homesick Brit!
At the moment I am reading a book called The Kitchen. It’s been reissued with another book by the same author, Nicolas Freeling, as The Kitchen and The Cook, both of which were written in the post-World War II period. I’m reading it as slowly as I can, because it is a book to savor.
One of the early passages in The Kitchen caught my eye, where the author describes the hands of a cook. continue reading...
Just a poke to remind everyone that the 4th anniversary book giveaway / “Food Memories” mini-contest ends today, at 1 minute before midnight CET. That’s 11pm GMT, 6pm Eastern, 5pm Central, 3pm Pacific, 9am Saturday in Tokyo, etc. There are already many wonderful personal stories…add your own! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!
A very special limited edition olive oil which comes from Siracusa, Sicily via Zürich, Switzerland. continue reading...
This hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for me health wise. First there was the ‘acute tonsilitis’ thing (that is much better, thanks for your nice notes!) Now I have a self-inflicted case of Whisk Elbow. That’s where you 1) forget to charge your cordless electric whisk, 2) have an uncontrollable urge to make some little almond cakes which use the classic French method of whipping the eggs with sugar over a hot-water bath until they become a foamy, lemony-yellow mass of heaven, and 3) do it by hand with a wonky whisk. Now I have shooting pains from my elbow running down my forearm.
The moral of this story: When you have a cake urge, and your electric equipment is kaput, don’t be a hero. Go to the store and buy one. Something to remember if you’ll be doing a lot of holiday baking and your muscles are not trained up for heavy-duty whipping. (eh…)
(And by the way, no I do not own a KitchenAid. Whenever I look at one, I see the price - they cost more than 650CHF (about US $580) here - and think: For that I could go away for a nice weekend in, say, Aix-en-Provence, or Florence, or Strasbourg, or even Paris. I’d rather do that anytime! And so I do. Whenever I feel the urge for a quick getaway, I go look at a KitchenAid mixer, and make do with my cheap electric whisk.)
On a much happier note, there are already some great responses to the book giveaway mini-contest. Come and share your own food memories too, for a chance at a great book!
A Swiss company that sells hundreds of squash and pumpkin seed varieties. continue reading...
I originally intended to tweak the innards of the site a bit to improve performance and readability - the front page was getting rather (very) unwieldly. That somehow escalated more and more, as they do if you are a web geek taking a busman’s holiday*, and now the site has had a complete makeover. (Yet again. It’s the 5th re-design in 4 years.) For good measure I have given it a Christmas look, to stay in place for the next month. Ho ho ho.
Things should work properly, but if they don’t, please let me know.
(And yes, that new Swiss chocolate sponsor on the right does ship internationally.) continue reading...
I’m still not officially back :) but a reader from Canada had a question in the comments here, which I cannot answer. So, I ask any Canadian residents out there. Do you know of any Canadian sources (or places that will ship food items to Canada) for Japanese food, specifically umeboshi?
I am going to try to compile a worldwide Japanese shopping source list soon, since this type of question does come up all the time.
(For umeboshi specifically, if you can’t find it locally at an Asian or Japanese grocery, I’d also try health stores since umeboshi is a highly revered food amongst the macrobiotic set.)
OK, let me shuffle back to the inert/letting the antibiotics do their job state now….
I just realized that the kuri squash and apple maple pudding recipe is actually the 200th recipe posted on Just Hungry. 200 spread out over almost 4 years may not seem like that much, but every one of them has been tried and tested, in most cases repeatedly, so…it actually is quite a lot for me! Judging from the comments and email I get, most of them seem to work fairly well for people, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
(I also realized that ‘pudding’ may not be the right name for it…it’s more like a pie, without the crust. Though if you chill it before eating, it does sort of become a squash-cream pudding. I’ll leave the name as is though - whatever it may be called, it’s really delicious!) continue reading...
Many people who are interested in cooking and food are probably interested in the whole ‘shelter’ area - home design, architecture, crafts, gardening, and all kinds of domestic subjects. At least, I am. So it was very sad news indeed to hear that House & Garden will cease publication as of the December 2007 issue - even though I haven’t picked up an issue for longer than I can remember. (I guess there were lots of people like me in that respect, which is a reason why they did fold.) The web site is still up, though there’s no indication of how long it will be there. For people interested in the past history of this venerable publication, The Online Books Page has a list of links to archived editions from 1911 to 1922. Browsing through those old pages makes for some fascinating reading. continue reading...
Please stop with the Flash-only sites. If you must have a Flash site, please provide a plain HTML alternative, for those of us who might want to visit your site in a hurry, or on our Plain Jane cell phones.
For goodness sake, please get rid of those annoying, meaningless, splash pages. That is so 1998.
You want a useful front page that your customers would really appreciate? Put your address, your reservation phone number, and hours of operation there.
Please take a little time to convert your menu to HTML. Stop with the PDF-only menus! If you must, provide a ‘typical’ menu in HTML and then a link to your current PDF menu. But PDF-only menus? I’m not even going to bother. And this is coming from someone who makes their living from PDF programming.
AND FOR CRYING OUT LOUD STOP WITH THE AUTOMATICALLY PLAYING MUSIC!
Thank you. Have a great day.