enjoying ice cream under curfew

mcconnells
For the second day in a row, in mid-afternoon, I expressed my desire for McConnell’s soft serve. For the second day in a row, my request was quickly dismissed as being very foolish. “No, Dianne,”my husband reiterated firmly at the second request. “What’s the matter with you? ” I get asked that question frequently by him and have learned to ignore it.
scooper
I easily assured myself he was incorrect. It didn’t seem the least bit risky in my assessment. Get into the small shop, order ice cream and get out. All I had to do was get in my car, drive a few blocks and order the damn ice cream. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out the danger of such an action. I had no deviant plans to lick the server’s scoop or the scooper.I had no plans to join anyone else sitting at a table. I would be well behaved, polite and judicious. Why didn’t I just do it, rather than ask him first? OK, I needed him to say no, because at some level, I needed to be stopped. And no one knew that better than he did.

At the first ice cream request brush – off, I was easily put off by his refusal to cooperate with my simple, easily executed suggestion. I shut up. I even felt a bit apologetic for asking. By the second day, I had begun to feel as if having some fresh-scooped was my birthright. I began to pout and/or scowl, maybe both at the same time?. I did understand the threat my husband described, but my desire for a treat overwhelmed what was clearly his common sense understanding of the situation.
kid eating ice cream
The threat of covid 19 had bumped up his rationale processes to that of a mature, responsible adult. It had reduced mine to that of a self-centered pre-schooler. And so it goes.
ice cream flavors
We struck a deal that we’d drive together to McConnell’s and see how busy they were. That would determine his decision to buy some ice cream or drive away. I remained hopeful in the car, noting, as we approached the parking lot, only two lonely cars. He emerged from the store within a few minutes with a half smile on his face, delivering to me a white paper bag containing one solid quart of half vanilla and half caramel soft frozen yogurt, piled high under a curved clear plastic lid. It made this child happy for many minutes. The large size was so I would not bother him again. I haven’t. In his own hand, he clutched a small chocolate chip cone. It was a win/win.
I’ve now had five Japanese tea- cup servings of my beloved ice cream without bothering anybody. I have to add he always notices my trips to the freezer, because we both know I don’t need the calories. His face shows his disapproval, but he doesn’t say anything. Fortunately. No rain on my parade.
corona
When we do leave the house these covid days to go for a walk, he is Johnny on the spot to remind me when I am not paying attention to the determined 6′ standard of separation .
The “rules”are always in his consciousness, infrequently in mine. I love him for keeping me safe and tolerating my lack of awareness and la dee dah attitude.
Soon after meeting me many years ago, my lovely sister-in-law, a serious accountant, told me she had me pegged as a “gather rosebuds while ye may” type. I don’t disagree. If not now, when?
gather

An Alternate Universe?

Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in an alternate universe here in Kyoto. It can be a little bit like the beginning of a “once upon a time” story.  Now I’m in the story.

After many years of coming here, I admit, most likely I am seeing Kyoto with rose colored glasses.  I like it this way.

The streets and sidewalks are immaculate.  There are few trash cans.  People take their trash with them if there is no where to dispose of it while out and about.  Storefront sidewalks are swept daily and washed frequently.

There is a  level of politeness and respect for others that is omnipresent.  It makes life very pleasant.  You are rarely ignored and always paid attention to in a store or restaurant. People seem to take their jobs seriously  and endeavor to do their best at them.  This attitude becomes contagious.

Continue reading “An Alternate Universe?”

Japan’s Best Secret?

If dearly departed Anthony Bourdain hadn’t gone on and on about it, we never would have discovered this small treasure hidden in plain sight and literally around every corner. We would have missed the fun of being captivated by it!  I’m not talking about some high fallutin’ exotic something that must be hunted down by experts in the field..  Merely a humble but amazingly delicious Japanese egg salad sandwich on the shelves at every convenience (kombini) store in town, but brought to perfection by Lawsons and the Japanese penchant for taking an idea and improving on it!  For about $2!  ON white bread, no crusts.  The simplicity of it will melt your heart and capture your taste buds too.

“Eating the Lawson Egg sandwich is kind of like being cradled by a proverbial maternal instinct in sandwich form. ” Stenberg-film, photo,travel.

Just as we crave Mexican food when returning to CA after a trip, so it is that as soon as possible after entering Japan, we head for Lawson’s for our hit of an egg salad sandwich.  We leave the store smiling.

During our recent threat from typhoon #19, we decided we ‘d better store a few food supplies “just in case.” My husband took to boiling eggs.  Little did I know he was planning to keep us alive by recreating the Japanese egg salad sandwich.

An ingredient appeared in our kitchen I wasn’t familiar with.  It was a large plastic jar of Kewpie Mayonnaise he’d bought at the grocery store.  He’d quietly done some research, as is his way as a scientist, discovered that Kewpie might just be the source of the magic, saving it for just the right moment. The Japanese take their mayo seriously and now we know why.  It’s got great flavor, and goes farther than American brands in pulling it all together.

All we got from the storm was a rainy day.  But just as we were deciding whether or not to venture out for lunch, he suggested we try his egg salad sandwich. It was spot on!  We were both happy.  My husband, particularly so.

We were both so pleased with his attempt to reproduce the umami of the sandwich , that my husband checked with Amazon, and sure enough, a jar of Kewpie can be ordered online from them at home. Good to know on the off chance a typhoon heads our way in CA, although my Mother always told me to guard against eating anything with mayonnaise that hadn’t been refrigerated.

If you’re not coming to Japan in the near future, you can give the egg salad phenomena a try at home,:https://youtu.be/PVN5VurqAxA.

Don’t forget the Japanese mayo!

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Food, Glorious Food

Kyoto has lots of restaurants.  All kinds of restaurants.  All kinds of food.  We like many places that we’ve tried, happily returning each time we visit.  The standards are high here.  The food is always well prepared, of high quality and very fresh. You won’t find overcooked fish.  The offerings are usually a seasonal celebration. Expect bamboo shoots and mushrooms as soon as they’re in season.  Contrary to popular opinion, sushi comprises only one small option of food that’s available.  Sashimi is usually served as a small appetizer.  Unless you’re at a sushi restaurant, the menus are diverse.

Many restaurant are small, so reservations are often essential.  Having a restaurant here is a labor of love, never a get rich quick scheme. That said, given the number of small restaurants, I assume the start-up process to open a restaurant is not prohibitively expensive.

My husband has stacks of business cards from the places we’ve eaten and enjoyed.  Unfortunately, most of them are written in Japanese, so they’re of little or no use. We’re always interested in discovering “new” places to eat when we come to Kyoto as well as returning to our old familiars. Our neighborhood is ripe with opportunities.

One of our dear friends here, Robert Yellin, has a particularly keen talent to find great restaurants with great chefs. His ability in seeking out fine restaurants rivals his ability to find the best Japanese ceramics to sell and display in his wonderful not-to-be-missed-if -you-like ceramics-gallery near the Philosopher’s Walk!. A highlight of our visits to Kyoto always includes our dinner with Robert.

This year, he outdid our expectations, sharing an extraordinary new restaurant in his neighborhood called  Farmoon. Continue reading “Food, Glorious Food”

Itakakimasu!

kids

I know people who visit England and after a little time spent there, return to the USA speaking with an English Accent. I haven’t acquired an English accent, nor a Japanese one, but I have deliberately acquired the Japanese version of saying Grace before meals.

It’s quick. It’s easy once you’ve said the word 50 or more times. It makes the beginning of a meal a special event! If you’re eating with Japanese friends in Japan it’s polite to join them in saying itadakimasu!  It builds community!  It will elevate your dining experience!

Itakdakimasu. Spoken before eating to acknowledge and be thankful for all that came before the food appeared on a plate in front of you. That includes farmers, organisms, fields, vendors, cooks, etc, not to mention the living plants/animals that have given their lives for this meal. It’s all-encompassing and a meaningful way to focus on what you are about to eat.  A moment of raised consciousness never hurt anyone.   Itadakimasu has no broader religious connotations.   I think it’s not a custom that will cause inner conflicts to arise.  In other words, It’s not like a Jew singing a Christmas carol.

japanese dinner

The Meaning of “Itadakimasu”
いただく (Itadaku) is a phrase that is very polite with the meaning “to take.”

In this sense, the head is bowed with the hands held, palms up, higher than the head to receive an item. It is currently used when eating because you are taking a very precious gift of another organism’s life.

The origins of this are based on Buddhism and the belief that everything has a spirit that guides it. By taking spirits from their origins and using them to replenish yourself, you are giving honor and gratitude to the organisms that originally housed those spirits.

It is very disrespectful to eat someone else’s meal without properly giving thanks to them for making such food. Even if you made the meal yourself, you are still giving respect to the lives used in its creation.  nihongoshark.com

I think saying itadakimasu is a lovely custom. I’ve overcome the awkwardness I originally felt when I first began to say it. It’s become a brief but essential part of meal time now.

Try it, and let me know what you think.