chestnut reveals its hidden treasure

chestnut reveals it's hidden treasure

For several weeks now a big tree near the house has been throwing spiny pods as me whenever I pass. They litter the path and sting my toes through my sandals on early morning garbage detail. Except annoying, I didn’t know what they were. I grew up near the ocean, so to me they looked like a sort of land-urchin. This week the green pods started turning brown and splitting open to reveal the treasures contained within: chestnuts. (more…)


Review – Kitchen
by Banana Yoshimoto

Banana Yoshimoto pondering the phlosphical meaning of a sundae, perhaps.

Banana Yoshimoto pondering the phlosphical meaning of a sundae, perhaps.

When it was first published in the 80s, Banana Yoshimoto’s first novel quickly flew to the best seller list and earned the young writer many awards. Critics said she captured the voice of young Japan. A few years later she’s been translated — and translated well — into English. I had never heard of her until I arrived in Japan. I am so happy her writing has become a part o my life. Even today, a quarter century later, her writing remains fresh and relevant.

The stories is simple, yet deeply complex and emotional. In Kitchen‘s two slim and graceful novellas Yoshimoto tackles love, and loss, death, grief; and the ever prickly topics of sexuality and gender identity. Through the darkest of times, Yoshimoto’s voice rings through with optimism and strength. Sometimes all you need is a good bowl of katsudon to bring you back down to earth.

Away from home and away from your regular routine, still looking for meaningful employment and good friends. That’s when homesickness tends to sets.  We’re lucky to have a big yard here, and our roommate is an intrepid gardener and happy to have help. It has definitely helped ease me into life in Japan, giving me something positive to focus on in the face of linguistic and cultural barriers. Wrestling the garden free of bamboo was a lot of work, but the soil here is deep and rich and, just like the bamboo, veggies also grow quickly.

This afternoon the chives, dill and radishes were begging to be eaten. It’s hot and humid out; a perfect day for  potato salad.

spud salad.

spud salad.

Potato Salad with Zinggg

1 handful fresh dill
1 handful fresh chives
1-2 cloves garlic (crushed and chopped fine)
15 small potatoes
2 small red peppers
4-5 radishes (include some greens for an extra kick)
1 egg (hardboiled, chopped)
1/4 cup mayonaise (or more… I’m trying to be healthy, here)
wasabi paste (for a little Japanese twist)
any other crunch fresh veggies you chose
salt and peppa’ to taste, squirt ‘o lemon if you’ve got it.

Boil the potatoes briefly until they’re on the al dente side of done (I don’t like my salad to turn to mush). Boil your egg. While they’re cooking snip your chives and dill into a bowl, grind in some salt and pepper, chop up the garlic, radishes, red peppers and toss ’em in with the herbs and mix it all around. In a little dish scoop in your mayo and add the wasabi paste until it’s as hot as you can handle. Run the cooked spuds under cold water to cool them down. Cut into quarters. Let them cool some more while you unpeel your hardboiled egg and chop that up. Finally, mix together the spuds and other stuff with the wasabi-mayonaise. Eat it right away or put it in the fridge.