...from out on the branches, fifteen feet above the ground, i could see a larger horizon, i could further imagine the vastness of our many landscapes...

17 March 2010

This Japanese Life

One of my most enjoyable (and successful) forms of meditation involves turning the kitchen upside down: pots and pans pile up in the sink, smatterings of spices dust the counter (and floor and sometimes my face), water and oil splatters my apron, pieces of what I am cooking and with what I have cooked are strewn about the kitchen....Our apartment is small and our kitchen can barely pass for a kitchen by any Western standards: tiny and counter space the size of a cutting board.

Our stove is a glamorous camp stove at best and the oven nothing more than a 4-setting toaster oven. When I cook a real meal the table is my staging area, the counter where I chop, the floor has a burn from where I have had to place pots and pans bubbling with various nibblings...It gets messy and cooking usually means vacuuming because of the mess I have created, and the stress I have released!

The process usually starts like this: 3:45 rolls around and I have nothing left to do at work so, until my 4:10 release, I scroll my cooking applications in my iPhone. By 4:10 I usually have enough ideas and ambitions to feed me and Matthew for months but the reality of the Japanese grocery store quickly puts me in check (and demands major flexibility and creativity). I bike to the grocery store imagining our late night meal (unfortunately, Matthew isn't home until about 10 each night) and once there stroll the isles, thinking of alternatives to what the recipes call for and the store undoubtedly lacks. Will we drink tonight? Should we have whiskey, wine or sake? What will go with the meal? Most nights....water.

Once home, I dump the groceries into assorted piles: that's for salad, main dish, side dish, and there, dessert.....(most of the time I don't go that fancy though).

As a compliment to this meditation, I plug in my phone and pull up a story from This American Life. Although my mind wanders from this to that while I chop, sauté, puree, boil and fry, I enjoy the background words of a good story. Depending on the extravagance of the meal, I will listen to two episodes. If you've read my other posts, the other obvious alternative is Nina Simone. Honestly, if you're ever in the need for a serious mood lifter put on a Nina Simone album, open your fridge, take out some veggies and chop. You don't even have to make anything....but I promise you that by the time you have an onion sautéing and you're into song three on any of her albums, you'll not only want to make something edible, but you'll be calling someone over to join you (have them pick up some red wine!).

Tonight's menu: apple squash soup ( a solid staple), garlic roasted asparagus, arugula salad with honey vinaigrette and beets with a hazelnut garlic dressing. Itadakimas! (although, as the cook, I technically wouldn't say that, but it's the closest thing to bon appetit the Japanese have...it means I will receive).

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