Monday, October 26, 2015

A meditation on Tootsie Rolls

The four-year-old has a nut allergy, so we keep a close eye out on the ingredient list for a lot of treats -- for instance, Halloween candy.  So when my husband found a big bag of individually wrapped candy with nuts conspicuously absent from the package list, he bought it.  The primary component seems to be Tootsie Rolls, which unfortunately I am a sucker for.

Within the first several days I had eaten most of the littlest rolls, which used to be the only size Tootsie Rolls came in.  Then I started to be tempted by the medium size, and the big ones are still there taunting me.  I wish kids would show up and eat this dumb stuff!  It's much easier when my husband buys Halloween candy that I don't like.

I don't know why I am such a sucker for these candies, made from a secret recipe involving chocolate and glue.  They stick to the roof of your mouth, and to your teeth; even after you've finished eating them they're still there.  And speaking of suckers, there are some Tootsie Pops in there too!

Just to make this art-related, whenever I see a Tootsie Pop I think of the famous 1956 collage by the British artist Richard Hamilton, "Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing."  Some art historians call this the first piece of Pop Art, the precursor of Warhol, Oldenburg and all the rest.  You will notice that the hunky guy is holding a Tootsie Pop.

I have a great book on Pop Art written by a Brit, who unfortunately doesn't know a Tootsie Pop from a hole in the ground.  He writes:  "On the tennis racket sleeve being toted for some inscrutable reason by the muscle builder at the left stands the word POP, in yellow on red."  I get a big laugh every time I think of that remark.  Makes you question some of the other pronouncements that you read in art history books.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Agriculture 2015 -- epic fail

We had four or five tomato plants this summer, not that you would have noticed.  Between the deer, the groundhogs, the squirrels and god knows what else, maybe orangutans, we got nothing from our plants until a week ago.  A couple of tomatoes got to be fair-sized in August and even started to turn color, but were grabbed by the critters before we could pick them.   I don't think any of them ever got to be red.

Finally in mid-September the Roma started to have some fruit, and a week ago Ken decided he'd had it -- he picked what was on the plants, pulled them out and threw them out for the yard waste pickeup.

Here is 100% of our tomato crop for 2015, not occupying very much space on the kitchen table.

In the subsequent week, the green tomatoes turned red, one of the red ones went bad, and I decided it was high time to cook them up and be done with them.

Here's half of our tomato crop for 2015; the other half was on Ken's plate.  Puny and pathetic as they looked on the kitchen table, they did caramelize nicely and made a rich side for a particularly delicious trout.

Hardly worth the trouble, wouldn't you say?  We've had bad tomato years in the past but nothing like this.  Next year we'll probably not even try.  An ignominious end to a decades-long tomato-growing career.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Faux food

Japanese restaurants frequently put plastic food in display cases or even out on tables to lure in diners, or to show the variety of their menus.  I didn't make enough of a study to determine whether the practice is also helpful to non-Japanese speakers -- you can't point to that plate of food if the plate is out on the sidewalk.

I have pathetically little experience with ordering food in Japan, despite two weeks on the ground.  On my first visit, five years ago, I was always accompanied by Japanese speakers who not only knew how to read the menu, but knew what was the best thing on it.  On my most recent visit, an organized tour, our meals were generally pre-ordered and simply appeared on the table.  There was no plastic food in any of the restaurants we visited.

But I saw plenty of it on the streets, and it did look pretty good.  As I review the photos, I can barely tell the difference between the plastic food and the real stuff!

Monday, September 21, 2015


Just as we (used to) love our fondue, Japanese love to sit around a hot bubbling pot and cook their own savory tidbits.  Shabu-shabu starts with a pot of broth bubbling over a burner; ours came to the table full of goodies.  You can identify tofu, black beans, enoki mushrooms and spinach but I don't remember what the bread-like chunks were.  Maybe bread?

You dunk all the food below the surface and bring it out wet and savory.  Then comes your plate of paper-thin sliced pork -- two different kinds, you will notice, each with a different pattern of marbled fat.  You put a slice into the pot for a minute or two, then fish it out and chow down.

Finally after you've eaten and eaten and eaten, the waitress brings a bowl of noodles to put in the (sort of) empty pot of  broth.  We were so stuffed that we barely touched them.  I hope they put the leftovers out for some homeless people, because a whole lot of homeless people could have had a fine dinner.

The food was great but the excess was off-putting.  What you see in the pot was for four people (I think it could have served six or seven easily) and the plate of pork was for two.

And I didn't mention the three courses that came before the pot -- exquisite plates of mystery food.

If I could have done it over again, I'd have skipped the appetizers and gathered six people, not four, around our pot.  And if I could have done it over again, I'd like to gather around that hot pot in January, not July.

But that's quibbling; the food was both delicious and beautiful.  I didn't get the feeling that it was just a tourist meal, although I would recommend it to any tourist.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fish market / Japan 4

Besides fish, there were plenty of other sea creatures for sale in the fish market; some with shells, some without.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fish market / Japan 3

Squid and octopus are plentiful and popular in Japan, with lots of choices in the fish market.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fish market / Japan 2

Lots of whole fish of varieties we never see at home -- including one still swimming in its plastic bag of water.  And, just like in Russia, some nice big fish heads for your stew.