Ginkgo Nuts

In one of my earlier notes I posted having eaten some kind of green bean I thought might be a soybean.  It was actually a ginkgo nut. 

In Shanghai there were women collecting something from the trees in the fall, and I asked my tutor who told us it was ginkgo nuts.  I didn’t know ginkgo trees had nuts, and never actually saw a ginkgo nut let alone ate one. 

Apparently only female ginkgo trees have these nuts which grow sort of like plums and have a terrible smell.  Once they have been peeled they look something like a pistachio nut, still on the shell.  Yesterday I saw some in shells at the foreign grocery store – including the English name. 

Last night, at yet another Yakatori restaurant I actually ordered ginkgo nuts so I could be sure.  Three nuts (without the smelly plum part, or the shell) came on a skewer.  They are good – not hard like most nuts, more chewy, and sometimes they have have a pine-ish flavor, sometimes not.  Here they seem to be served grilled or fried.  I’m sure there are additional ways as well. 

Midwestern girl that I am, you would think I would have known if I was eating a soy bean…

Eating Tempura

Monday, December 6, 2010 at 9:39am

Tempura seems to be the ultimate fried food.  On Friday for lunch we had two pieces of tempura as a part of a set menu.  One was a shrimp – delicious and delicate.  It came with the head and tail on, but we chose NOT to eat them.  The second piece was some kind of long pepper.

Friday night I ate curry soup, which requires a post of its own.  It also came with a tempura shrimp and two tempura green beans.  The shrimp was good, but not as good as the one we ate for lunch.  The beans were completely amazing.

Saturday night we decided to eat in a tempura restaurant.  We selected it since it was located in the complex where we are staying and we could find it on a map.  Not the strongest criteria.  We sat at the counter.  I love sitting at the counter, or bar in Japan.  In the US, Dean loves sitting at the bar, but my legs get tired since they are not that long.  The counters or bars here in Japanese restaurants are just my size!  Sitting at the bar we could watch the chef cooking the tempura.  We shared a set meal which was made up of 6-8 small courses.

It started with pickles and quickly moved to various pieces of fish.  Shrimp was served in two pieces – one was the body and the other was the head.  I think each of the shrimp was just sliced in half down the middle.  It was good, we did not eat much of our shrimp heads.

Our place settings included a bowl for some grated daikon and sauce, and a small dish to put the pieces we did not eat into.  Like the shrimp heads…

I think we had two or three pieces of fish, all tasty and then we saw the eel come up for cooking.  I’ve seen live eels at Chinese groceries in the US, and in the markets in China but had not eaten one before (at least not to my knowledge).  I was afraid.  It came in a large snake-like piece, with some skin.  I confess a serious feeling of dread.  But Dean popped a piece into his mouth and said it was good. He was right – just like eating fish.

After the eel, our waitress told us the next course was the daily special.  She reported it was fish stomach, and showed us on the menu.  I was not familiar with it.  She also told us that most foreigners don’t like it and offered us something else.  We decided we would have plenty of time to eat a fish stomach over the next two years and had lotus root instead.

We also had eggplant, some kind of squid, mushroom and some kind of bean that looks like a grape.  We had these beans with our sushi too, I think they might be soy beans but I am not sure.

The final course was scallops, they were available tempura style, or on rice or in soup.  We had them on rice, and miso soup came on the side.  The scallops were small, and kind of mixed into a brown sauce then fried up together en masse.  I was not sure about this, but they were delicious.  It was also the second time we have had miso soup with tiny clams in it.  They are hard to eat, but delicious.

The meal ended with green tea, some kind of jelly and jellied beans, they were better than they sound.  Tempura is interesting, since you really eat just one or two pieces of each item, you can eat lots of different things.  The tempura coating also keeps most of the food from tasting oily.  Maybe in time I will even like shrimp heads.

Oh beautiful tomato

Today is December 2 in this island nation.  How can the cherry tomatoes taste so good?  The first one I ate could have been a fluke.  It was randomly cut in half and placed on tip of my take out sushi.  Weird, I thought but I ate it anyway.  Amazing.

Later that night, on a salad.  The next night at happy hour, on a vegetable tray.  Today at breakfast on a vegetable tray.

I am considering buying a large batch of them at the grocery store and just eating them.  They taste like tomatoes fresh from the sun.  Amazing.  delicious.

First Sushi dinner in Tokyo – for the food obsessed

Now I love sushi, and often eat it for lunch at home.  I think I could eat it everyday if possible and I ate it for two meals yesterday.

Last night’s dinner was something else.  It was my first time to a real sushi restaurant in Japan.  You enter this restaurant through a small garden.  I wanted to stop and take pictures, it was so charming.  Next they took out coats and offered us a table or the bar. As we came in they were all yelling some kind of welcome.  It scared me a little at first.  At other various times during the meal they would all yell things out – I have no idea why.

Of course I wanted to sit at the bar.  Sitting at the bar means you get a bar menu, and order from the sushi chef, but you also get to watch the sushi in development.

We ordered sets with 6 pieces each.  The chef cut each of mine in half, which was amazing.  I could enjoy each bite instead of worrying about how to keep my mouth shut while chewing.  Each person had a wooden base, which a smooth top as a plate.  When they chef finished each piece, he just put it directly on the plate.

Our chef was grating wasabi – the big green root right onto a special kind of wasabi grater.  It did not taste like powdered wasabi at all.  It  was strong and delicious.  Also, every piece of sushi came out perfectly seasoned with something.  There was no need for soy sauce of any sort.

We ate three kinds of tuna, one kind of salmon and some other fish I did not know.  Apparently I will be studying my fish names.  Amazingly the salmon roe “ikura” which are pretty standard on NYC menus, were beyond delicious.  Generally I find them fishy and salty.  These were a dream.  I wanted to order another.  Then there was the sea urchin “uni”,  Its orange ovaries are the delicacy.  I did not like this, surprisingly Dean did.  I hope to acquire this taste.

Dean ended the meal with some miso soup which had tiny delicious clams in it.  I just ended with green tea.  It was delicious and perfect.

Here is the conversation that ended our meal:

Linda: “Our chef was terrific”

Owner: “I hope so, he is my husband”

Linda: “How nice to be married to such a talented sushi chef!”

Owner: “My father was better”

LInda: “Maybe don’t mention that to your husband?”

Owner: “Oh he knows, he was my fathers trainee.  What fish was your favorite?”

The restaurant was called Fukuzushi and is located in the Minato-Ku section of Roppongi.  www.roppongifukuzushi.com Continue reading

Supreme Court Cartoons

A couple of editorial cartoons from The Philadelphia Inquirer (Tony Auth) and the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Chan Lowe), respectively, along with a picture of a painting I’ve been meaning to post from the most recent presidential election.  The painting is by Bruce Elliott, whose wife owns the Old Town Ale House in Chicago and where it has been on display since last year.  Mr. Elliott has recently drawn Mr. Rod Blagojevich in the buff, as well. Both of Mr. Elliott’s amusing artistic diversions were referenced in the Chicago Tribune.

Vasectomy or Affair?

Nice recovery from my friends at The Economist.

The New York Times latched on to the curious vasectomy trend, though I found NYT’s Leslie Alderman less entertaining and thoughtful on the subject than CNN’s Ms. Park (the Basketball theory – c’mon, that is funny).

Vasectomy’s are not the final word, it seems.  Men are conflicted.  Curious.

Apparently, business at online dating sites is booming.  At OkCupid (aimed at ‘a … casual, youthful crowd), there has been more than a 50% spike in registered, active users since April 2008.  At eHarmony.com (20 million paying subscribers), a recent study found that ‘25% of women said stress about the state of the economy made them more inclined to seek a long-term relationship’.  Also, visits to the website jump on days when the Dow Jones Industrial Average falls more than 100 points.

Theories:

1.  As the economy slows, people have more time to devote to private lives.

2.  Uncertain times increase the desire for companionship.

3.  Living alone is expensive – find a mate and split the cost.

In the spirit of microeconomist Steven Levitt at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Mr. Freakonomics), The Economist article proposes a fourth, less naturally intuitive possibility:  the boom is neither a nesting instinct nor desire to save money, but a desire ‘to do something that makes <people> feel better about themselves’.

So says Noel Biderman, who runs AshleyMadison.com, a subscription-based business model that arranges affairs (as seen on Dr. Phil and Larry King, per the website splash page, and also offers a 100% Affair Guarantee).

Apparently, ‘never before have so many people been looking for a bit on the side’.

A $49 subscription to AshleyMadison.com is less than the average co-pay required for a vasectomy.

Linda finds all this less amusing, though I apparently get a 2 for 1 – have an affair and get a vasectomy, though those were not precisely the words she used.

Hmm.

Vasectomies Up 50% in New York and Cleveland

Curious.

It appears CNN has scooped my venerable friends at The Economist.

“Why are we suddenly having an explosion in guys asking for vasectomies?”

Is it ok to say that at work?

Vasectomies in Cleveland are up 50% and 48% in New York.  The article posits two theories.  One theory is that people are accelerating medical procedures in advance of losing health benefits, usually associated with job loss or job uncertainty.  The second is that a loss of confidence in future employment prospects results in a reduced birthrate.

While there is ‘no national registry of sterilizations‘, historical evidence suggests that periods of severe economic crisis coincide with lower birthrates.  I think the chart is suggestive of the underlying pattern if not cause and effect, though a Dr. Jones suggests “It is unlikely that some guy read the Dow Jones numbers that day and said, ‘Why don’t we have a vasectomy?'”  Evidence to the contrary, Dr. Jones.

There is also a website www.vasectomy.com that should be considered for a good design award.  From the home page, readers are presented with two simple options:

1.  Click Here for Vasectomy Information
2.  Click Here for Vasectomy Reversal Information

I conject that on this topic it is difficult to be more straightforward than that.

A third theory provides thought provoking insight into the male psyche:  basketball.

Since ‘vasectomies are likely to produce tenderness, discomfort and slight swelling…usually <require> a day or two of recovery, ginger movement and icing of the soreness..men time their vasectomies around major sports events such as the Masters Golf Tournament and the NCAA basketball tournament to keep themselves entertained during recovery’.

Practical, but still curious.

Cheers to journalist Madison Park and my new friends at CNN.