Thursday, January 17, 2008

When a Fever Makes You Blog

I have the strangest neighbors. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some are weird in a fun, giggly, wonder-what-they'll-do-next way. Some are just plain assholes.

I had a run in with the neighbor who lives in the plantation house next to us. The one with the fake chimney. From the outside you see a chimney. Odd. There is a window under it. Alas, it's only a decoration. A decoration chimney. They also have columns and a single tree they must replant every year because it keeps dying on them.

The husband saw me one morning a few weeks ago. I mentioned the translation he asked me to do and said, sorry I couldn't do a better job (just being nice, gee). He says, well, you don't have any konjou 根性がない. I'm sorry but that is an extremely rude remark to make. Konjou is like guts, or nerve or balls. I felt not unlike Michale J Fox in "Back to the Future" being called a chicken. This neighbor guy (and he's short too), he keeps coming over with all these translations he wants me to do...for free! He hasn't a clue how much it would cost to hire someone. It would cost a damned lot. Ass.

So he said he wanted me to find a male translator because they would do it right. I smiled and said, sure. I went home and beat a pillow. Ass.

Also, I like whales a lot. I like Japan a lot. But I really like whales, and I don't get this.

You hear everyone talk about "it's our culture, we've been doing this since the beginning of time". Huh? I have yet to meet one Japanese person who thinks whale is tasty, who buys it, who defends this. And yet in a pinch -- when I start getting heated about it -- they'll say, "it's our culture, we've been doing this since the beginning of time."

Leave the whales alone already, yesh. I mean didn't we learn anything from Star Trek Four, The Voyage Home?

Live long and prosper.

Monday, January 14, 2008

101 Ways to Eat Sticky Rice Cakes

Okay, only three. Maybe more.

Take a pile of soft cooked, glutinous rice, pour it into a wooden mortar and pound the crap out of it with a mallet until you get a gooey, steaming mess. Form that into handful-sized balls and let it cool. There you have mochi.

An auspicious day is chosen right before the New Year and tons of the stuff is made and passed around among friends and relatives. It's also sold in stores and on street corners. Then for the next week or more, it's eaten at nearly every meal.

Let's see, you can cover it with sweetened red bean paste,

sprinkle it with kinako powder/soy flour,

eat it in a red bean soup or even with strawberries.

If you want a non-sweet version, there is ozoni, a soup with boiled radish, Chinese cabbage, other veggie goodies and a square of mochi dropped into the middle.

You can also grill it with cheese and a drop of soy sauce or stick a square into a bowl of udon noodles.

Here's an idea of how exceptionally elastic it is.

I had a American friend who described it as eaten molten lava.

I watched the movie Tampopo before I came to Japan and remember distinctly the scene with the old man who was so excited to eat mochi he inhaled it, choked, and had to have someone suck it out with a vaccuum. It was disturbing, funny and completely unreal; or so I thought. After I'd been here awhile, I learned that really happens. A lot.

This stuff is hot and gooey and very throat clogging if you don't chew it well. What really shocked me was that after the New Year's holidays our local newspaper keeps a running number of how many people have choked on mochi, who died and who was saved by a fast-thinking loved one with a vaccuum cleaner close by.