as babies, most of us regularly ate and bathed in our food at the same time. and even though we are all adults (some more than others), i think a small morsel of that glorious messy-eater mentality remains in each and every one of us, regardless of how cultured, well-preened, and properly educated we may be. somewhere deep inside, we all have a soft spot for getting really super messy at meal time.
it follows, therefore, that there are very few people in this world who don’t enjoy a good chicken wing.
when my japanese elementary schoolers list off the foods they detest, there are three which top the list without fail. eggplant and mushrooms are neck and neck at number two, but so far, the undisputed winner is piiman. the following is a brief list of reactions i have observed at the mere mention of the word piiman:
- vigorous shaking of the head
- two thumbs down
- face expression reminiscent of edvard munch’s “the scream”
- ten solid seconds of fake barfing noises
if you were to wander into one of the estimated 46,000 convenience stores in japan, you would eventually come upon a section of the refrigerated shelving designated for rice balls. some of them contain extravagent ingredients, like spiced cod roe, chopped green onions, and fresh wasabi. others are decidedly non-japanese in flavor, such as the surreptitiously bright yellow dry curry rice balls.
but no matter where you go, regardless of whether you are in a 7-11, familymart, circle k, daily yamazaki, or lawson, you will undoubtedly find a rice ball labeled “sea chicken.”
it contains, as you might guess, a 1:1 mixture of tuna and mayonnaise. they are the cheapest for a reason. namely, because they are just awful.
close your eyes for a moment and think about every type of mushroom you have ever eaten.
in no particular order, my list includes: morels, white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chanterelle, portabellas, creminis (which are technically just baby portabellas), hen-of-the-woods, shiitake, brown clamshells, white clamshells, porcini, matsutake, enokitake, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms. there might be some others, but those are the main ones i can think of. honestly, i think fourteen different kind of mushrooms is pretty good right off the top of my head. what was your score?
while you are distracted with this fun little mental exercise, i guess i’ll go ahead and get to the point of this post.
true, this post is about mushrooms as i am sure you have already guessed. but this post is also about a swedish guy named carl linnaeus.
i don’t pretend to be a professional chef. i cook like a poor man, and i pride myself on that. i don’t use fancy ingredients, extensive chemical reactions, or obscure tools. poor man cooking is based almost entirely off of improvisation and a deep knowledge of the ingredients i choose to use.
suffice to say, i am truly atrocious at baking.
guess what? that beautiful girl i was talking about the other day is still sick. which means the barrage of soup will continue until she gets better.
so far, we have had japanese soft shell turtle hot pot (a.k.a. suppon) at makoto‘s restaurant, miso ramen, kitsune udon, and potato bacon and leek chowder. and all the while, i’ve been cramming tea into her every opportunity i get.
so when a friend and coworker of mine decided to hand me what appeared to be every leaf from an entire fully grown basil plant while we were at work the other day, i immediately began thinking of delicious things that might lift the curse of the common cold. after about five minutes of deliberation, what i decided upon was toasted italian bread, a few slices of cheap man’s chashu, and creamy tomato and basil soup.
is this really happening? could the poor man be losing his pork-obsessed mind? is the title of this post just a clever ploy to entice naive and starry-eyed vegetarians to read my blog? who is to blame for this sudden and terrifying turn of events?
take a deep breath, and count backwards from ten. i’ll explain everything.
i assure you, this is really happening. don’t worry, i am not throwing in my bacon grease stained apron. i still love meat and i will continue to love meat. that being said, i am happy to inform you that i made a tasty dish without meat the other day, and i have no regrets. i have my purplish-grey, stinky, rubbery friend konnyaku to thank for that.
all it took to take konnyaku from a weird wiggly block of tuber jelly to a beautiful, savory, low-calorie treat was a flash boil, a quick marinade, and a few minutes spent over a frying pan. if any of that sounds interesting to you vegetarians out there, keep reading. i promise you won’t regret it.