cacti in bloom.
small horse mackerel.
so you see at the top of the page, just below the title, where it says “live like a peasant, eat like a king?” when i first used that slogan, i intended the “live like a peasant” portion to mean something along the lines of “don’t live beyond your means.” the greatest things in life are often free, and in order to live a rewarding life, there is no need to engage in frivolous expenditures. the second half, “eat like a king,” has a more obvious meaning. don’t eat because you have to. eat because you want to. provide a bounty for yourself, and immerse yourself in the experience of eating. by doing so, you will appreciate food more, and in turn learn to love cooking over time.
in all honesty, i think i probably do a better job of the second half of the slogan than i do of the first. true, most of my friends can tell you that i live frugally. i have my vices here and there, but on the whole i keep what i own to a bare minimum. but it has dawned on me that “live like a peasant” really should mean something more profound.
the bamboo forest, in all of its glory.
you know what is great about farming?
i am not an envious person, but on occasion i find myself longing for an opportunity to make things grow. i truly admire people in this would who aim for self-sufficiency. farming is one of the oldest and most magnificent professions that exists in this world.
loquats, which are called “biwa” in japanese. great color, delicious fruit, and medicinal leaves. what is not to like?
and by nothing short of sheer dumb luck, an opportunity was dropped in my lap last year. a good friend and colleague of mine introduced me to a long-time friend of hers who owns a few plots of farmland. he also cares for a bamboo forest that is located near his property. once or twice a month on saturday morning, he invites a small group of people to his land. once we met and chatted for a while, i was fortunate enough to be invited to stop by whenever i liked.
these all day excursions in nature, replete with foods straight from the earth, yoga, booze, and great conversations with excellent company, have been a never-ending source of joy for me over the past ten months. all i have to provide in exchange for such a bounty is a helping hand.
but lately, the bamboo forest hasn’t just been about fun for me. botanical knowledge has become a perk that i cannot emphasize enough. since last year, i have learned an almost inordinate amount about the living world in japan.
green plums. yeah, they’ll mess up your stomach if you eat them raw, but they can be used for all kinds of good stuff. alcohol, vinegar, jam, you name it.
bamboo has become far and away one of my favorite living things. i learned how bamboo reproduces, when it shoots, and what portions can be eaten. i learned which bamboo stalks to cut and which to leave in order to have a healthy forest. i learned how to split and dry harvested stalks. i learned how to turn the split bamboo into chopsticks, grilling skewers, and charcoal. i learned how to grill with the charcoal, how to use it when deep frying, and how to implement it in construction and landscaping. and so much more.
this last saturday was one such bamboo forest excursion. under an oppressive summer sun, i split bamboo for charcoal production, smoked eggs, grilled fish, and partook in all the delicacies of early summer that nature has to offer.
summer means fruit, and fruit means that when i left, i had enough loquats, green plums, and japanese bush ginger to give a lesser person a hernia stuffed into my backpack. and a raucous tan.
that, in my opinion, is what “living like a peasant” is truly all about.