the taste of spring

it rained all day yesterday. and today, happy windy day -- like winnie the pooh said? it is a windy sunday. indeed, the weather is up and down – like my dear mr bill cunningham has described the new york weather in his latest on the street. this time his report is about spring coats, which people no longer talk about. a few days ago, coincidentally my mother said to me “almost no one wears a spring coat these days…” in our conversation when its topic came to my new half-length cotton trench coat i just bought. i remember the old days when my mother used to be measured up for a bespoke, mostly pinkish beige, spring coat at a department store to get ready for windy spring days.

so, weather-wise, i am spending quite a disappointing weekend, but my eyes are happily catching anything fresh light green here in my living room or trees outside. even in newspaper articles, i wouldn’t miss anything light green as the definite sign of spring. then, i came across a recipe of risotto with 空豆 sora-mamey (broad beans: i’ve learned they are called “fava beans” in the us, which i didn’t know) yesterday. actually, on friday, when i stopped by a local supermarket to get a carton of milk on my way home from work, i noticed small plastic bags of shiny fat broad beans displayed among haricots verts (french beans) and green peas (english peas). i took home a bunch of bananas and an avocado, but no broad beans.

saturday night means, for me, garlic. i popped into the supermarket in the rain and got a small bag of broad beans, after all. the food writer of the new york times wrote “their season is, sadly, a short time”, which is true. shelling peas looked like a fun job? the broad leathery pods happened to contain only a couple of peas, though. still, it seemed all right, enough for one people. i cooked a garlicky risotto with them, but i did not follow the new york times recipe. i substituted green peas and rucola pesto for asparagus and saffron as i used saffron for bouillabaisse (a poor man’s version, however) my supper last saturday. to make it a little more original, i placed a poached egg on the risotto, too.

the taste of spring was not bad at all. i didn’t take pictures of it, unfortunately – since i don’t like food pictures with lighting. instead, let me share my old and sort of kaffe fassett-inspired spring image with you, please? i took it during my “flower london era” a long long time ago.


sakura #2

the japanese have a thing about 桜 sakura (cherry blossoms). i missed the best season of in 京都 kyoto this yea, though. i don’t feel quite up to making my way through the crowd. everywhere you go you’ll only find streets thick with people in 東山 higashiyama, 京都, this time of year. instead, i upload my best pictures i took there a couple years back. they can refresh my memories of the beauty of 京都 in season, which was speechless. i did need no words to appreciate it, but i got tired of the crush and congestion in town, really.

so, spring has come to all over japan. not exactly -- it’s already summer out here. the temperature went up as high as 28 degree centigrade in 大阪 osaka yesterday: it was a bit too hot for お見 o-hanami (sakura picnic). i saw many people having a party under the blossoms, however. the best blooms are clearly gone, while our お見 mode is still in full swing. everyone enjoys power-pink 吹雪 sakura-fubuki (cherry blossom confetti) as an unseasonable summer breeze kisses the cherry blossoms. we japanese are terribly, unbearably fond of . do you know why? because, is short-lived: the bloom makes us feel like such a fool if we missed it: the blossom goes with grace, no hesitation.

i heard one 鶯 uguisu (bush-warbler) singing somewhere yesterday morning. it’s springtime no doubt. and, the climate is mediterranean's at the moment. for me, it was perfect a saturday evening doing nothing but cooking linguine con le vongole with crushed chili and chopped parsley (from my mother’s kitchen garden) and sipping argentine white plonk. i am happily idling away my time at weekend, as i’ve been working full time for a project for my last two weeks now in an office in 京橋 kyobashi, 大阪, weekend has become something special (and allows me to eat lots of garlic) to me.

on the other hand, it is an good opportunity for me to discover 大阪. i don’t know much about the city even though i’ve been one of osakans for several years; i haven’t really been fair towards 大阪, you know. the office is located in the tower 21, overlooking 大阪城 osaka-jo (osaka castle), so naturally, the view is breathtaking, while the “project x” (that's the name, actually) i now work on as a translator is just painstaking. one morning, i looked at 大阪城 from the office windows. i noticed blue plastic sheets spread out under the cherry blossoms along the river near 大阪城. then i noticed people sitting and having お見 on the plastic-sheets when i was about to leave my office.

traditionally, poor freshmen would have to go and find an ideal place for お見 to seize it by spreading plastic sheets early in the morning before their colleagues go to work. when a hard-working day is over, it is a party time. they rush to the place all together. this is a typical way for office workers to enjoy their “after 5” in season. they are lucky to work near 大阪城, which is famous for . i’m not particularly attracted to samurai culture or castles themselves. still, i am loving the majestic view of 大阪城, with fresh green and powder pink patches and surrounded moats as the project is reaching the peak.


sakura #1

for the japanese, spring will not arrive without 桜 sakura (cherry blossoms). it was rainy, yesterday. i’m sure the disappointing weather sank many japanese people’s hearts. (by the way, it was unofficially “gay’s day” yesterday, because march 3rd is girl’s day while 5th may is boy’s day in japan…ha, ha). i threw a little tea party at my home for my girlfriends from a local university i once worked for. i initially planned to hold a girl’s day party around march 3rd, but i couldn’t make it due to my mother’s illness. instead, i made it a party. so, i went out in the morning to get finger-seized cheese cakes from my favourite local patisserie.
on my way home, i picked up under the cherry trees – a powder pink carpet of heart-shaped petals. i got carried away. back home, i prepared finger-sized sandwiches with cucumber and smoked salmon and chocolate mousse (i learned an easy recipe of raymond blanc from the guardian online). every guest brought in some snacks or sweets, too. one of those was a tiny bag of white and powder pink dragée: the colour of , coincidentally. we had so many cups of english tea as sandwiches and cakes disappeared from the table. that was the time for us to forget all about calorie-taking. still, we enjoyed our chats the most. oh my goodness. our chats seemed to be unstoppable!

in the meantime, it was a perfect sunday for お花見 o-hanami ( picnic). in the park, the almond, plum and other prunus-family trees were also in full bloom... just lovely.