versatile mint

mint sprigs are something i’m always glad to have. if you have some in your kitchen garden, they sure will come in handy when you add the finishing touch to drinks and desserts you prepare. like the fresh blueberries i had (they were also in the food parcel i posted last week), bright green mint leaves made it look gorgeous. as i froze some of them, i can enjoy a bowl of ice cream with frozen blueberries any time, adding a mint sprig of course. indeed, mint is very one of versatile herbs. as you know, i love using mint not only for garnishing but for cooking as well. naturally, mint is essential for me to grow amid my herbie babies.

on a hot afternoon especially in hot summer months, having hot mint tea works for me to chill out, really. i learned how to make proper mint tea when i travelled around morocco. in london, i could easily get a bunch of fresh mint and a small packet of gunpowder tea from ethnic north african grocers in kilburn high road. besides, baklavas were sold there. i’m now living in a suburb of osaka, you know. i make kind of “fusion” mint tea substituting japanese green tea for chinese gunpowder tea. what would i have instead of baklavas? i’d have some traditional sweets, 落雁 rakugan (made from beans and sugar) for example. japanese sweets surprisingly go with mint tea.

with summer winding down, people can’t help but get sentimental, can they. i am missing that short (and often cool) english summer right now… i just imagine myself sitting in a pub near hampstead heath sipping a glass of pimm's as the sun sets. in reality, i fancy a cocktail i can make myself – mojito? why not? -- so i stand up to fix. i think i have all the ingredients at home, by the way. as my local super market does not always have limes, I’ve got a small bottle of squeezed lime juice imported from turkey; i have enough fresh mint sprigs, while i now grudge even a drop of my havana club that i brought from cuba. accordingly, i’ve recently bought white rum from a local shop.

lemon is refreshing; has no season that i have fresh lemon juice all the year around. still, if fresh mint is added, it gets fresher. so i make minty citron pressé in summer. meanwhile, like other drinks i’ve named as above, citron pressé has a story to make me smile, too. years back, i had the most elegant one in the bar of hotel le bristol paris. the taste was the same, however. i was there to interview phebe philo, the creative director of chloé at the time. she suggested meeting there since the hotel was just a stone’s throw from her atelier. in fact, it’d been cancelled at the last minute once before and my client (a magazine) had gone panic. for me, it was so lucky to visit paris from london twice within a month.

pic 1
in the herb garden of my local park, mints are in bloom. what lovely flowers!
pic 2
plum little blueberries… picked, packed and delivered to me from 静岡 shizuoka. so fresh.
Pic 3
fusion mint tea with 落雁 rakugan from 小布施 obuse for summer afternoon tea.
pic 4
for mojito: white rum, lime juice, soda, a few sprigs of fresh mint, sugar and ice cubes.
pic 5
voilà. mini mojito for two. click here for recipe and i bet you’ll enjoy this cuban experience.
pic 6
my own citron pressé avec les rameaux de menthe served hot or iced. but i prefer brown sugar.


bountiful season

have you heard of bitter melon? bitter melon used to be a little bit exotic vegetable but is pretty popular for japanese summer cooking these days. we japanese call this ゴーヤ goya, although there are several names of this cucumber’s cousin. it is unbelievably bitter. so why do we eat this? because, bitter melon contains superb nutrients. another reason for its growing popularity does not come from a culinary motivation, but from a literally green action. bitter melon vines shade your rooms from the sun as they grow when planted by the windows.

in theory, you can go with more air conditioning switched off and less carbon dioxide emission even a little. it does work. besides, it’s fun to eat them. unfortunately, my balcony is not suitable to have bitter melons. instead, i check on how bitter melons grow in the cottage garden during my routine walk in the park. the staff members in the park office seem to have already harvested lots of crops this summer. i am a bit jealous of them, but the pergola with shinny shoots and yellow blossoms of bitter melon simply provides me a space for a relaxing moment.

at any rate, i love vegetables and am happy that summer vegetables are no longer only summer produce so that we can eat them all year around. however, i don’t want to lose the sense of “what in season”, you know. two weeks ago, i received a food parcel from chiharu’s mother (she is my son’s girlfriend). her retired father grows various vegetables, tea and rice and her mother sends me some fresh crops from time to time. this time, there were aubergines, okras, cherry tomatoes, green peppers and corns in the box. they were beautiful to look at. the tastes were distinguishable. in fact, i’d never had such sweet corns before.

i usually cook aubergine with olive oil but i thought it’d be nice to grill it for a change, since the taste of the material could be drawn out by the simplest way of cooking. grilled aubergine is one of traditional japanese summer cuisine that i forgot for some time somehow. i grilled green peppers, too. how did i have them? with ground ginger and soy source. i added some finely chopped basil to be my style, though. too simple? but i believe that simple cooking can cultivate your taste for subtle flavours. i appreciate the bountiful season.


keep calm and carry on

i got my summer project done. i’ve kept calm and carry on painting for the past week. i have nobody else here for whining, anyway. in the teeth of the summer holiday weekend, even thought hardworking japanese people are enjoying their summer break (only four or five days for the average salaryman? so they should be on their way home now) at home or their parents’ home or somewhere else, i’ve had a busy week doing a swelter. i finished it before lunch time, though. i know i am a full-brown kook. but, it was worth the heat rash (itchy!) since i am much happier and comfortable about my flat than before.

when i moved in, the unattractive wallpaper, which was made of synthetic material with a pattern of blotches and freckles on the white base, was nothing but an eyesore to me. it looked almost white in a distance, so i had to get used to it because my willpower was not strong enough to take lots of work. now that i am smug in my accomplishment, surrounded by the walls i’ve given a fresh coat of white paint – my dinning room, living room, bedroom and the hall. still, this is not a sterile gallery white. in the 100% personal surroundings, white makes me feel calm and even mellow at the same time.

a “keep calm and carry on” poster at last looks fit there. i made a toast the completion of my “home sweet home project 2009” with a glass of campari and soda. 乾杯 kanpai!


nagasaki day

yes. it’s nagasaki day. i observed one-minute’s silence again at 11:02 am this morning. well, i was going to post some other topic, but it couldn’t be fair if i ignored nagasaki after writing about hiroshima. i don’t really want to sound too much pressing, though. or, this should really be a pressing concern for anyone who wants peace on earth? so i’ll go harping on this issue at least one more day.

i’ve never been to nagasaki, although i’ve seen a slew of photographs that captured 被爆者 hibakusha (a-bomb-explosion-affected people dead or alive) in nagasaki. if you see just one of those, you can tell the nuclear weapon is no doubt the most inhuman mass-distraction weapon. i watched a special tv programme dedicated to the hibakusha in nagasaki last night. i remember my mother was weeping in front of our tv set on one of these nights before the nagasaki day when i was really little. i was so surprised because i’d never seen her crying before, while the horrifying aftermath of a-bomb on tv screen was printed in my child’s heart. it was an awfully muggy night, just like lat night.

i just wonder how many tears people did shed on the nagasaki day special tv programme in sympathy with hibakusha this year, too. let’s talk about the world peace, shall we?
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hiroshima day special

it is hiroshima day. the japanese observed one minute’s silence at 8:15 this morning. on august 6, every year, to commemorate all the war victims, i'd think of hiroshima, and then the red carps i saw in a pond of a hotel garden in hiroshima. i was six back then. at the time we lived in kokura, kyushu, the southern part of japan, but we spent every spring holiday in kyoto, where we are from and a big house that belonged to my mother’s family still could accommodate us. one spring holiday, my parents came up with an idea of stopover in hiroshima en route to kokura from kyoto; decided to take me and my brother there. we were all to see what happened to our country during the war. i’ll appreciate my parents’ decision forever and ever.

in hiroshima, we went on a guided tour of the city’s now preserved damaged sights. that was utterly shocking to me as a child. the morning after the day of dazed and confused, i at last felt easy, aimlessly watching red carps swimming in the small pond of our ryokan (traditional japanese inn) while my parents were checking out of it. since that morning, i’ve never forgotten about those red corps and hiroshima. we all should not forget that in 1945 enola gay, an american B-29 bomber, dropped the little boy, an atomic-bomb, on hiroshima today, and three days later, nagasaki was destroyed by another atomic-bomb (of which, i learned, original target was in fact kokura).

those people who started the war were completely stupid. as a pacifist, i am very proud of our “three non-nuclear principles.” like the great japanese designer, issey miyake, i, too, am a little more hopeful, thanks to mr obama’s anti-nuclear stance, than last year. but, i am frustrated at the fact that some people still fail to learn. not only nuclear weapons, but any war is stupid. we all know that war is never the answer, no?


paper chase

are you on holiday somewhere sunny? i am not going anywhere and have been thinking of a painting project – to paint dull and naff walls crisp white in my flat. so, when i took some interior books off the bookshelf for inspirations, i came across my old scrapbook, which i made during my “flower london” era when i was studying floristry at college and working as an apprentice for jane packer. the scrapbook, however, doesn’t suggest my then-obsession with flowers. it was paper, such as tickets, stamps and labels. you know, ubiquitous things you find in foreign countries, materials and colours are slightly different from ones you familiar with, which fascinate me a great deal.

i’ve been prone to accumulate pretty little but trashy things like ribbons and wrapping paper since my childhood, anyway. you can call me a real scrap-maniac or a rag-picker. i simply could not throw them into a dust bin because i got hooked on the beautiful colours and textures of paper, let alone memorabilia like tickets of exhibitions and concerts i took my kids, or went by myself, on weekends or on holiday; postmarks on stamps reflect on how good i was in communication with my mother and friends from around the world. after all these years, i am still surprised at the supposedly big number of letters that they wrote me while living in london. i could treasure each of them in a form of a book for life.

well, once upon a time, people bought stamps for sending letters and tickets for taking a bus and a train. In lieu of taking extra care not to lose those tiny pieces of paper, we text, email and use e-tickets for travel these days. it’s economical as well as ecologically better this way. wonderful designs can still remain in the virtual world. then again, i can’t help but feel like i am missing out on something sensuous more and more. my old scrapbook took me back to the good old days, apparently. apart from that, my scrapbook also includes my daughter’s drawing and scribbles as well as messages that i asked jane and my then-workmates to write when i was leaving london for tokyo. i rediscovered the warmth of handwriting, too.



as you notice, very recently, i’ve changed my blog template. on top of that, i’ve changed my blog title, too. actually, my original aim to create a blog was to facilitate mainly a promotion as a translator, which is my current profession. that’s why i named this blog partially after my own art project. i was having this just for what i wanted to share my everyday happenings and photos with you, while i was thinking of having another blog genuinely for that. instead, i thought i could change the name, rather than creating a new one. so, here “SERENDIPITY” goes! i really hope you can enjoy it.