Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Bit of Precious Wisdom

When I was a little girl, I was fortunate enough to receive birthday cards from many of my grandparents.  These included cards from my Great Grandma and Grandpa White.  These cards were particularly special because of the letter that inevitably would accompany each card.  Letters from Great Grandma were written in crisp handwriting, speaking volumes of her personality.  These were the words of a woman who picked strawberries, walked around a lake everyday, gardened, and quilted until she quietly left us to join my Great Grandfather when she was 90.

Great Grandmas letters were spoken in a simple, wise voice geared to my elementary mind.  When I was probably six or seven I received one of these letters.  In the letter, Grandma asked me how school was going.  As any typical little girl, I would rather play outside, color, dress up my Barbies...anything but school!

She continued in the letter to say how important school and learning were, and that we even continue to learn as adults. My six year old brain exploded.  It was horrifying to me, this notion of being an adult and still...learning new things!?  What madness. I silently scoffed to myself.  There simply had to be a point in life when you either A) knew everything, or B) stopped learning things because you didn't need to know anything else. 

Oh! To be a child.  And oh, how fortunate to have such a wise great grandmother. 

This past May, I graduated from college.  A very wise professor told me something I will not soon forget.  She said the moment she was awarded her doctoral degree, it dawned on her just how much she didn't know.  The vast amount of knowledge out there in our world is...well...vast.

Many people talk about education versus experience.  For myself, not earning a degree was never an option.  It was simply the next logical step.  It was what I thought I had to do to "discover myself."  I would say I came a long way...a long way I never thought I would go.  Japan is certainly not were I thought I would be even one year ago.

So, here I am.  Out of school, or, rather, back in school...I just happened to be on the opposite side of the table.  The only formal education I received on the subject of education was my piano pedagogy class.  I taught piano for three years and loved it.  I had many students who successfully performed in recitals.  But teaching English is really quite different.

I am currently in the middle of my third week teaching at Saiei International English Conversation Schools (yes, I meant to use the plural) here in Saitama, Japan.  I have probably learned more in the past two and a half weeks then an entire semester in college.  I have a fantastic head-trainer who really has a contagious desire to teach and to teach really well.  How lucky am I!? To get paid to learn such an incredible new skill is something I am not taking for granted.  So here I am. An adult.  Out in the "real world."  And learning just as much as I learned in school, if not more.  

How right my great grandma was. 
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Friday, October 1, 2010

Smell those delightful aromas...

I love food. I love cooking.  I love eating.  Nothing excites me more than adventuring through a grocery store or farmers market discovering treasures to transform into a delectable dish.  My favorite section of the grocery store is the produce section.  Sifting through the fruits and vegetables to find the perfect specimens to suit my desires.  Inspecting the colors of peppers.  Feeling the texture of a ripe tomato.  Smelling the sweetness of a pineapple through its tough spiny shield. What magical flavors to combine and savor!

What is better than sharing good food with friends and family, really?  Think about how much time during our lives we are either preparing to eat or eating.  Hours every day.  At least I would hope so.  The Italian people have a lovely belief regarding food.  It goes like this: At the beginning of every person's life, their Creator makes a clock for them.  This clock represents that person's life in time.  When the clock stops, the person will die.  However.  When that person is eating good food, drinking good wine, beer, lemonade, whatever they fancy, and sharing good company, their clock is paused.

What an absolutely charming belief.  Those Italians certainly have their priorities in order.

Well I am not in Italy.  I am in Japan.  They certainly do love food here, as much as any Italian loves red wine.  The simplicity of Japanese cuisine is something that must be appreciated when eating Japanese food.  Staples of the Japanese diet are rice, seafood and vegetables.  The spices added to foods are simple.  Usually a rice vinegar called mirin, soy sauce, ginger and others.

This first dish is called Steamed Sake Chicken.  The flavor is remarkably simple and refreshing.

Steamed Sake Chicken

 These are simply California Rolls.  They are not Japanese, but American Japanese.  I have been told by a Japanese person.

California Rolls
This is Lemon Chicken.  A Chinese dish that Karl made.  He did an excellent job! It was positively dilish.

Lemon Chicken
This last dish is from Thailand.  Hot Chicken Curry with Pumpkin. Very spicy, but very delicious!

Hot Chicken Curry with Pumpkin
As my Karl likes to say, "we live to eat. We do not eat to live."

For your enjoyment, here is one of the recipes:

Steamed Sake Chicken

1 lb chicken
1 t. salt
1/3 cup sake
2 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 in fresh ginger cut into matchsticks

2 T. Japanese soy sauce
1 T. mirin
1 t. sesame oil
1 spring onion, sliced

2 spring onions
1/2 small red pepper

1) Use a fork to prick the skin on the chicken in several places. Place chicken, skin side up, in a shallow dish; sprinkle with the salt. Combine sake, lemon juice and ginger in a bowl; pour over chicken, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 40 min.
2) to make sauce: Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and spring onion in a small bowl.
3) To make garnish: Peel the outside layer from the spring onions, then cut finely into diagonal pieces. Lay the red pepper flat on a board, skin side down. Holding a knife in a horizontal position, cut just under the membrane surface to remove the top layer; discard top layer. Cut pepper is to thin strips.
4) Line the base of a bamboo or metal steamer with baking paper. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up, in the steamer. Fill a wok or frying pan with two cups of water; sit steamer in pan.  Cover, cook over gently boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken in cooked.
5) Cut chicken into bite-size pieces; arrange in the centre of a serving plate and drizzle the sauce over it. Arrange papper strips around the chicken, scatter spring onion over chicken.
Serve warm or cold over rice.

Yield: 4 servings
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