Post-Christmas discount cheese success. A Western barbarian will arrive at pure holy Japanese New Year’s celebrations bearing gifts from the fabled land of Europe, a plate of odiferous aged animal milk and dark flatbreads made of rye.
December 28, 2014
December 27, 2014
December 26, 2014
Sam used to collect small Santa candles. Every year this crowd looks a little older, a little dustier, a little less jolly. I made the mistake of lighting one once — Sam accused me of trying to murder Santa and terrorize the other Santas. Whenever he scolds me now I remind him that I’m an orphan and people who are mean to orphans during this festive holiday season are going to hell. He starts to nag and then mutters, “Oh yeah, orphan…” and stops being naughty.
December 25, 2014
I ordered a turkey to roast for Christmas: it was skinny, scrawny and pale, A Christmas Carol poor people’s Christmas dinner. There was an accident while I heaved it onto the plate and a leg was injured so it was a poor people’s handicapped turkey Christmas dinner. It wasn’t cheap, either. Eked out with roasted vegetables it was okay, but not ideal.
Cathy Kaufman, The Ideal Christmas Dinner:
“Written as Christmas was evolving into the epitome of Victorian domesticity, Dickens’ novella tidily evoked both the dying and the emerging traditions through four distinct food scenes. First was the vision of Christmas Past when Ebeneser Scrooge was transported back to his apprenticeship under Old Fezziwig for the quaint, slightly anachronistic party that Fezziwig hosted for his extended community. This was unpretentious and jolly, as children, local tradesmen, and Fezziwig’s employees feasted on great joints of beef, beer, mince pies and gamboled merrily into the night.
“The second food event was Scrooge’s introduction to the Ghost of Christmas Past, ensconced on a great throne constructed from every imaginable furred and feathered game, supported by barrels of oysters, mincemeats, sausages, and plum puddings, luxurious imported oranges, Twelfth Night cakes, and immense bowls of punch. The throne of Christmas Past represented the Christmas gastronomic indulgence of the well-to-do. The throne contrasted with the third food image, Cratchit’s shabby table laid with a scrawny goose that had to be sent out for roasting at the local bakeshop, gravy, mashed potatoes, sage-and-onion stuffing and applesauce. The meal’s highlight was a blazing plum pudding garnished with holly that was triumphantly paraded into the flat.
“The last meal, the real dinner enjoyed by the Cratchit’s on Christmas Day, was a mystery. All we know is that Scrooge sent Crachtit the biggest turkey in the poulterer’s shop. It was also the food image that resonated most deeply in America. In bypassing beef, brawn, and venison identified with feasts, Dickens calibrated Christmas dinner to a domestic lower-middle class setting: in Dickens’ own words, ‘Eked out by the apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family.’
“Unlike Thanksgiving, with its immutable elements of turkey, pumpkin and cranberries regardless of one’s socioeconomic status, American Christmas has become an expression of class, purse, and ethnic origins, with only occasional nods to unifying traditions. Archaic pudding (purchased, not homemade) is trotted out annually by the most nostalgic, in homage to the image of Christmas as an ancient holiday. … Unlike our colonial ancestors, contemporary Americans think Christmas dinner is very important: we simply cannot predict the menu.”
December 24, 2014
December 23, 2014
The little Christmas tree in the lobby of my building. Last chance to enjoy its Westerness because it’s coming down first thing the morning of the 25th. I read Andersen’s story The Fir Tree the other day and it reminded me of people I’ve known, never noticed that before.
Elias Bredsdorff, Hans Christian Andersen, The Story of His Life and Work:
“We follow the fate of the fir tree from its childhood in the wood to its death as a withered and discarded Christmas tree. In all its life it had never had a happy moment, for either it was looking forward to something better than the present, or it was thinking nostalgically of the past. When it was small it was in a hurry to grow big, hated being called a ‘a dear little tree,’ and never felt able to enjoy the warmth of the sun or the sweetness of the air. It was envious of the big fir trees which were felled to make masts for splendid ships, and its impatience increased when it saw its friends being taken away before Christmas and heard the sparrows describing the glory and spender in store for them as Christmas trees. But when its own turn came and it was the first to be felled, it had no thoughts of happiness … When the great moment comes and the candles are lit, the fir tree is so tense that it is unable to enjoy the moment but looks forward to a repetition the next night. … In the end the tree is taken out into the yard, all withered and yellow, and is trampled on by the children.”
In Andersen’s own words:
“From as early as I can remember, reading was my only and my dearest occupation; my parents were poor, but my father was very fond of reading and therefore had some books, which i swallowed. I never played with the other boys, I was always alone.
“No other winter has passed as quietly and happily as this one. The Improvisatore has gained me respect among the noblest and best of people, even the general public have come to show me more respect, fortunately I have no pecuniary anxieties, and latterly I have been able to enjoy a pleasant existence. The publishers send me magazines … and then I sit with my gaily colored slippers in my dressing gown, with my legs put up on the sofa, the stove purring, the tea urn singing on the table, and I enjoy a smoke. Then I think of the poor boy in Odense wearing his wooden shoes, and then my heart melts, and I bless the Lord. Now I have reached my zenith, I feel. Later on it will go downwards.
“My years of writing began with my return from abroad. I may have another four or six years in which I shall still be able to write well, and I must use them. This I am doing comfortably at home before a crackling fire, and then my muse comes to visit me; she tells me strange fairy tales, shows me funny characters from daily life — peers as well as commoners — saying, ‘look at those people, you know them; depict them and — they shall live!’ This is asking a lot, I know, but that is what she says.
“I shall give you a plan of my week, but first the usual order of the day. At eight o’clock: coffee; then I read and write till eleven or twelve o’clock, when I go to the Students’ Union to read the newspapers, then I have a bath, go for a walk and pay visits until three o’clock; then rest. At four to six dinner, and the remaining part I spend at home working or reading. If there is something new in the theater then I am THERE, and nowhere else, in the evening. My dinners are as follows: Mondays at Mrs Bugel’s, where the dinner is always as if for a big party; Tuesdays at the Collins’, where the eldest son and his wife also dine on that day, and therefore we get something special; Wednesdays at the Orseds’, who always invite their guest on that day; Thursdays again at Mrs. Bugel’s; Fridays at the Wulffs’, where Weyse always comes on the same day and plays his fantasies on the piano after dinner.”
December 22, 2014
December 21, 2014
McDonald’s Japan this year.
World Cup soccer series, I can’t remember which country’s burger this is:
Halloween black burger:
December 19, 2014
From the tourist brochure:
Gassho style architecture is unique even among Japanese farmhouses. The ground story of the houses is constructed of heavy timber posts and beams connected by traditional wood joinery techniques. The upper two and three stories of the house are located within a steeply sloped roof of approximately 60 degrees framed by a series of triangular shaped heavy timber frames. Flexible, thin wood sticks are attached to intermediate wood members that span between the heavy wooden frames. The attic spaces of the Gassho houses were well suited to the raising of silk worms; silk being one of the major agri-industrial products of Japan’s early modern period.
During the Edo period, pits under the ground floor were used to produce niter, one of the main ingredients of gun powder. … It is ironic that niter, an essential ingredient of gunpowder, was produced in a large quantity in this peaceful setting. In fact, the village of Gokayama was at one time the leading producer of niter in Japan. It seems odd that such a quiet place would play a significant role in the production of gunpowder until you understand that niter was used as a substitute form of tax payment since the villages could not grow enough rice to pay their taxes to the authorities. The form of the houses and the lifestyle of the inhabitants were shaped not only by the extremes of nature but also by the social demands of the society of the time.
The area surrounding Shirakawa-go has many natural assets that complement the village’s cultural asset of Gassho style houses. … A virgin forest covers a large area of Mt. Hakusan, providing the habitat for many types of wildlife including bear, antelope, monkey, rabbit, fox, and raccoon. The clear waters of area streams and rivers is home to abundant fish.
In the fall … villagers begin to prepare for winter. Firewood is stacked under the eaves of houses and fence-like reed enclosures are placed along the perimeter of the houses to protect the walls and the entrances from drifting snow and from snow falling from the roof. Winter arrives early and lasts long in Shirakawa-go.
From Karen Tei Yamashita’s Circle K Cycles:
“We recently visited the very traditional village of Shirakawa, where all the houses are 200 years old and have thatch roofs. Also special to this area is the mountain cooking, which includes fern sprouts, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms gathered from the mountainside. Curious, we visited a factory that packages these mountain veggies because we had heard that a Brazilian family worked there. As it turns out, all the materials for this local specialty are imported from China and Russia, and have been for the last twelve years. To use the local produce would be far too expensive. So there you have it, unknown to thousands of tourists who pass this way, the packages of mountain vegetables bought as omiyage come from China and Russia and are made and packaged by Brazilians.”