Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

The dogwoods are blooming in our yard, the state flower of Virginia and North Carolina. I just learned a “dogwood winter” is a cold snap in the spring. We’re having one of those right now, brrr.

Dogwoods put me in the mood for Japanese art. The troubles in Japan have also prompted me to pull out an old exhibition catalog of Japanese art from the late 1600’s to the mid-1800’s. There’s something so calming about that art. Lately I’m more likely to notice blog posts about Japanese culture. It might seem trivial for me to focus on sake amidst Japan’s increasing death tolls, food shortages, rolling blackouts and radiation, but the woes of the sake industry epitomize what’s happening to many other industries and crafts in Japan.

More than 100 sake breweries operated in the three hardest hit prefectures – Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. Many breweries disappeared, many more are damaged. Sake Evangelist John Gauntner is keeping track of the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on the industry. It’s unclear how the spring rice-planting season can get underway when so much has been lost. A few years ago I went to Takara Sake in Berkeley, one of the few sake breweries in the US. It was there I learned that although sake is usually called rice wine, its brewing process is similar to beer’s.

sake fukushima brewery

fermentation tank room at Kinpou Shuzo–Niida Honke brewery in Fukushima - photo by Tokyofoodcast

Bloggers across the US have been raising money for Japan in a variety of ways. Two local food bloggers, Johanna Kramer of Durhamfoodie and Matt Lardie of Green Eats Blog are hosting the Triangle Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday May 14 in Durham. What to make, what to make….

Back in the US, Boston chef and cookbook author Jasper White shares a lesson on seafood shopping. I’m so tired of being disappointed in the fish at my local supermarkets, but fresher fish requires a 30 minute drive. When I go home to southern Massachusetts I get such fish market envy.

Since I buy my soap at the farmers market, this humorous story about soap as an object of desire, by Steven Heller at The Atlantic, qualifies for The Sunday Table. “How indeed could I be sucked into the soap vortex?” It’s easy, Steve. I love my soap maker, a local Raleigh company, Anders Natural Soap. They sell all sorts of soap from their shop in the NC Farmers Market Shoppes — oh how I hate the word shoppes.

I’ll leave you with a poem.

Meditation on a Grapefruit by Craig Arnold

“On April 27, 2009, Arnold went missing on the small volcanic island of Kuchinoerabujima, Japan. He went for a solo hike to explore an active volcano on the island and never returned to the inn where he was staying. . . He was presumed to have died from a fatal fall.”

To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
To tear the husk
like cotton padding           a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully             without breaking
a single pearly cell
To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling             until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
so sweet
a discipline
precisely pointless             a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause                a little emptiness
each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without

japanese sake brewery fukushima

photo by Sono Tamaki

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