July 24, 2014

Tell Me, Who Do You Love?

OK now don't think too hard about this. Just pick one quickly. It doesn't really have to be love, which one would you rather share pancakes with?

June 4, 2014

A Perfect Prawn Curry

Sometime a perfect dish of prawns in coconut curry can snatch you from the depths of Minnesota Mordor and give meaning, importance and pleasure to life.

 Uuum been a long time since I shared any thoughts with my blog droogs.  I spindled many of my posts when I applied for a job in Minneapolis.

Had the posts been left up and had I kept writing; it would have been possible to pinpoint the exact moments when my life came off the tracks and dissolved into a melty combo of raising a lovely yet often angry Mongolian teen and watching Twins baseball in the basement.

My second wife left us in the lurch in such a horrific manner that after 2 years; I still have my doubts about ever hooking up again, and the very concept of romantic love seems as flimsy and illusory as a cosmic Potemkin village.

This return to blogging is my attempt to crawl out of the debris,  dust myself off and to survey the wreckage. A sort of triage of my life, if you will. Well that's the idea as this starts anyway.

When it is not snowing and frozen outside, life in the Mini-apple is not without certain pleasures--usually involving cooking, eating and drinking. I share my culinary masterpieces with my little Mongolian, who has risen to the task repeatedly, calmly stuffing these unknown wonders into her face with nearly beatific gusto.

So you see it's not all bad. In fact I've been quite lucky in a way. In the end no one gets out alive anyway; so might as well enjoy the scenery along the way--n'est-ce pas?

February 12, 2010

Do You Like Gladiator Movies?

Oh yeah!!, I am Spartacus." Everyone is Spartacus these days.We all know good and well Kirk Douglas is the real Spartacus, but there is a new cable TV drama Spartacus, that is homoerotic enough for Liberace, has enough hetero smut thrown in so they don't turn it off in Peoria (or wherever normal dwells these days) and sufficient blood and guts to furnish an abattoir.

I watched one episode and I thought: F**k yeah I want to look like these guys. The only problem is I'm like 54 years old and have been sitting on the couch for 4 years, I mean I am really out of shape. 

So along comes Men's Health Magazine, with a tie-in work out http://www.menshealth.com/spartacus/workouts/ 

And with more determination than good sense, I began the Spartacus workout program. It is a circuit that is supposed be completed 3 times in one go and 3 times a week. So far I have not been able to get past the first circuit and it makes me feel like I'm going to puke. 

Makes me wonder if a 54 year old couch cluster can really do this kind of thing or  will I herniate something, or clutch my heart and fall to the frozen floor of my apartment.  

But somehow there's a whatever-doesn't-kill-me-makes-me-stronger quality to the workout that keeps me going. A kind of fight club where it's "I vs me."  Ten kilos to lose and then watch out Steve Reeves. 

See you at the gladiator movies.
Photo of Kirk Douglas © 1960 Universal Pictures Company, Inc.

Update: OK, still feeling virtuous, this is working out well, so far no injuries, feeling more just all around genki, lost a little over a kilo so far, and tripping delirious on the endorphins. What I really like about this is you can get a serious workout in a reasonable amount of time and without a lot of equipment. And if it's snowing outside or typhooning you can still workout.

February 5, 2010

Asashoryu Forced Out--Sumo Slimes Itself

Loved by sumo fans of all races, reviled by the Japanese sumo establishment, there was none better in the ring than Asashoryu. Unlike others, he stayed true to his Mongolian roots in and out of the ring. The day they forced him to retire, is the day sumo died for me, the excitement is dead. We've still got Hakuho and Harumafuji, but neither one brings the volatile mixture of speed, power, charisma, and barely controlled violence to the ring as Asashoryu did. When he turned and pounded his belt before each match you know he was good to go. I don't think too many of the wrestlers that had to face him will miss that mighty thump. The thing that really pisses me off is the fact that he was only, what, 7 or 8 wins away from being the greatest champion of all time. A flawed tragic hero now leaves the rotting corpse of sumo behind, clearly one time when a man is bigger than the sport. Long live the King!!

September 2, 2009

I know the sun gwine shine ...

Saw this incredible rainbow at Gunguluut nature reserve in Mongolia while laying low and pondering my latest disaster. This scene, followed by a  glass of fermented mare's milk (airag) was a sort of cosmic pat on the head and a much much needed "there, there," that made me believe everything would be alright eventually

In spite of all the weird stuff that happens there, or maybe because of it, Mongolia and it's people hold an overwhelming attraction.

June 5, 2009

Love that Plussy

Yeah I love the plussy, never get enough. I pound gallons of the stuff, well at least I do when I'm not quaffing Kirin Zero, the no-carb, lo-cal, fake beer preferred by lady golfers.

June 1, 2009

Praise Be Unto the 4th Earl of Sandwich

First there was bread ... 

Then there were meatballs ...
At  long last there was the sandwich!! 

I don’t care what anyone says: John Montagu, I love you!! There now; I’ve got it off my chest. I really shouldn’t have to explain any further. But I will.
John Montagu was the 4th Earl of Sandwich, thrice First Lord of the Admiralty in the 18th century. He was said to be a member of London’s notorious Hellfire Club and held many important posts in the British government.

He seems to have made many enemies and his reputation as an inveterate gambler and libertine may have been slightly exaggerated by prudish Victorian historians as well.

For me however, he will always stand tall among the cooking gods, because one day in the 1762 he asked his servant to put a couple of slices of cold beef between two slices of bread, thereby inventing the sandwich. And the way we eat was forever changed, a world of possibilities pressed between a couple of slices of bread is now ours to forever savor.

Let’s cue “To all the girls I’ve loved” and recall some of the great sandwiches that we’ve all spent time with. Surely a New York deli corned beef on rye with mustard must rate as one of the all time greats, its 300 grams or so of meat a tribute to the excess and the bounty of a great land.

What about the weird and wonderful Monte Cristo sandwich—ham, turkey and Swiss tucked into white bread, battered and deep fried? The full Monte is spectacular, but who could fail to be humbled in the august presence of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich—its hulking 1/2 kilo of grilled beef glowingly topped with a rich blast of yellow aerosol cheese?

Sadly England, the birthplace of the sandwich has dropped the ball with the creation of the chip butty,—a sandwich served in the green and pleasant land—boasting a fistful of fried potatoes on buttered white bread, surely one of the stranger sandwiches ever made.

As far as sandwich infamy goes, I don’t think the firefly squid and potato salad sando on white toast I once ate at an office in Tokyo has ever been matched as a truly bad example of the genre.

All of the aforementioned sandwiches have their own claims on greatness, but I propose that the greatest sandwich of all time may be the hot meatball submarine. I make this bold assumption based mostly on the fact that I want to eat one right now.

Imagine if you will, an Italian roll shaped like a submarine, the inside covered with garlicky tomato sauce, hot meatballs and molten mozzarella cheese providing more than a touch of “too much.” It is a sandwich of operatic excess.

So what are we waiting for? I may not have a grandfather named Guido, but if you follow my instructions you can still enjoy a great Italian-American sandwich.

Let’s put one together.

First let’s tackle the meatball mix. Place 200 grams of ground beef and 200 grams of ground pork in a mixing bowl. Add one half finely chopped brown onion (tama negi) 1 clove of minced garlic, 60 grams of grated parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, 200 ml of panko breadcrumbs and one egg. Crack your knuckles, and using you hands, mash everything in the bowl together until it is well mixed. That was therapeutic wasn’t it? Now form the meatball mixture into 12 balls and set them aside somewhere in your ridiculously small kitchen where you won’t knock them over while you make thetomato sauce.

Wash your hands.

For the tomato sauce, in a casserole sauté a tablespoon of chopped garlic in olive oil until it is just browned, add a splash of red wine if you have some, if not don’t worry. Add two cans of chopped tomatoes which you have pureed in a blender. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for about five minutes.

Gently arrange your twelve meatballs in the sauce and cook covered over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cooked meatballs rest in the sauce for about an hour.

I can’t find anything in Tokyo like an Italian-American submarine sandwich roll. It has a thin, but crisp crust that you can easily bite into without damaging yourself, or the meatball. I’m using some ciabatta from from Maison Kayser that I found in Dean & Deluca’s in Shinagawa Station. Ciabatta is rectangular bread named after a house slipper and it will do the job nicely.

Whatever you do, don’t use one of the heavier crusted French loaves. The jaw power needed to breech the crust will have sauce covered meatballs shooting across the room, or at the very least dropping onto your white jeans.

Slice your house slippers into a top and a bottom piece. Ladle some Ferrari-red sauce onto each half. Cover the bottom part of our sandwich with 1.5-centimeter-thick slices of warm meatballs. Cover the other side, or top, with thin slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Preheat your oven and roast on a rack until the cheese is bubbling.

Be careful not to burn the bread, you are making the sandwich of the gods—this is serious business.

If you don’t have an oven, carefully toast the sandwich in your toaster oven. If you don’t have a toaster oven, well go buy one. They cost like 2,000 yen thesedays and humans cannot live without an occasional slice of buttered toast.

Remove your sandwich from the oven, place the cheese laden top half over the meaty bottom half, and if you are able, let it cool enough so that you can take a bite without burning your mouth.

Is it not beautiful, this sandwich? Grazie Signor Montagu, and until next time,
Ciao amici.
(This piece which I wrote appeared pretty much in this form in the Asahi Shimbun IHT in early 2008)