28 August, 2007

If I Can't Stand the Heat

Lately my posting of recipes has fallen off a little. It's not because I'm not as hungry as ever. It's not because I don't want to try all the tantalizing recipes I see posted on all of your blogs. No. Food bloggers from all over the world seem to have gone into overdrive with the cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year. Their creativity is boundless. I read their blogs and my mouth waters for lovely fresh breads, idlis and sauces, tortillas with black beans, fresh tofu yoghurt with seasonal fruit. It all looks so good, and I am mentally taking notes and clicking bookmarks as fast as my fingers can fly.

I want to make inspired soups, light and angelic tofu patties, creamy dals to serve over brown rice, salads of champions, chocolate-y cookies and puddings, velvety tofu ice creams, refreshing ices. I want to make them all, but two things are stopping me. 1.) I'm on a diet so have to be a bit judicious in my selections and 2) It's hotter than a hoppin' mad Mad Hatter in my kitchen right now. In the 90's and that's before I begin to cook. So, except for brief forays in there to rustle up something quick and easy, I've had to get out of the kitchen.

Breakfast has become my favourite meal. It's still not too hot in the kitchen before the sun rounds the trees in the front garden at 8:00. If I get there before that I can make something I want to eat. Most times lately that's been a salad of seasonal lettuces, baby greens, tomatoes, maybe with some ready-cooked soy beans, or sometimes sweet red beans, thrown in a bowl helter-skelter with whatever fresh vegetables I have close at hand. Sometimes cucumbers, or a red and green pepper, onions, spinach, apple cubes, a few raisins, apple cider vinegar, a shake of sea salt, grindings of fresh black pepper, a smidge of olive or sesame oil, or once in awhile a slosh of the very tasty bottled "non-oil " shiso dressing that we can get in grocery stores here. To me it's one of the great food finds in Japan. Shiso is an herb with an astringent and slightly spicy addictive flavour. If I ever get to where I can't get shiso I might be in trouble. Think I'd better hunt up a seed packet or two as insurance.

Another breakfast I like and the one I just finished, is organic genmai (brown rice) in a bowl, topped with a few tablespoons of ground sesame seeds (whole are okay too) and topped also with a square of silken tofu, a few grains of sea salt, black pepper, and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. It's very, very good. Sometimes I guild it with some grilled Shitake mushrooms, pumpkin slices. onion, and small peppers roasted whole. They're great to make because I can just pop them on the grill and then leave the kitchen for 20 minutes, come back and give them a quick flip and they're done.

This morning I topped off the meal with a lovely yellow peach. They are just peaking in the stores now. If you hurry you can get one or two. The price is outrageous, but for a person living abroad for years, to bite into this quintessential juicy fruit is to go back to summers at home, when your mom picked up a basket of these at the local farm market because she loved them so much, and you had to move fast to get one or two out of there before she or your little sister, who loved them just as much, made them disappear right before your eyes. And now, sticky juice still on your cheeks, you stop for two minutes to take a picture of the almost-demolished fruit, so you can write this post for yourself and your memories of a mother and sister that you rarely get to see these days, and never get to eat peaches with.

I love food. I always will. I was gifted that love by my grandmother who made Sunday pies for years, as a way to gather her family after church. Her pride in the good food she made, and her love came through in the making and sharing of it with her family and community. For most of her life she was unable to show that love in other ways. She grew up in a time and a place where parents didn't show physical affection. She never hugged her daughters until she was well into her 60's, perhaps even older. I know, because I started the family hugging. Through embarrassment and gruffness, turning away, and pooh-poohing I held on until they gave in. Then started to expect it, then began to hug first. Then hugged so tight and so long you could hardly get your breath. I still remember some of the last hugs my grandmother gave me when we parted, after my grandfather died. They were emotional, and maybe a little healing for us both. I will always remember the love she put into her Sunday pies, muffins, cakes, pickles, jam, and homemade canned peaches. I think I'm here because of that love.


Sea said...

I know how it is in the summer heat... I used to watch the temperature soar outside our window, where we had a gauge set up. If it hadn't been for air conditioning, I don't think I would have eaten all summer. As it was, light meals were a must. DH became addicted to grape fanta and kakigori- and I drank cold green tea like it was going out of style. Anyway, here's looking forward to the beautiful leaves of fall! Stay as cool as possible- are there any sento nearby with cold water baths?

vegetablej said...

Hi SS:

You know it might be heresy, but I haven't taken to sento. Maybe I'm too Canadian to relax with all those stares. :) But cool showers every day are a life-saver.

Can't wait for the fall to start making some of your yummy-looking recipes. :)