Monday, May 21, 2007

Artist Date #1, a resounding success!

On Saturday I had my first Artist's Date. I had a hard time deciding what to do - it was later in the day than I'd intended because of a work commitment that ran long, and I was feeling tired and cranky by the time I got home. First thought was to visit a nearby museum, but that turned into a dud. Armand Hammer museum? Closed already for the day. Science Center: closed. Natural History museum: closed. I guess I'd assumed they'd be open later than five on Saturdays. I could have gone to the Getty, but I just wasn't feeling it. I almost just drove out for a long walk on the beach, but then I had a Very Bright Idea: Mitsuwa!

About six months ago I realized that the store I drove right past every time I went to Costco was a big, fabulous Japanese market - why it took me more than three years of living here to figure that out, I have no idea. And as I'd been wanting to go for quite a while but hadn't gotten around to it I decided it was a great spot for an Artist's Date.

When I was sixteen, I spent a month in Japan over the summer, living with a host family and then spending several days in Tokyo with the three other girls and one teacher who were on the trip with me. And Mitsuwa took me right back there: I found all of my favorite snacks and candies (Pocky! Super Lemon! Green tea ice cream! Melon flavored gum! Pretz sticks!), I got to attempt to pronounce the katakana and hiragana on the labels of all sorts of items (and then look at the markers on the aisles that so kindly offered the English version), I watched a few minutes of some Japanese tv shows on the monitors near the entrance, I hemmed and hawed over cute little bento boxes and rice bowls and chopsticks and other knick knacks that I eventually decided I really didn't need, and I got all the ingredients to make what is hands down my favorite meal ever.

And then the second part of my Artist's Date was coming home to cook myself some okonomiyaki! It's like a cabbage pancake, sort of. The name literally means "as you like," and it's a home-style dish that folks in Japan make with all kinds of extra ingredients thrown in. My host family made it for me, and we also went to a restaurant for the famou (in Japan) Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (made with noodles) on our trip there, after visiting Peace Memorial Park. You make the pancake with cabbage, flour, water, an egg and a little dashi stock, and I put a couple of very thin slices of pork on it, and then top it with Japanese mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes and seaweed flakes. Heaven!
So I had a culinary date with my inner Artist, and loved every moment of it. And now I've got enough supplies to eat okonomiyaki again several more times this week. Yippee!


Kel said...

i'm so jealous
that's one thing i miss since we moved out of the city - international food markets

you've inspired me to try and find something like it around here

Ms. Theologian said...

That's an awesome artist date!
We have a store called Japanese Junk Food here that's a lot of fun. :)

Mrs. Han Solo said...

That sounds like a great artist date! And a two-parter too! We've got a few interesting international markets in little Burlington. I will check them out this weekend. You've inspired me.

Femminista said...

Oishi sooo! ToH Natsukashi! I lived in Tokyo for about 2 1/2 years, and okonomiaki was the first japanese thing I learned how to cook (other than miso soup adn tea....). I haven't made it in ten years. I used to buy the special sauce, but I think I remember I can mix mayonnaise and worcester sauce (??). I especially liked it when the cabbage on the outside is a little bit burned. I think I am going to have to do give it a go SOON.
Arigato gozaimasu! Itadakimasu!

This Girl Remembers said...

Yes, that's one thing that's unfortunate about moving away from big cities. My mother's back in small town Georgia and laments that she can't find any good Indian, Thai or Japanese ingredients. She's much more accomplished a cook than I am, too.

Ms. T,
(Hee - I accidentally put Mr. T at first...)
Japanese Junk Food? I'd buy out the whole store!

Ms. Han Solo,
I'm glad to provide some inspiration! I've already gotten lots from the rest of you here on the blog. I'm thinking in another few weeks I'll hit one of the other local markets - there are so many around here and I just never have really explored.


I only took one year of Japanese (and I've forgotten most of what I knew, unfortunately) and natsukashi was a new word for me - I had to look it up.

"In Japanese we have a great word, natsukashi. It doesn't have an exact English equivalent. But to put it simply, it describes the warm feelings and memories that rush back to you when you see old friends or when you visit a place you haven't been to for years."

How perfect! Exactly how I felt during both parts of my Artist's Date!

I've been thinking recently that I'd really love to take Japanese classes again and relearn what I've lost.

One of the few full sentences I remember:

Neko ga shinde shimaimashita.

I certainly hope that's one that never comes in handy. :)

(And I'm intensely jealous that you spent 2 1/2 years in Japan! I would LOVE to go back someday.)

Linera Lucas said...

We have a Japanese pancake place not far away and now I'm getting a craving... Glad your artist date went so well. I haven't figured out what I'm going to do this week.