Rotting Manju Teaches Me a Lesson
Tuesday June 30th 2009, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Food
When I went back to Japan a few months ago to introduce my sister to that country, I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to pack in as much of my previous life in Japan into a week that I could. I wanted to buy lots of pretty Japanese things, eat lots of good food, sop up my favourite train jingles, and melt into as many onsens as I could squeeze into a mere few days. Plus, I wanted to bring back part of Japan with me to Canada. Not to share with anyone, just to revel in after my vacation was done, to extend as much Japan as I could into my boring, middle-aged life, to re-live my exciting jet-setting youth again.
The above photo is of a box of manju I bought at one of my favourite hot springs resorts in Japan, the little village of Ikaho in Gunma’s mountains. When I lived in Japan, I would drive over to this resort, take a bath and eat a gourmet lunch. Usually I stayed overnight at other, more affordable onsens in less-touristy parts of Gunma, eating whatever local specialty they had there, whether from that morning’s wild boar hunt or from the proprietor’s afternoon mushroom foraging. Or I would tend my two apple trees in Gunma, a twice-a-year trip during blossom season in the spring and harvest in the fall, that always ended with me somehow detouring through Ikaho for that bath.
Before the end of every trip to Ikaho, I would buy some manju: a Japanese pastry with red bean paste inside.* Manju tastes subtle and is thus perfect for a delicate green tea. In Japan, I usually shared my manju or simply awarded whole boxes to the people who got wind of my mini-vacation; no vacation-goer in Japan is polite unless he or she returns with souvenirs for the poor souls back home. This time, the manju was mine. All mine.
Upon return to Canada, I had this box filled with six manju. I decided to pace myself, one each for six days, eaten with a cup of the best green tea I could muster. The first five days were tremendously happy. My pre-work ritual was to shower, dress, then boil a pot of tea, seat myself down with the tea and the day’s manju, and remember Japan as I ate it, perhaps peruse one of the art catalogues I also brought over from Japan. During the rest of the day, whenever I got down, I would daydream about the next morning’s manju ritual.
When I got to the last manju, I decided that the best way to approach it was to use my dad’s letter-reading method, akin to the save-your-virginity-for-marriage method. My dad told me that when he went away to chef school in his early teens, he wasn’t like the other teenagers who ripped open letters from home immediately. He would put my grandmother’s letters under his pillow and make himself wait until, say, the following Sunday. He said it built character.
I liked my dad’s method in the past, saving the best for last, or putting off what I could have today so that I would absolutely lust over it tomorrow when I finally got it. Waiting until Christmas night, say, instead of opening presents on Christmas morning. Or foregoing impulse buys for a month until the temptation to buy was overwhelming. I thought I could put off eating the last manju, savouring the wait, until, when I finally ate, I would orgasmically explode or something.
A week went by. I checked every day on my last manju, that saucy little tease.
Finally the day came when I said to myself, Today is the day you can eat that last manju, Maktaaq dear.
What you are looking at is a rotting manju. It is covered with some sort of mould and fuzz arrangement. I am pretty certain no part of the manju was salvageable.
I did learn a lesson. The lesson is: screw patient waiting, carpe diem already!
I ate the Vicenzi Mini Snacks I got for my birthday in record time.
*Some manju have other flavours. I am partial to red bean paste because, when I was in Taiwan, they promised me that red beans helped menstruating women get their iron back.
Yoville Jungle Theme
Monday June 29th 2009, 11:57 am
Filed under: Games
The best aspect of the Yoville game is that it engenders creativity, particularly in terms of using a limited palette of virtual furniture to do interior design. Yoville could certainly use a little more variety: in an alarming move, I got myself a profile for the Yoville.com forums and I piped in on ways the game’s development team could move, including adding my voice to the Yovillian Serbians clamouring for Serbian household goods and clothing. However, with a few hundred chairs, plants, carpets, tables, sofas, knickknacks and wallpapers, there are pretty neat stuff the average Yovillian can do.
One of my favourite activities is discovering these secret Yoville nooks and crannies, by checking out the events. Recently, I saw in the game section one listing that invited visitors to find the jack-in-the-box. Once I arrived, I understood that it would not be so easy to find the silver-and-red box. The place was a jungle:
I had no idea even what kind of house, from Yoville’s six house types, that it was. So I really had no idea how many rooms I was about to explore. I later realized that it was the biggest house in the Yoville roster and one of the houses that players can only get by credit card (in the words, by paying real money for it). I personally find this house a little too big and labyrinthine. Usually big and labyrinthine is a good thing, while in Yoville it gets a little hard for visitors to tramp through each room during sightseeing trips. Nevertheless, this particular house had some surprises.
For those of you who play Yoville, you’ll notice that they used the windows looking onto greenery to make the whisperings of a fence.
Once inside, the living room continued with a woodland meadow theme:
The tiki torches and central pond are pretty good. I’ll also have to invest into about two dozen of those unruly ferns.
The bathroom with a stream:
The game room:
The jukebox room:
A sort of sitting room:
The bushes with the white blossoms give the dark room a feeling that the blossoms are fireflies. I am keeping these in mind for a future marshmallow-roasting room – I think there is a bonfire available in Yoville.
Another sitting room:
A third, busy sitting room:
Finally, a change in all the greenery:
This upstairs hallway introduces an autumn feel, with the dead trees, perfect for a Halloween look, but rather jarring after the lush look of the previous rooms.
Here’s the autumn bathroom:
I never liked autumn, so this room makes me kind of sad.
However, then things got really, really good.
The first of the spring flower rooms!
The combination of the free gifting premium flower arrangements, the housewarming flower arrangements, the now obsolete purple and blue roses, mixed in with flowers available only through purchase, is now my goal. I experimented a little with this look so far. Luck shaved off a few days from my flower-gathering activities: I have been gathering free floral arrangements from the missions on Yoville.com profiles for a few days when the gift-collecting broke down on Saturday.
Here is the second of the spring flower rooms, albeit a little too overpowering:
I never did find that jack-in-the-box.
Why Music Is Important at Parties
Ever since a car accident in 2004, I haven’t really liked music. I don’t know if it’s because I prefer silence after the crash or if I really just hate running into that annoying B-52s song “Love Shack.” I mean, I was listening to music at the time of the accident, and I remember liking music before the accident. The accident was the dividing point in my life between liking music and not liking music.
Now I try to understand all the time why people actually like music. While I could live with just the near-silent whoosh of air going past my ears, other people obviously can’t. So it’s been a philosophical and anthropological mystery I have been trying to figure out for the last four years.
I just realized I was looking at the reasons for the importance of music from the wrong angle. It isn’t some psychological need that people have. It stems, instead, from physiological reason, or rather the masking of a physical condition.
Recently, at a gathering of individuals where there was no music, someone’s stomach grumbled. The person was embarrassed and apologized. If there had been music, this normal human bodily noise would have gone unnoticed. The same for any resulting loud (yet unsmelly) farts or other fart-like sounds (for example, getting off a leather couch in vinyl pants).
Thus music masks something we would rather hide, in the interest of easing social relations, much like dim lights at parties hides physical imperfections in one’s skin and aids sexual friendships.
The Secret to Biscotti
Biscotti, I believed since their initial appearance on the Canadian culinary landscape, were stupid, stale cookies.
Coffee, meanwhile, smelled nice but tasted like something you’re meant to vomit. (That’s what bitterness indicates in the wild.)
No one told me you were supposed to dip biscotti into coffee.
That makes both of them not merely palatable, but downright delicious.
My life has just a little more meaning now.