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Amparo Bertram

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08:38 pm: When you wish upon...bamboo?
Last Friday was Tanabata, a ceremonial (not national) holiday here. It is based on the myth that the lover stars Vega and Altair are separated by the Milky Way and can only meet once a year. The seventh day of the seventh month is their lucky day.

The day is celebrated by writing wishes on strips of paper and hanging them from bamboo branches. This year, the students at my school were all given colorful paper rectangles to write on, and at lunchtime they hung them from two large bamboo stalks in front of the main entrance.

Today the seniors began their final exams. I had two bright and early, so I spent most of the morning grading papers. After that, I'm pretty much done until the last exam on Friday. I do have a couple lessons with the second year students, but fewer than usual because the schedule was rearranged for another teacher who will be gone at some point. Next week we will only meet to give back the seniors' test results, and then I'm through with school for the summer.

In addition to my usual free time activities, this weekend I decided to try a little cooking adventure. I had previously bought Thai mango ketchup at the import store in Kyoto, but they stopped carrying it, and I eventually used up my supply. This was quite sad, because it tasted very good.

I read the ingredients on the label, and it said simply "mango, vinegar, sugar, spices," so it didn't seem like it would be complicated to replicate. I didn't have any mangoes on hand, but I did have some old plums that I bought on a whim and never finished. I decided to experiment with those.

5 small plums, peeled
(the plums here are small and red, but regular American plums would probably be similar)
1 Tbs. apple vinegar
7 tsp. sugar
1 pinch each of any spice on my spice rack that smelled good, which turned out to be allspice, coriander, and cardamon.

(One pinch = 3~4 shakes of the bottle)

I ran it through my food mill, which only took about three seconds to make a fruity sauce. This was okay, but it was kind of watery and didn't have the zing to it that I liked about the mango ketchup. I then did a quick web search for ketchup recipes, the results of which inspired me to add...

1 pinch salt
2 pinches each black pepper and mustard powder

I simmered it for about half an hour to boil away some of the water and get it to a proper ketchupy thickness. I tested it right away on a batch of sliced burdock fried in garlic/chili olive oil, and it was great. THAT was the flavor I was looking for. Yay!

The whole batch reduced down to about 3/4 of a small jam jar. Not, perhaps, the most cost-effective product, considering how expensive Japanese fruit is. However, it tastes darn good.

In other random food news, I found a new item on the fried-goods table at my local supermarket: breaded quail eggs on a stick. I bought some to try. They're really good with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise.

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[User Picture]
From:havocthecat
Date:July 10th, 2006 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, that sounds delicious! And I love hearing about everything you're doing in Japan. I know I don't comment much, so I wanted to let you know that.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:July 10th, 2006 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! It's nice to hear from you.
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From:sara_tanaquil
Date:July 10th, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
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The tanabata tree is so cute! I wanted to do one here in the US, but was too lazy (and didn't know where to get my hands on any bamboo). Heck, I'm usually too lazy to carve a pumpkin or decorate easter eggs. I would make a terrible parent.

It just occurred to me to wonder... why are the seniors taking final exams now? Are these finals for the summer term only, or for the whole year? Because the academic year's not over until next March, right? *confused*

I'm sure you've explained this before, but I have a memory like a sieve. ^_^;;
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:July 10th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
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It just occurred to me to wonder... why are the seniors taking final exams now?

Technically, our school is on a semester system, so the semester isn't really over until the end of September. (Most of September is devoted to the sports day/culture festival, though.)

The problem is, every other school in the country is on a trimester system, and they all have their first term finals right before summer break. Thus, all colleges and places of employment expect that seniors will have their first term grades by summer, so those applying for jobs or colleges are required to submit their grades. That's why our seniors are taking their exams early, so they will have some grades to show. The rest of the students don't have their term-end finals until September.
[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:July 10th, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
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It sounds delicious. How adventurous of you to try with expensive fruit. It seems as though you couldn't have gone wrong, though with the choices of spices you used.

Tell me more about sliced burdock. What does that taste like? We saw some at the Asian market, and Bob took one look at their length and said that it was no wonder they were hard to get rid of. He just considers them a weed. I thought I heard they were very nutritious.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:July 10th, 2006 07:52 pm (UTC)
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How adventurous of you to try with expensive fruit.

I decided to risk it because the plums had gotten kind of old (skins wrinkly), so I wasn't going to eat them fresh anyway.

What does that taste like?

Hmm...kind of fibrous and a little peppery. Imagine carrot sticks that aren't sweet. You can try some when you come visit.

Bob took one look at their length and said that it was no wonder they were hard to get rid of.

Well, you're supposed to chop them into small pieces, like when you cook carrots.

This was my first time actually cooking them personally, though I've eaten them when I go out to restaurants.
[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:July 10th, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! And thanks for the photo of the wishes flying in the breeze. I don't think we teach our children to dream enough. Sometimes I see my students with no hope for their future.
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