Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Fancy Mashed Potatoes

With autumn practically having arrived weeks ago (oh, sweet Aomori), the air is chilled and the days grow short(er). The desire to consume pumpkins and potatoes grows exponentially… and so this filler recipe post is for the potato lovers of this world, the far from home and craving Thanksgiving food in a foreign country variety, and for anyone who really hasn’t got time for fancier meals.

Bon appetit!

Serves 1

1 large potato
1 medium garlic clove
Unsalted butter
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper

1. Take your potato, nicely washed and peeled (unless you adore peels but ideally scrubbed well regardless), and stab the daylights out of it. You cando this with a fork or knife, in either case after a long day at work it’s quite cathartic ;D

2. Place potato in a saucepan and fill with enough water to cover the potato and garlic clove. As the water boils on high (because ain’t nobody got time for medium or low) toss in your salt, black pepper, rosemary, and cayenne pepper to taste. Feel free to mix up your own spice combo, too, if any of the above doesn’t rock your world. Cumin and tumeric would make for great curried mashed potato variation.

3. As you go about your laundry washing and apartment cleaning, check in on your potato once in a while to compare water level and the rate at which it begins to soften. Punch in a couple more holes if it’s not softening on par with dropping water level or add more water. When the water level reaches to just covering the surface of the saucepan immediately lower the heat to low. Cut a chunk of butter and stir in while mashing. The more butter you use, the creamier and more buttery it’ll be (but also the unhealthier) so make sure you cut small chunks and add and smash in gradually until it reaches the consistency that you desire.

4. And as you vacuum and sweep tatami, savor that mashed potato; you’ve earned it ;D


Apple Farming

The fifth graders from the nearby village are tasked with helping a local farm raise the famous apples we are so well known for.

Uncharacteristically warm for September, our day of apple farming began with a brisk up-road walk; the knee was not amused but somehow we made it work. It’s about now that the weather will begin to cool drastically. One Californian’s winter is an Aomorian’s autumn…

Le sigh.

But it’s that same frigid temperature which make the region so rich in the agricultural production of apples so I can’t complain too much.

The lesson came complete with free apple tasting at the end of three hours of picking bugs and leaves off the baby fruits. Apple connoisseurship dictates that sweet is better than bitter, if we are to go by the farmer’s expert opinion. Although a few kids were brave enough to voice their opposing tastes, it seems as if the majority vote is that sweet is always better for business. I can see how this makes sense in Japan where the best flavor (whether savory or sweet) is that it lie somewhere in the real of harmoniously neutral. Also there are no real ovens here… Sour apples are thus under appreciated and unloved.

Does anyone else have a similar experience in their prefecture? What’s something your kids grow?


Cuore Hachinohe

This sweet little cafe has no official website, though it should! It’s not close to city center, in fact just getting there feels like a drive through the backwoods of the countryside if you’re going via Gonohe, and the parking lot can hold only three cars at a time.

But if you can make it and you don’t have to hunt down parking away from the cafe, it’s more than worth your time. The atmosphere is adorably organic: everywhere there are handmade crafts decorating the window sills, the tables are made of wood, and even the pasta is made fresh. Because it’s family run operation the opening hours should be checked in advance (most Tuesdays seemed to be closed according to their calendar). Another quirk, if the menu is read correctly, coffee (without a food set) is only served after 2pm.

On the upside: all coffee comes with GORGEOUS art! ❤

Uriba-18-2 Kawaragi, Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture

Funny Kanji 01: Unreasonable!

Long time scholars of kanji know that there’s nothing more frustrating than having to memorize an arbitrary combination of characters that make absolutely no sense. Atsugiri Jason, one such comedian, points out all too well in his comedy pieces that sometimes, even if you think really very hard about it… it still doesn’t make sense no matter how hard you try.

So what’s a foreign language learner to do in a pinch? As I suggested to my own kids recently: you just gotta wing it and come up with something funny to help yourself because sometimes that’s just the best you can do.

And so, I bring you, dear readers, to the funniest kanji I’ve yet encountered in my three years learning Japanese. That lovely kanji combination is non other than:


Literally comprised of the kanji for ‘nothing’ and ‘tea’, when paired together the word means ‘UNREASONABLE’. A quite literal reading would thus render it as ‘NO TEA’.

They were so unreasonable they didn’t even have tea to offer!

Tea in Japan is what water or mineral water is to all others on the planet: it’s life’s blood and the drink of warriors. Spring? Then it’s tea made of sakura petals for you. Summer? There’s mugicha for that. You want something salty and not bitter? No problem; they’ve mastered the art of turning even konbu seaweed into tea. You got a really traditional party or company meeting coming up? Green tea. You’re feeling western today? There’s black tea from Europe. I feel as if, you’re more likely to get tea than water at the restaurants here, although this could be just where I’m living and what I’ve experienced so far, it’s practically complimentary. Though I’ve also gotten water served so if tea isn’t your cup of tea… well there’s water.

So, it makes sense why not even having tea to offer someone is unreasonable, it’s just really funny to think about as an American.