last updated

Picky eater

If I eat fish, I go into an anaphylactic shock. My throat swells up and blocks my airwaves. Even if there is not enough ventilation in a space I can get restricted breathing or my eyes swell up. The adrenaline kicks in and then I'm shattered - I usually have to sleep. I'm relieved but I'm knocked out. My body goes into overdrive. It's happened twice in the past few weeks. Sometimes I get a twinge in my throat or upper mouth that is inexplicable.

I can eat shellfish no problem. The more common affliction is the opposite - fish good / shellfish bad - so people struggle with the concept like I've got it the wrong way around. Some people look at me like I'm making it up.

I can't eat dairy: butter, cream, milk, cheese, yoghurt, whey, cheese. I used to get really itchy with it but now I get a mild anaphylactic shock. I can eat eggs. People think that these are dairy. Maybe because the milk van used to sell them. In any case it's a hard concept for them to understand. I can eat eggs. They don't come from cows - they come from birds.

I can't eat peanuts or hazelnuts or pecans or walnuts. They are bad as well. They give me anaphylaxis. The effects are as bad as with fish. It's pretty scary. I gulp for air past the saliva in the ever decreasing opening in my windpipe. I ensure it doesn't happen often but it's very real. I can eat almonds and pine nuts, pistachios and coconut. This is harder for some than the dairy rule. It's a protein thing.

I can't eat bread or any gluten. Well that's not true: in the grand scheme of things, I can eat them - but I get terrible cramps and then suffer for a week with an upset stomach and do long term damage to my lower intestine. I also get sluggish and apathetic: I don't take in the nutrients and get tired as a result. I used to have the Donuts joke but coeliac disease has really fucked me over on that front. I'll pretty much eat anything else though. No problem.


Posted by stupot at 11:44 AM Thursday 9 Oct

Flourishing

'People Make Glasgow' is the newly adopted slogan of the city. Glasgow has been stylish, a mister man, but now it's finally all about the people. And it's true, for good or bad, people really do make Glasgow: outgoing, talkative, helpful, funny. Standing at a bus stop in Glasgow invariably warrants a chat about situation in hand, whether you want it or not. Hardships are overcome by community and discussion: Be it standing in the rain waiting for a bus or bringing a landlord to heel (more difficult should this be the council).

Continue reading "Flourishing"
Posted by stupot at 11:20 AM Saturday 2 Aug

Return to Eigg

There wasn't much chat on the ferry back to Mallaig - the drones of the lone-piper having been long since drowned out by the pulsating hum of the Cal Mac's engines. These had also taken their meditative effect on our sun kissed and tired bodies as people stared at the skyline. It very much reminded you of being in a car as a small child: resistance to relaxation was almost futile. Our eyes were focused on the ridiculous beauty of the Cuillins, Small Isles and Nevis range which were crystal clear, all around: Tiree and Coll south and fading. Some porpoises popped up after the long legged jelly fish were stealing all the limelight and instigated some chattering amongst the humans. It was the way travelling should be: the polar opposite of sitting in an airport lounge. We also hadn't slept much for the past 3 or 4 days, being either wakened by the warmth of summer, talking to interesting and like minded people late into the night or having waited to hear a really good band. The weariness was certainly for good reason.

Continue reading "Return to Eigg"
Posted by stupot at 10:38 PM Tuesday 22 Jul

Is it on the Trolley?

We are now served on our trains by a retail manager who serves from the retail trolley. This used to be known as the drinks trolley or simply 'the trolley'. Retail feels a little formal doesn't it? Theres an honesty about 'the tea man' or 'the tea lady'. Sure, they sell other shit, but deep down most folks want a tea - maybe with a wee cheeky bit of shortbread on the side. These managers always seem to work alone as well which makes me wonder what they are managing- the crisps? And are they on a managers wage?!

I remember visiting Italy and seeing the kerfuffle that happened at interchange stations on the platforms as overheated passengers angled for cold, fizzy water during summertime. I recall watching guys selling from vast pots of chai in india on Michael Palin's aroud the world. The tea man in India was respected and there was theatre. He was an important part of the journey.

It now seems incredible that we are allowed to buy hot drinks at all given their scalding heat on a rocking carriage. Who could deal with such a balancing act? We are now offered packaged hymogony, probably best described on a thomas cook flight to greece where, having travelled past juicy, fresh watermelons served off a cart by the side of the road, we are offered pot noodles and cup a soups, instant coffee and maltesers.

Bring back theatre and informality to journeys!


Posted by stupot at 08:18 PM Friday 13 Jun

The Scottish Leg

Etape is a French word which has been engrained into my vocabulary for many years. I know various obscure words and phrases with the common theme of cycling: Roleur, Poursuivants, Col, Grimpeur, Parcours, Chute, Domestique, Flame Rouge, Maillot a pois. Etape has now become synonymous with sportif events, the name coming from those who race one stage of the Tour de France each year, and the original closed road event, in the UK, is in Perthshire in Scotland.

I usually do a bit of touring each year as well as some longer one day rides on top of the week to week cycling. Manuela shouted me in November when the organisers get everyone in order - this is why I don't enter these events: Im too busy or unorganised, or both, to plan ahead enough, taking usually only 2 months to organise a holiday or trip in advance. Thankfully I was entered by proxy and even got a hotel room by the start line as a result of having other well organised friends.

Continue reading "The Scottish Leg"
Posted by stupot at 07:20 PM Sunday 18 May

people in glass houses

I’m in the middle of designing some bars at the moment and this makes me reflect on current trends and traditions. I have to admit I’m quite a traditionalist when it comes to the craft of how things are made but there’s something I’ve noticed in my neighbourhood that makes me shun this view and look, unequivocally, toward the future.

Public houses, as they are traditionally known, are far from the all inclusive, co-operative the name suggests. In the west of Scotland these are predominantly male haunts where 19th century pursuits are still encouraged. Bigotry, sectarianism, cabaret signers the whole neighbourhood is subjected to and fights of a weekend all go on behind the head height walls (this is not my opinion - I have watched and listened to it for many years).

There is now just one of these left in my neighbourhood and I won’t be sad when it goes. Judging by the time they close up at night it won’t be long. The other 3 pubs now have full height glazing and all can see inside. They welcome families, dogs, traditional musicians - you name it. They have a decent food offering or restaurant and eating is encouraged. No one is falling about intoxicated.

The transparency is literal and, in this respect, I like the way society is progressing.


Posted by stupot at 03:41 PM Wednesday 24 Jul

Almond Croissant - T.E.S.Co

IMG_1525

Complexion - In general, a healthy looking specimen
Almond topping - a good amount, nicely browned
Almond centre - a little meagre at the edges but a pass.
Dough - slightly under cooked at the edges

Overall - appearance better than the actual product 5/10


Posted by stupot at 09:03 PM Friday 11 Jan

Tiree Automatic 3 Partick Thistle 0

tireewaves

The weather was fairly average when we left Glasgow, for the time of year. With our destination as wild and remote as Tiree there was no-one expecting calm and sunshine though; hiking boots and layers kept us overdressed for what was a quiet International airport but requiring the usual ridiculous security search (I'm tempted to let my trousers drop every time I take off my belt such is my contempt for authority), blast of perfume and hanging about in the ground floor gate which preludes most light aircraft island flights.

Continue reading "Tiree Automatic 3 Partick Thistle 0"
Posted by stupot at 05:05 PM Wednesday 2 Jan

Almond Croissant - J Sainsbury

IMG_1216

Complexion - slightly sallow but a reasonable tan (automatic light correction helps the photo)
Almond topping - pleasingly adequate and nicely browned
Almond centre - a healthy amount of paste without going overboard (it is, contrary to popular belief, possible)
Dough - slightly dry and lets the side down

Overall - A decent effort but obviously mass manufactured 6/10


Posted by stupot at 12:00 PM Sunday 21 Oct

The Devils Elbow

glenshee

GLEN PROSEN - BRAEMAR
53 miles

When I planned this trip I didn't actually know that there was a significant climb north before the Lecht. Hazy, non-cycling, teenage memories of Braemar and Blairgowrie did nothing to remind me of Glenshee - all I could remember was a ski hire joint in Blairgowrie - and we didn't even go back to visit. Useless!
The snaking around the outcropping Eastern Cairngorms / Angus Glens was enough of an early morning wake up call and the gels were certainly being being broken out today. The overall height not the issue but the constant steep troughs.

Continue reading "The Devils Elbow "
Posted by stupot at 11:04 AM Tuesday 18 Sep

Unchartered territory

Untitled

PITLOCHRY - GLEN PROSEN VILLAGE
52 miles

It was a jolly, coffee and cake, start to our second day at the welcoming CAFE BIBE: the raspberry bakewell was amazing and they were cool about putting another shot in a weak coffee. Oblivious to the weather forecast for the coming few days we dragged ourselves up and over the first climb of the day. This recurring theme is obviously a side-effect of taking quiet B-roads. Like any other modern dilemma, you have to weigh up if the side-effect is worth while to make life more positive. Of course, on roads where sheep out-number motor vehicles, the decision is easy. The road to Kirkmichael was a joy and we rolled down toward the village for more coffee and cake at THE VILLAGE SHOP, eschewing energy bars for the time being.

Continue reading "Unchartered territory"
Posted by stupot at 06:08 PM Sunday 16 Sep

GOING COLD TURKEY

Untitled

RANNOCH STATION - PITLOCHRY
40 miles

I'd had a brief week after our holiday in Turkey with some late nights and weekend working and so was looking forward to getting away again for some physical excertion and spending some time in a part of the country I (realised last year whilst driving through) have sadly neglected from my travels.

I'd mapped and calculated the route 2 months previously, booked the accomodation and then basically gotten back to a very heavy shift of work. As with 2011, there were last minute adjustments to the bike (at Rannoch Station) and also a reminder of the route on the train up. We were only focussed on the fist day and it was to be a pretty straight forward roll to Pitlochry so we got moving along the lochside and headed toward Kinloch Rannoch past silver birch, fern, the first of many serious (victorian) civil engineering projects and toward lunch. I'd been to the village in my childhood but more recently in June to visit Mr Penman so I was confident the hotel would do alright scran.

The pub at the back was closed so we were ushered in to the Hotel proper with it's tired surroundings, tired music and tired staff. They were actually playing bagpipe laments at lunch time - "the older clientele like it". Amongst sporadic chat the visitors looked like suicide might be an agreeable alternative, the saving grace being a baby's gurgling and a stuffed, ginger badger that Ross had found an affinity with. A young Caribbean guy came in with three 50 somethings. I met him outside when we were packing up as he had come out for a macdoobie. Grenadan's certainly show up locals for friendliness and welcome. On the way out the young staff had suggested that playing popular music would be "a tragedy" so I started singing the Bee Gee's classic as we left them to their 1970's tartan take on tourism.

Continue reading "GOING COLD TURKEY"
Posted by stupot at 05:17 PM Sunday 16 Sep

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

Untitled

The most interesting thing about going on a package holiday to Turkey is watching some people's reaction to telling them it's a 'package holiday'. A lot of people I know go on city breaks and squirm at the thought of someone organising a trip for them by a beach. I was a bit like that until I went to Fuerteventura 10 years ago and had the most relaxing two weeks of my life. Most people who squirm have never done it or found somewhere good enough. From the beginning, it's been a case of finding a good hotel with a company that chucks in flights pretty much for free, entertaining a rep who may or may not give you some handy local hints and then doing what the fuck you want for the rest of the time. We got a hire car thrown into our deal and had a beautiful, small and quiet hotel away from Daily Mail Central that was the middle of Kalkan.

Everyone talked about how bad the driving and roads were: compared to Britain the roads aren't well marked and aren't built up at the side, and sometimes people don't indicate - but apart from that I found drivers to be courteous and relatively slow (the cost of petrol was probably the main factor).

You can be sceptical of people selling you stuff but the 75 year old fisherman who approached us as we were fresh into town, gave us a great deal and a lovely day on the water. I tipped him with a sketch of his boat.

The guys who chat you up on the street to get you into bars are salesmen, but if you give them a chance and chat to them they can be intelligent, interesting people - far more astute, witty and politically knowledgable than their British counterparts. I had a great education about Ataturk by one guy and, wanting the drawing I'd been working on, in the end let me buy my food and beer with ink and paper.

I actually grew to liking these encounters - more than many places I've been (aside Morocco) drawing was commanding great respect and even worked as a currency.

One day we pulled up to a road side eatery in a very local setting and, with no menus or conversation, ordered 'food'. Our trays of goodies, water and bag of bread came imminently and we ate a feast. The lunch service was finishing and chairs were being loaded into a van. We didn't think anything of it until when we went to pay were told there was no charge - this was a pre-wedding party and lunch was on them. Now that's hospitality.


Posted by stupot at 01:30 PM Wednesday 29 Aug

RUM and MUCK on EIGG

EIGG_camp

We'd never been over to Eigg and despite being quite at home on the Mallaig line I had no idea what awaited us on Eigg - how open or cliffy it was in reality. What mystical beasts lived there. There was a few obvious AWAY GAME friends on the train and at Arisaig more gathered from cars to stow inside the wee Sheerwater vessel that Captain Ronnie would use to take us to our new (temporary) society. Moods were good, expectant, happy to meet all these new interesting people. We nibbled sunflower seeds on the boat and the sun baked us as we drew closer to the island. The nationalities were becoming obvious - it was predominately a Celtic mix of Scots, Welsh and French - the latter being the suave ones with the good skin, cool shades and tartan blankets.

Continue reading "RUM and MUCK on EIGG "
Posted by stupot at 11:37 AM Tuesday 24 Jul

The five ferries

five ferries route

BRODICK - TARBERT - TIGHNABRUAICH - ROTHESAY - WEST KILBRIDE
75 miles

Our 5.45 start was not as early as some that we met on our day of many ferries. During this spell of exceptional weather, (which feels like a dream, such is its contrast to everyday life) we knew that we would awake to Arran in dusty pink with purples and warm browns, the sea green and tree canopies dancing a little. We tip-toed to first wash and then drink coffee before we laid out our kit for the day and gave the bikes one last breathe of air in the tyres.

Continue reading "The five ferries"
Posted by stupot at 07:24 PM Sunday 27 May

A National Question

IMG_3447

Last week I went up to Forres with work I'm doing with the Art School's Centre for Design Innovation. It's a relatively new project and I'm still fully getting my head around it. After meeting the team and being part of a day designed to look at and understand what the Centre is, we headed to Aviemore where there is a live project on-going with a major tourist attraction. Weather continued to be outstanding, but with it came the huge gusts of winds characteristic of the country.

Continue reading "A National Question"
Posted by stupot at 11:28 AM Sunday 2 Oct

Eat and be Thankful

Tron searching for pies

GLASGOW - ARROCHAR - DUNOON - GLASGOW
105 miles

Today was a lesson in eating.
We've not been on a long ride for a while and although we had stocked up on gels and had had our porridge, we still failed - on an epic scale - to eat nearly enough food. We burned 10,000 calories between us yet all we ate on the ride from Glasgow to Dunoon was 4 gels each, 2 coffees and a piece of shortbread/ fruit slice. You don't have to be the nutritionist for Team GB to work out that does not equate to the required amount.

Continue reading "Eat and be Thankful"
Posted by stupot at 08:09 PM Saturday 24 Sep

A FARMERS TAN

6009325389_2f625dc272_m.jpg

TOBERMORY - ARISAIG
60 miles

So the sun finally put on a good show - there had been a suggestion on Monday night that shepherd's were to be delighted on Tuesday but things stayed decidedly average on for our mountain goat trials. Chris had gotten up first and went for a wander shortly followed by me with the SLR - the light and strength of blue in the sky was phenomenal. We bought plentiful supplies for breakfast and had three courses - porridge with strawberries, bacon rolls and pastries with a cafetiere of coffee. I'm sure hostelling didn't used to be like this: it used to be a lot worse.

Continue reading "A FARMERS TAN"
Posted by stupot at 09:50 AM Sunday 7 Aug

TWO ISLANDS AND A SUNSET

6009859364_2b3829b4db_m.jpg

LOCHRANZA - CRAIGNURE
65 miles

The guy we shared a room with insisted on sharing his Nescafe with us and couldn't understand why we were packing so early to get our ferry. Thankfully the coffee stop we had planned (less than half a mile away) coincided with the ferry leaving 35 minutes before we thought it would leave and, forcing the gangway back down, we managed to hop aboard. Already we had reached a part of the country where common decency and courtesy prevails over timetables. The moral of the story (aside checking your timetable properly) is being a coffee snob pays off in more ways than the obvious.

Continue reading "TWO ISLANDS AND A SUNSET"
Posted by stupot at 01:00 PM Saturday 6 Aug

FLAT OUT AND THE BOUGILLIE

6009872734_2562219d51_m.jpg


YORKHILL - LOCHRANZA
50 miles

It had been a hectic end to the week which sprawled into Saturday and it's afternoon. The relaxed and satisfying meticulous checks were swapped with a frantic and sweaty dash to the bike shop to rake through old metal jars full of components that had been put into a coma. I resurrected a few and the bike was operational, if not quite finely tuned. Packing is always easy for these trips - the panniers only allow a certain amount and weight or lack of weight is the guiding rule. In retrospect I didn't use my gilet, arm warmers and lock but they aren't heavy and could have been invaluable - infact it's unusual not to need a gilet in Scotland no matter what the season.

Continue reading "FLAT OUT AND THE BOUGILLIE"
Posted by stupot at 11:57 AM Saturday 6 Aug

Kelvingrove

I'm very lucky to live so close to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and park. This cafe is just a one minute walk away. The view from my flat of Kelvingrove is very much vertical; the doorway and central turrets framed by the two rows of blonde, sandstone tenements of Regent Moray street. In contrast, I like how the length of the building is framed here by the windows of the cafe.

Kelvingrove


Posted by stupot at 03:29 PM Tuesday 8 Mar

Just a little bit wider

My dentist calls me Angus. As all health care professionals do. It's in my file. He also thinks I get anxious about being there. It's in my file. About 8 years ago he was doing some root canal treatment and I was in a lot of discomfort. After putting enough anaesthetic in my mouth 'to knock out a horse' he had a final look and saw a raw nerve ending. Despite this, it has been documented that I get edgy - with whatever acronym they use. Maybe P.I.T.F.A. Sounds like a possible dentistry body but could also work as short hand for Pain In The Fucking Arse. Or maybe just Hypochondriac Jessie. H.J.

I am now treated like a 6 year old every time I visit - which is not necessarily a bad thing. I get a very gentle welcome, ushered in, talked through what will happen, positive and encouraging feedback, reminded why I am getting positive and encouraging feedback, lots of opportunities to rinse my mouth, praise of my hygiene, given precise indication of how much more time the hand in question will be in my mouth for.... I occasionally look at the nurse behind her visor who I suspect can tell from my facial expression and lack of movement or concern that I am in fact far from upset. Still - for the amount of cash I'm lining his pockets with, I'll happily take the sweet talk.


Posted by stupot at 10:46 AM Thursday 17 Feb

physical extremes

Mr T took me along to the Arlington Baths last night for a Victorian work out at the oldest private swimming club in Britain. Despite eschewing the rings and not being able to find the medicine balls we made full use of the steam room, turkish baths and sauna, decked out as we were in our stripey bathing suits. I would have happily stayed to read the papers - the last stage in the experience being the reading room which is very relaxing indeed. We headed on to the Banana Leaf on Old Dumbarton Road which is a visual shit hole but serves very fine food. Sitting in the cold is easy to bare due to the friendly service and amazing dosa's. I hadn't appreciated they had won the best takeaway from the British curry awards and Best newcomer in the List's food and drink awards. A stones throw away from the flat, I would take them up on the offer of dinner delivered every night for a month for £120 if I didn't feel like a bloated whale this morning. So much for the exercise!

Banana Leaf


Posted by stupot at 10:15 AM Thursday 25 Nov

Amersfoort

I downloaded the wallpaper* amsterdam city-guide which I thought was a good idea, and it was - despite all the spelling mistakes and the fact a physical book would have been easier to navigate with: just as a real map beats google in the quick reference stakes. In any case it was easyjet's city guide on the plane which suggested I visit Amersfoort, and based on their pretty good suggestions for Glasgow and Edinburgh bars (Gandolfi and Blue blazer) I thought I'd get on the train on Monday. The place was dead on arrival - it appeared that no-one else was taking the hot tip. Or it was Monday morning. The weekly holiday, as it turned out, didn't make me feel so bad about not wanting to get out of bed on Mondays. I should move there. People started their days slowly as I wandered in the crisp November weather eventually finding the medieval gate to the town and getting a few sketches done. Soon it was populated as normal and I headed back to Amsterdam on my favourite double-decker trains in anticipation of seeing Gorillaz that night.

amersfoort


Posted by stupot at 01:41 PM Thursday 18 Nov

Really Good Coffee

CC&T

On Friday, after a wet run on the bikes up Gleniffer Brae, we returned to beautiful coffee at Coffee, Chocolate and Tea at Cranstonhill. It brought a whole new meaning to drip coffee - we had half of the downpour lying on the floor beneath us. Beneath that, and through the glass floor, you can see the coffee bean sacks in the basement. It's a nice place with a huge roasting machine in the window which helps heat the space (formerly MacCallums fishmonger) in the winter. We even got a wee lesson in roasting and a chocolate to try after John's gentle persuasion.

Saturday was a much better ride with blue skies, if wet roads, south west to Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir and back.


Posted by stupot at 11:52 AM Monday 1 Nov

Re

For about 10 years I have recycled with vigour. It's not something I think about other than knowing it has always been highly satisfying - even when it meant a bike ride to Partick with full panniers. I confess to actively enjoying it. As disorganised as I may be in some respects of my life - the efficiency with which I sort rubbish might make you think I have been possessed by a tramp. Living alone, or as two, you produce little waste: I can produce as little as two carrier bags of garbage a week. A friend once scolded me for using plastic (shopping) bags instead of black bin bags. I hung my head in deflation (rather than guilt). That's one too many Guardian readers in the same room.

The recycling process does make you consider the mortality rate of packaging and wonder what the hell we're doing about it. Some can lead full and active lives: Top tip - at Airports - use the clear wrapper from your Newspaper supplements as a stand in toilet bag to get through security. Top tip 2 - use Bonne Maman jam jars as glasses - these are as robust as they are pleasant to drink from. Recently, at my favourite French restaurant, a couple (who had sat in silence up to that point) complained to the waitress about the tumblers that the wine was served in. The waitress informed them politely that the glasses did not alter the taste of the wine and that if they thought it did, it was simply their imagination.

Respect.

recycling


Posted by stupot at 12:11 PM Tuesday 7 Sep

Les Grimpeurs

Thursday was a lovely day for a change but I decided to spend it inside a small bar off Leith Walk. It was encouraging to see people waiting outside and a table full of wine, cheese, sausage and bread inside. A very small corner of Edinburgh was En fête. The doors opened late with a disappointed owner who was struggling to get TV reception - a problem I tend to associate only with the decades of my childhood. "who's got a freeview box?" is the twenty first century cry. A group of strangers are given free drink, food and start to chat about tactics on the climb and the crash they heard about before they left the house. Oh - and Sastre is 2 minutes ahead in a break: Topics usually lost on friends.

We wait a quarter of an hour but soon all head to another pub on the corner which changes from it's usual men with whippets and racing posts to 20 cycling enthusiasts. The proprietor is a little thrown by the influx but obviously sees the potential. Soon all 4 screens are showing the strained faces of mountain goats pulling their bikes up the highest climbs in Europe - the screen apparently showing static from the cloud they are cycling through. The picture freezes occasionally - another problem from the eighties I thought we'd have overcome - from the same cloud surrounding the camera motorbikes. It adds to the tension. A few more come in to watch Schlek and Contador stare each other out and a few shouts come out as the two approach the last kilometer. I head back to the Tourmalet with the two Irish fellas I've met as well as Laura and a local, well spoken, soak (of which there are plenty in this town) for post match analysis after Schlek pips the Spaniard to the line and eventually head home satisfied.

The Tourmalet


Posted by stupot at 01:47 PM Saturday 24 Jul

Leodhais

Ardvourlie - Garenin
37 miles

We woke from a great sleep and still the trees whipped about outside. We doubled up on porridge and headed out into the elements and Lewis proper. Feeling slightly guilty we trundled along, off the higher ground of Harris with, our now good friend, the sou' western tail wind. Eventually we go to the left turn which would take us to Garenin and we now had to feel more of the wind than either of us wished - the view south, back to the mountains of Harris was recompense enough though, as we glanced sideways trying to keep the bikes upright.

DSC00050

Continue reading "Leodhais"
Posted by stupot at 04:16 PM Monday 12 Jul

Golden Road

Berneray - Bowglass
35 miles

The wind is still battering against the small windows of the blackhouses but sun now lights up the white horses in the green sea. As with the night before we make a dash from our sleeping quarters to the living and eating space situated in the next building. We repack after porridge, swap some advice with the others and head off for the ferry. Despite the terminal being only a mile away it takes an eternity and some skill to keep the bikes upright - the head wind buffeting us and occasionally trying to lift our feather-light front wheels.

Berneray

Continue reading "Golden Road"
Posted by stupot at 09:02 PM Saturday 10 Jul

Solstice in Morar

The sands of Morar is a beautiful spot - 40 miles west of Fort William. The scenery is spectacular as six of us make the trip up to celebrate the longest day. It's a long drive but well worth the winding roads to be met by the natural beauty of the place. It doesn't get fully dark this far north and we were granted good weather, camping on the silver beach itself, soaking up sun, eating from the fire and watching the steam train pass on its way to Mallaig. It's a long winter but trips like this are so much more appreciated as a result.

morar


Posted by stupot at 10:59 PM Monday 21 Jun

Love thy Neighbour?

The Glasgow Harbour development is not the kind of place you might think has a close-knit community - but you'd be wrong. We had a great barbecue at Niall's on Saturday with a whole gang from the flats. Long term friends fixing boilers and looking out for one another in general. A destroyer sat across the water, almost complete - a remnant of Glasgow Old.

A news report the other night, in contrast, was about where the new Government would make their financial cuts. They wanted the British public to give ideas and have their say. Usually such a vocal group post-legislation, the reporter on the streets found no-one could answer this question. "As long as it doesn't affect me" said one man. "So you're happy as long as it's someone else who suffers?" asked the reporter. "Isn't that what everyone wants?" asked the man back.

Welcome back to Tory Britain.

Destroyer BBQ


Posted by stupot at 03:10 PM Sunday 13 Jun

Take Jesus - Take Marx - Take Hope

There are somethings in life, I now realise, that aren't going away. I always used to think, for example, that my infatuation with the Housemartins (the first band I independently got into and fourth best band in Hull) would wane if not entirely dry up, just as was the fate of the band. The memories go back to not only playing the cassette on my walkman on the way to York on our school trip in primary seven, but indeed to when I first heard the band on radio, driving back from a barbeque with my dad's work circa 1985.

I've now realised that as much as I have time for the current bands in my life like Midlake, Fleet foxes and even a bit of Kanye West (I like to pronounce his name Kayne and have people correct me) I still find myself getting excited about finding a Housemartins vinyl in a charity shop: in the past week I have found Caravan of Love 12" in Help the Aged in Peebles followed by London 0 Hull 4 LP in Oxfam, Stockbridge. Quite a week for me as my affair with the band who taught me to button my shirt to the top and wear white socks regardless of trouser length, continues.

housecrest.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:31 PM Sunday 21 Mar

Reestit Mutton

reestit mutton

I'm a big advocate of traditions - sometimes it feels like it's in contrast with my (probably-natural-but-not-overpowering) interest in societies advances. I know my heart sits firmly with tradition though; the lack of complication. I'm not one to look back but rather I appreciate those things that work. I suppose as an example is that my head has never been able to understand travel to other planets when things down here are broke. It's like having a cleaner who lives in squalor, double standards. My interest in space travel couldn't be less.

Continue reading "Reestit Mutton"
Posted by stupot at 12:11 PM Wednesday 27 Jan

Tynedale

Coal fires, whisky, snow, warm pubs, marzipan fruit, stocking, antique bicycle magazines, snow, perfect ham, red wine, sun, warm pubs, lie-ins, films, fox hunt, ice, warm bed, marzipan fruit, turkey and brussels, a pocket watch, neighbours visiting, beer, nap, exploding chestnuts, stretching, a walk, red wine....... a fine Christmas.

corbridgemist


Posted by stupot at 08:18 PM Tuesday 29 Dec

Jack Frost Nipping

It's gotten cold here. Our more typical wet weather from the Atlantic has thankfully given way to a dry, cold front from mainland Europe. I love it. Scotland has been shrouded in a blanket of freezing mist the past week. Thankfully I had Christmassy colours at hand in Cafe Rouge today - the guy outside on the right is doing up his zip.

café rouge window


Posted by stupot at 09:05 PM Saturday 12 Dec

bramble

It's Bramble season - cycle paths and railway lines are spilling over with them. Down in West Kilbride last week I met up with the irrespressible Kirsty Reid. She's a star in many ways. She calls her mummy's Blackberry a 'Bramble', which I think a. is lovely, b. makes perfect sense and c. everyone should call them. Kirsty also draws a mean lion - almost as good an artist as my nephew, Fred!

bramble.jpg


Posted by stupot at 02:40 PM Tuesday 13 Oct

sunday lunch

monday and tuesday's dinner.

DSC00035


Posted by stupot at 11:52 AM Saturday 12 Sep

George Armstrong and Ian Mellis

Down in the new town after a meeting yesterday to look in a few shops - as fish kills me and cheese makes life pretty intolerable, I never really go to their respective mongers. The things I miss out on! Well maybe not the smells. I popped in to Geroge Armstrong's and picked up some clams to make a proper miso soup with and some razor clams for a bit of experimenting. The stuff in the window from the depths of the North sea is like the last wonder of the world - people stopping in awe to stare, gaping mouthed at gaping mouthed, razor teethed monsters. Mellis' window is like transporting yourself back to the forties, when people shopping local was the norm, not subject for scrutiny in some jumped up digital diary.

fishmonger


Posted by stupot at 09:56 AM Wednesday 5 Aug

John's shack

A long time in the making, John Macleod finally opened his restaurant crab shakk in Finnieston in February. Despite the amazing reviews and lovely design (By John and Good creative), I was a virgin until today when I went along with Dave for early lunch: top mussels for me and fish club sandwich for him - very reasonable. The space resembles Cafe Gandolfi - a wee cracker in the Merchant City John designed a few years ago. It was nice to see John there, with his subdued Hebridean drawl having a calming effect on the proceedings.

davejohncrabshak


Posted by stupot at 12:15 PM Friday 31 Jul

good habits

Whilst busy with work through spring I fell into some bad habits: I had developed a strange growth around my midriff as a result of the food I was eating and my bike had sprouted an unusual layer of soft grey fibres. June saw just one blog post (check out Nov 2005) - though this, arguably, is not a negative.

Now I'm working from home, however, it's a great chance to cook properly, open the windows as far as I like, get out on the bike and drink more water. There may even be a few more postings now..... Here's to summer resolutions!

dinner


Posted by stupot at 05:00 PM Tuesday 21 Jul

Taste

Been taking some images off my phone - this original, if optimistic, application of chalk for advertising in the meadows, Edinburgh. I think the rain actually held off.

taste


Posted by stupot at 11:35 AM Monday 20 Jul

Pittenweem

Long weekend in Britain - I headed off to Pittenweem in Fife with a friend on Friday and had a very relaxing time. Beer and food watching the sun go down.

The wee villages of the East Neuk of Fife, leading around to the comparable hustle and bustle of St. Andrew's, are very pretty indeed. If you go to Legoland in Denmark they choose to portray Scotland by a huge expanse of water (with oil rig) and one of these villages with mountains behind. A literal perspective looking west.

pitenweem


Posted by stupot at 08:07 PM Sunday 24 May

Setting up an appetite

My trip to Andalucia was mainly cycling and then eating a lot. We took on a big carbohydrate lunch which we made with local tomatoes and chorizo / black pudding. It was hugely tasty but more function than experience. For that we ate out, and the best place was Bar Vanencia in Ronda - full of locals, big Paella, great tapas and friendly staff (more so after they saw the drawing). Spot the piglet on the counter.

a_barvanencia


Posted by stupot at 12:04 AM Saturday 18 Apr

karintou no kurisumasu

karintou

One of the best presents I got for christmas was a packet of my favourite sweets from Japan: karintou. A kind of sweet pretzel bathed in molasses. Mmmmm. Molasses. I was also very lucky to get a coffee machine from Mr and Mr Claus on top of a cycling weekly. Result!


Posted by stupot at 05:20 PM Sunday 28 Dec

Dorogawa onsen

tokubei_dorgawa.jpg

The most emotional trip of my visit to Japan was cycling to Dorogawa Onsen. I was barely back from Iwate before heading out from Nanba on my way down toward the mountains of south Nara. I went alone as Dan had been inundated with work - a big blow but it meant that I could have his bike and helmet. I stopped in for new brake blocks at Everwin and then headed for the mizukoshi Pass which would take me over to Nara. The weather was perfect and the further I got out of Osaka, the happier I became. Osaka is no city for cycling but the surrounding mountains are ideal.

Continue reading "Dorogawa onsen"
Posted by stupot at 11:42 PM Sunday 14 Dec

Jodogahama

CNV00023.JPG

Whilst in Iwate I decided to go to the famous Jodogahama beach with its rocky outcrops which jut from the sea and create a calm stretch of water. Iwate was freezing but this day was incredibly warm in the sun. I took my jacket off and drew as a few other visitors came to talk. I got the bus back into the edge of Miyako and drew a few of the hundreds of boats as a local eventually asked me what I was drawing and happily told me about the local seafood. The town was quiet and subdued. fishermen mended nets in the sun in their oilskins. Late afternoon I took one of only four (single-carriage) trains a day back over the snowy mountains to Morioka.


Posted by stupot at 11:28 PM Sunday 14 Dec

efficient and tasty

Back in the jungle once more - Osaka welcomed me back like I'd just gone around the corner for the milk and papers. I think it expected me to go back to work. A slightly odd feeling came over me that must happen in a place that was once home, in another lifetime. Glasgow does the same to me. "Go back to what you were doing!" you can hear it shouting. Thankfully new things are far more interesting and despite the unshakable service, the consistently incredible food and even the cartons of grape juice in Lawsons being just as I had left them, things change and Osaka continues to evolve. The cranes around the station building (still undergoing the gruelling refub) suggest a prosperity lacking in the UK. Dotonbori bridge, in all its neon glory, is finished and can now welcome vistors - along with a new development in south Horie on the river. Dan and Miko's new apartment is council housing like perhaps only the scandanavians know about. My tatami room is luxury and it's lovely to be welcomed back. So it's a week of drawing, shopping, eating and seeing friends. I'm not going to be working here but I'd certainly discuss the prospect!


Posted by stupot at 03:32 AM Friday 21 Nov

UISGE BEATHA

arbeg2.jpg

ILE - REST DAY

I woke up to a little bit of wind. The Guiness I thought.
It was also breezy outside - something that was becoming as typical a part of the day as the sun was, breaking though mid to late morning. for the first time on the trip I made my own eggs and bacon in the generous sized kitchen. Pans and crockery were laid out with military precision and after I'd turned out the fluorescent strips in the dining room I could relax and look out the windows to the hypnotic swaying of the trees and rolling waves. A friendly fellow from East Kilbride and a Swedish Chef shared breakfast with me and we discussed our respective days.

Continue reading "UISGE BEATHA"
Posted by stupot at 08:12 PM Friday 30 May

saturday mornings

I love Saturday mornings.
And it explains the ring around my waist.......


Posted by stupot at 01:33 PM Saturday 19 Apr

dookin an guisin

last week my mum opened the door, as ever, to local guisers and we made our best effort to frighten the local children. I cut a hole in a table and had a covered bird cage put over my head. When the children came in, the witch (convincingly played by my mother) brought the children over to the table, explained about her new pet and lifted the cage to reveal my head. I opened my eyes and screamed. Casualties included a 7 year old cheerleader, a 6 year old vampire and a 33 year old nuclear engineer. We insisted on hearing a turn before anyone got anything sweet - a recited verse from Tam o'shanter was the clear winner. Best joke went to "how do you know which cow is going on its holidays? - It's the one with the week 'aff." The often forgot about history of Hallowe'en reminds me how my pagan roots have been overtaken by Christianity, and more recently, Capitalism. How striking the similarities to Obon in Japan with it's bonfires and lanterns and returning of the dead.


Posted by stupot at 09:06 PM Monday 5 Nov

caffe coretto cognac

Nardini's in Largs is an institution. The main, art deco clad restaurant is being 'refurbished' but I'll believe that when I see it. Fingers crossed. Fortunately there are still three cafes in and around the town and the one just across from the ferry slip offers as close to the Italian experience as you might find locally. The service is fast and the coffee is good. The last time I was in, I realise, was four years ago before the annual time trial around the isle of Cumbrae when we had espresso to get us going. The hastily drawn sketch shows chatty but efficient waitresses in aprons, a reassuringly well stocked bar (for a cafe) and a barista curious as to why I keep looking over. This time I was with my sister and nephew after a bracing half hour at the swings. I had a caffe coretto cognac which was an espresso with a shot of brandy - a drink from a bygone era which I think I'll be seeing a lot more of now I know it exists!


Posted by stupot at 09:03 PM Monday 22 Oct

gelati

I passed Barga - the town where many of Scotland's Italian immigrants come from - ten years ago on a cycling holiday. I was always curious about where people would leave to come and live in such a windswept place. We have a rich history of ice cream parlours / fish and chip shops with their lovely interiors, exotic staff and of course the weekend special-treat. When I was a kid we used to pop into Luca's of Musselburgh for, more often than not, a strawberry 99 before the long drive back to Ayrshire from my grandparents. I decided to pop in for old times sake on Saturday and joined the orderly queue to get an oyster which brought a pretty wide smile to my face. By coincidence I was in Ardossan the next day and, bouncing off the walls, we popped into the Palazzo sampling almost every flavour before the door was blocked and threats thrown for us to spend cash. It was nice to be back in Ayrshire once again.


Posted by stupot at 01:19 PM Monday 27 Aug

service



Posted by stupot at 07:42 PM Sunday 19 Aug

nine and a half weeks

I went to the doctors last week to re-register and took with me my wee list: it outlined my skin having miraculously cleared up since returning to the damp weather - which has unfortunately also led to my asthma having stirred from a long sleep. Wheezing is back. The other health point of note was that just two days previously and nine and a half weeks after coming back to Scotland, my stomach had finally started to process deep fried meat again. After about 6 weeks I admit to having become a little anxious about the whole thing....

Continue reading "nine and a half weeks"
Posted by stupot at 05:30 PM Wednesday 1 Aug

swim, fish, drink, sleep

As Dave finally reached maturity we decided to surprise him by taking him to a cottage on the other side of Arran for the week. The fishing rods were packed, the weather held and fortunately birthday boy remembered his hair straighteners. So no tears. Carradale, between Tarbert and Campbeltown, was a great place to chill out with all of us bringing our respective weights on shoulders but managing to discuss possibilities for a more ideal future. We had a few walks planned with the OS maps at the ready but we found that sitting fishing with a beer and good company was at least on par with a good walk, though perhaps even better. Despite the allergy I can see myself getting down the pier of a sunny eve to catch maw and paw's tea - great meditation. Ross and I managed to get in for a few dips in the sea before dinner on two days - invigorating stuff and partially x-rated. In the evenings we played with alcohol and abused the wii. So Callum didn't manage to work off the beer belly but quality time it certainly was.


Posted by stupot at 08:42 PM Wednesday 25 Jul

Scotland meets Japan

mukashinessie.jpg

Sometimes. In very odd ways. They come together. New TV advert for Coolish ice-cream drink.


Posted by stupot at 09:56 PM Monday 7 May

kaname

kaname.jpg

Boy, was I taken to a nice gaff last night. Five of us went along to Kaname in Chuoku, as part of my farewell - just north of Nagahoridori, near Honmachi. It's one of these places that, from the moment you arrive at the door, your breath is kind of taken away - the beauty deprived souls that we are in Osaka. There are still pockets of the old here but you have to know where to look. Or be skilled at getting lost. Or have a guide. We had a lovely chat whilst making all sorts of satisfied/astonished noises as we ate the raw meat the place was famous for. I'd recommend this place even more than the deep fried okonomiyaki. If you can believe that.


Posted by stupot at 12:38 PM Thursday 3 May

what can't you deep fry?

deepfriedokonomiyaki.jpg

I often tell people about how Osaka's heavy food, down-to-earth people, comedians and drinking problems have so much in common with my dear Glasgow. I decided to marry the cuisines of Lanarkshire and Kansai recently when I deep-fried some Okonomiyaki. It looked really heavy - a chore to eat - but it was surprisingly light. Top scran - Recommended eating for anyone not yet obese.


Posted by stupot at 06:33 PM Monday 30 Apr

udon, undo and ushi unko

On Wednesday's bank holiday we headed over the bridge to Awajishima - the island connecting Honshu with Shikoku. I stayed at Dan's the night before and the good bottle of wine we'd polished off didn't feel like such a good idea at 5am as we rose in darkness. We met at the bike shop in north Osaka at 6 as the sun poked it's head out into an incresingly blue sky, suggesting the weather forecast had been correct. We packed the 22 bikes onto the truck and headed off, coffee's and pastry in hand.

Continue reading "udon, undo and ushi unko"
Posted by stupot at 02:51 PM Monday 26 Mar

more mister donut

070301_1631~001.jpg

Man, I know I lead a sad life when I go into mister d's and get excited when I spot the new 'double black sesame-seed donut' and a 'golden sesame-seed donut', but on the way back from my mid-week ride they were absolute bliss.......


Posted by stupot at 06:24 PM Thursday 1 Mar | Post comment (1) comments

vices



Posted by stupot at 05:09 PM Friday 16 Feb | Post comment (5) comments

ichigo daifuku

daifuku.jpg

I had some small sweets left for me in my bike basket when I got home from work yesterday in anticipation of St. Valentines day. It was a lovely surprise - I realise that such events as a child were so thrilling and I've become cynical about so many things! They were homemade daifuku - pounded rice filled with red bean paste - so my secret admirer at least knows my wagashi problem. There was a strawberry in the middle which was a surprise and the fact it was sweet was cause for one of those mini celebrations you have from time to time, with your tongue. Due to the lack of chocolate and dairy products in traditional Japanese cakes, and food in general, I'm catered for very well.


Posted by stupot at 09:01 PM Wednesday 14 Feb | Post comment (1) comments

one cup

Went to meet a friend in Muji cafe today and there was some tasty, if sickly sweet, hot soy milk macha (green tea). Starbucks have a similar offering but even with my sweet tooth I find it a little much. In the food section there was nice new packaging for their own brand stuff and a great selection of one cup sake from all over Kansai which makes great omiyage (souvenir). The retro example pictured is from Kobe and the graphics beautifully printed onto the glass is much missed on contemporary drinks.


Posted by stupot at 10:32 PM Monday 12 Feb

higgelty piggelty

Korean yakiniku (bbq meat) is always a favourite in Osaka. I go out with the boys from time to time for a huge tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) and always regret it the next day when I have massive amounts of smelly wind: quite the departure from rice and veggies and man, do the guys take the 'all-you-can-eat' literally. This picture is a wee skanky, if typical, eatery in Nanba. Crates piled up outside, storage and kitchen bench on the street, numerous extractor fans winding their way around the building, bins on show.


Posted by stupot at 08:31 PM Thursday 8 Feb

the continuing love affair with sesame

I miss sesame snaps. I'd totally forgotten about them - the wee honey coated bars you get from health food and middle eastern shops in Scotland. I still love black sesame though and I've been putting more and more in my rice recently since I ran out of wee purple pickles I got as omiyage from Yamaguchi. What were they? The same pal bought me some sesame leaves from Tsuruhashi (wee Korea) when she was there taking photos on Sunday - they were laced with lots of spice and were fine just with rice. I had had a craving for Tenpura (read 'king rib supper from University Caf') so I knocked out some lotus root and pork mince fritters (get me). They were a bit rushed but they tasted no bad and I'm now beached in that way that you are after you ate tomorrows bento on top of dinner.

Continue reading "the continuing love affair with sesame"
Posted by stupot at 10:34 PM Tuesday 23 Jan

the great bean crisis

When I was in the supermarket last week I noticed that the natto section was pretty poorly stocked. As I'm not loyal to any brand, I chose some more expensive stuff for a few days. I had not seen that a TV show, put out the previous weekend, had suggested that eating the beans twice a day for 3 weeks could help lose weight easily. A friend had mentioned it to me and I immediately remembered a similar occaision a few years ago. In a shock revelation, the research proposed that getting your fat arse of the sofa, not watching crap TV and doing occaisional exercise was also considered to be beneficial to your health.


Posted by stupot at 10:11 PM Tuesday 16 Jan

food snob

The Japanese are not many things, but they are food snobs. That fact is not, however, totally unjustified. I am always exciting and curious (if only briefly) as a foreigner, and kinda cool being British, but there's always a gentle wince kept to give that sympathetic look with tilted head when we talk about British cuisine. The Japanese are a very proud people and they will seize any opportunity to talk about having the best food in the world, just as a Scotsman can tell you where the worlds most important inventions come from. Both subjects, as with everything in life, are interesting the first time you hear it but become an uninteresting cliche after a hundred people tell you.

Continue reading "food snob"
Posted by stupot at 08:23 PM Saturday 6 Jan

thursday night dinner


I thought I'd document a mid week dinner. I'm not sure exactly why but perhaps like a lot of stuff on this blog, it may turn out, in ten years, to be interesting to look back on. Tonight I had mediteranean food with Mr Lee in the fancy Kita Horie part of Osaka (god I've not had cous-cous for a long time) but last night was a fairly typical mix of natto, atusage tofu, greens, meat (beef) and miso. Notably there was no rice but almost every day I eat it along with the tofu and natto. Miso is much more on the menu as the temperature drops - a quick and easy soup which lasts a few days. If my accupuncturist is reading this - no, that's not my beer on the table. I've suddenly realised that the reason for this post is to let my mum know I'm eating properly. The lego men in the background are slowly taking over the living room........


Posted by stupot at 12:43 AM Saturday 9 Dec

The Day After St Andrews Day

deeside.jpg

It was a busy week: the culmination of months of preparation along with St Andrews day and the start of advent. I met up with my Language teacher at the exhibition on Friday and ended up in a Scottish bar. Actually it was her friend who had booked it and I had never met her before. It was a bizarre coincidence, triggered as we went through the door as I spotted the name Deeside which set bells ringing. The soltaire bar mats made concrete the thought.

Continue reading "The Day After St Andrews Day"
Posted by stupot at 09:51 PM Saturday 2 Dec

liquorice

liquoricebox.jpg

There's that ritual, when you live in a foriegn land, that when someone visits or you go back to from where you came, that you get some motherland goods. These days I'm not too bothered but I always ask for a bottle of Isla malt and a cycling magazine. This time I added liquorice root to the list - as easy to find in Osaka as someone who likes the Chinese. I used to chew on these in Glasgow and now I'm back to having a stick hanging out my mouth most days (they're meant to be good for the kidneys and liver and for stopping smoking). I went to the accupuncturists the other day and when I stuck my tongue out for a general check I thought the doctor was going to keel over - he not knowing my tongue was caked in yellow from the liquorice sap. think he was about to tell me I had 3 days left.

Continue reading "liquorice"
Posted by stupot at 11:41 AM Sunday 12 Nov

big kurashiki

We had a relaxing morning on the island before heading back to Okayama via the minimal ferry terminal, a tiny passenger ferry and another dirty wee ramen shop, where Fred got a lesson in how to make gyoza from one of the two old biddies running the place. We made Kyoto on the Nozomi in no time and were beside some very rich kids doing their daily homework routine on the 200km ride to Osaka. Fred and I were going to get their trainers off them, or at least their dinner money, but alas the shinkansen was too fast. We arrived in Higashiyama, just south of Gion, in the dark but the lanes were lit with that glow of a hundred years ago.

Continue reading "big kurashiki"
Posted by stupot at 05:15 PM Thursday 2 Nov

fast food

A friend who left Japan once said that it was things like going to Yoshinoya that she missed. Yoshinoya is one of the biggest fast food chains and specialises in gyudon- a bowl of rice topped with beef. Yoshinoya restaurants are yet another lesson in space management where customers sit around a pier-like bar where staff can access them from the kitchen. If you go at 12.30 there is often a queue but, like a relay, people are constantly paying the bill while others arrive. Despite being predominantly male the clientele is varied with carpenters alongside accountants. The short, cheap menu means quick turn around and your bill is a plastic tab which cuts out any delay or room for error when you pay. Bish Bash Bosh - back in time for a nap.


Posted by stupot at 11:19 PM Friday 20 Oct

mugi tea for muggy weather

sensu.jpg

it's official - osaka is on fire again. the temperature and humidity have soared over the past 2 weeks to tropical levels. the heat bumps on my hands are back. now my fan (jesus - I'm turning into a spanish granny) and copious amounts of mugi cha have become as much a part of the daily routine as sweating like a glass-blower at the furnace (not as much of an exaggeration as you might think). mugi tea is basically wheat or barley tea - and we keep a vat in the fridge to quench the inevitable thirst. It can have a bit of a chocolate taste in my opinion, and it's very refreshing. in the same way irn-bru infamously out sells coke-a-cola, tea commands a massive market share in japan. It's funny to think that we sometimes refer to tea in the UK as 'cha' but I personally didn't have a clue why. where did it come from?


Posted by stupot at 05:35 PM Friday 14 Jul

black sesame

I cracked it. the peanut butter substitute that is. this week I've been eating more than my fair share of black sesame. I found the jam which I've had on toast in my local supermarket and it tastes pretty similar to peanut butter and has the same constistency. I've had the raw seeds just sprinkled on top of noodles and salad for a bit of texture and also black sesame tofu (above) where again there is more tha a hint of peanut butter. the tofu also has a hint of chocolate (the mould leaves a relief of the the name which is nice).

fanny-tastic. and no head aches.

Continue reading "black sesame"
Posted by stupot at 08:18 PM Saturday 24 Jun

yakisoba

ufo.jpg

odd that you would steep 'fried noodles' in water before draining and adding sauce but nissin's UFO pretty well succeeds as a tasty emergency snack. the new tv commercial (or 'CM' as the japanese refer to it) is good fun - the designers playing on that child-like sensation of not being able to get enough of a pleasing scent. we've all done it I'm sure. I do it when I pass the local cream bun shop or ohagi shop. sometimes you just cannae draw enough air in.


Posted by stupot at 10:38 PM Wednesday 14 Jun

beans

I remember 'getting into' pulses about ten years ago but it's not since I moved to japan that I really found out the versatility - even of the humble soy bean alone. soy makes up a crucial part of my diet from tofu, soy milk, miso and natto to name just the main sources. we've been eating a lot of south asian food recently and yuka mixed tapioca with mung beans to make a rare dessert which certainly satisfied my sweet tooth. the tapioca was mixed with coconut cream and peaches and the mung beans cooked down with sugar. pure magic.

the azuki bean is probably the most common bean used for sweet stuff though - it's widely used in ice cream, sugary soup with mochi, added to jelly, boiled down to make anko paste when mixed with sugar and I eat it on an almost daily basis. there are worse vices I suppose.


Posted by stupot at 11:09 PM Monday 5 Jun

just when they get comfortable

chai.jpg

my nice pair of brown leather shoes are near the end - the soles are going - they're still wearable but I've been concious of them looking decidedly more and more knackered as the days go by. today I had to put a good pair of chino's in the bin after a very good innings. again I could wear them but the holes were becoming a problem. throwing out clothes is difficult for me because they generally only become comfortable after you've had them for a few years, then they start falling apart. I'm the type of shopper who waits until everything dies and then goes and buys up a load of stuff at once. just now seems to buying season for me what with the bike and everything - it's been many years since I got new shoes so I went to shinsaibashi and bought some nice new leather shoes which will fit my feet in time. the arduous task of breaking them in lies ahead. I left the sensible birkenstock route and took a more japanese route of slightly pointed. I feel like ronald mcdonald without the dungarees.

Continue reading "just when they get comfortable"
Posted by stupot at 12:31 PM Sunday 4 Jun

drill a hole in my head

peanut.jpg

food allergies are always an odd thing: different with each person and even within that person, subject to lots of change. when I was younger I just thought that you had an allergy and that was that - fortunately it's not that simple, but it's not an easy one to crack. my allergies pretty much vanished in my teens for some years and then came back with a vengeance. peanuts and fish though, have always been pretty much no-go zones due to the sudden and dramatic result of eating them (anaphylaxis). I try every once in a while, to eat foods my body can't cope with and sometimes I get a pleasant surprise. last week I noticed yuka had bought some peanut butter and I had nothing for my toast........

Continue reading "drill a hole in my head"
Posted by stupot at 11:57 PM Saturday 3 Jun

shiso

shiso.jpg

the first time I saw shiso I wasn't drawn toward putting it in my food. I had never tasted it and plants with pointy edges, I had found out the hard way, were generally not to be touched. shiso is very delicate though, and its flavour strong. It's a fabulous herb for cooking and seasoning - often eaten as tempura, cut up into salads or I use it in pasta. the purple type is used to make umeboshi (pickled plums). try it out if you haven't - it's a taste sensation. perhaps somewhere between fennel and oregano on the tongue-o-meter.


Posted by stupot at 07:25 PM Sunday 7 May

omochi

yomogi.jpg

I confess that although I will eat anything I am not allergic to, I've never been passionate about mochi (rice cakes) or udon (thick noodles) - it's just a texture thing. the longer I've been here though, just as after a few years drinking beer I aquired a liking for the finer tastes of whisky, the more I am enjoying my heavy carbohydrates (I am scottish after all). today we had yomogi (mugwort) mochi with anko (red bean paste) filling which comes wrapped in the yomogi leaf. of course, as everybody knows, mochi is imported from the moon where it's made by rabbits.


Posted by stupot at 10:43 PM Sunday 30 Apr

cosmo karaoke

ebieggs.jpg

the europeans landed in osaka on friday and we went out to play: firstly for a feast, then the mandatory karaoke. should you ever wonder what you might get should you cross a luxemburger, a japanese, an italian and a scotsman in a karaoke booth - it's not a pretty picture - basically a howling mess where everyone picks songs that are in too high a key and far too long. great fun!

Continue reading "cosmo karaoke"
Posted by stupot at 08:10 PM Sunday 23 Apr | Post comment (1) comments

hamburger onigiri

hangaga.jpg

there's a great supermarket near where I work and there's a wee wumin that does just rice balls. from the huge choice she had in her old fashioned display case, I eventually plummed for hamburger. I am now no longer a hamburger onigiri virgin and my life is much richer as a result.


Posted by stupot at 08:04 PM Sunday 23 Apr | Post comment (1) comments

yakiniku

kouheiyaki.jpg

korean food, if not politics, is sure to be a lasting part of the culture in Japan. they can't get enough of it. neither can I. kimchi, bibinba, barbecued beef, dog. kimchi, the chinese cabbage and chili sauce combination, takes pride of place in most supermarkets these days: it's getting to be as much a part of popular japanese culture as the boulangerie and white earphones have become.

Continue reading "yakiniku"
Posted by stupot at 08:11 PM Friday 31 Mar

The unicorn

The new ad campaign for kirin's nuda drink reminded me of the hidden katakana characters for kirin found within the mythical mascot. They are pretty much invisible at first glance but a while back I was told that you can find them if you look carefully (I've highlighted them above). So the next time you settle down for an ichiban, see if you can spot the cryptic message.


Posted by stupot at 11:18 PM Saturday 11 Mar

sankanshion

sakuraforecast.jpg

Today's ride started in the bitter cold. the rising sun was trying to help and mist clinged to the distant mountains as it so often does but the slight head wind kept limbs cold for most of the outward run. Yokan got broken out at half time - as is common on our rides - it's a kind of jellied sweet (usually made with red beans). Very sweet, very heavy, very nice. I bought some a few christmases ago for my folks, and although it may have been a nice thought I think the postage ended up costing more than the gift. Rice paper next year.

Continue reading "sankanshion"
Posted by stupot at 05:42 PM Monday 6 Mar

yuka takes leave, gary held back

rambutan.jpg

in the week that saw gary glitter being found guilty of lewd acts in vietnam and tens of thousands protesting against the government in thailand, yuka came back from her week away there, relaxed and none-the-wiser.

the food was, as I'd suspected; exotic; sweet; creamy; hot. her fascination with the seriously sugary vietnamese coffee continues and a trip down the mekong river was as close to a scene out of apocalypse now as we might imagine - the sound of helicopters apparently just out of ear shot.

the sex industry in thailand also lived up to the stereotype and lots of geeky, shady japanese guys were easy to spot around the well known spots in bangkok, salivating over the local product. I have to say it's the reason why I've never been drawn to the country, but yuka loved vietnam and is sure to return although she's not sure how my serious nut and fish allergies would fare. amongst the food brought back was a bag of rambutan, a kind of lychee-like fruit that is opaque in the middle and has a slightly creamy taste.


Posted by stupot at 05:58 PM Sunday 5 Mar

industrial sushi

setsubun.jpg

there's always something to celebrate and as winter has been dragging it's heels somewhat we got the sushi in last night to celebrate the wonderfully pagan mid-season festival of setsubun which now-a-days sees the shops bursting with families buying up the soy beans and sushi like they were peanuts and pumpkins. despite lacking child or pet to dress up as a demon and pelt with the traditional dry beans, we still observed the fact that we're half way through the cold bit. as we wolfed down our giant rolls of rice we buried ourselves under the kotatsu to hide from the howling wind outside and hoped that that would be enough to ward off the bad luck.......


Posted by stupot at 10:42 PM Saturday 4 Feb

studying's brutal

feet.jpg

it's all become a bit competitive. the calender clinging to the fridge door is inescapable and as I'm a grazer as well as a big eater it means that I not only 'clock in' every day but have to face up to any slacking with every visit. my big push to learn more japanese is under watch as well as the bike training. as it's the off season I'm trying to do 3 rides a week but the weather often means I find 'pressing jobs' to do instead. I'm trying to get in about 160 kms tho. I'm also trying to get in three quarters of an hour worth of the old nihongo every week day but it's amazing what will try and distract you from hard graft. even ironing shirts suddenly becomes attractive.

Continue reading "studying's brutal"
Posted by stupot at 12:00 AM Friday 3 Feb

hoshi kaki

hoshikaki.jpg

a friend stayed over last weekend and helped finish a bottle of 12 year old caol ila (which was threatening to evaporate) as well as the oatcakes I'd brought back from scotland (in japan - the sought after authentic compliment to whisky during the bubble years). having put the night to the back of my mind, yuka returned home with some sun-dried kaki which he'd brought from his grandparents in ishikawa as a 'thank you'. I like the fruit but I hadn't realised people dried them. I suppose there's so-bloody-many in october that you have to find something to do with the ones you can't sell. apparently they are really expensive to buy so we'll make the most of them. they taste similar to dates.


Posted by stupot at 12:09 PM Sunday 22 Jan

yuba

skin.jpg

there are a lot of small, irritating things that happen everyday, that you often just put up with. our oven (of the small, electric variety) wasn't the most expensive in the shop and so every morning when I heat my soy milk, the oven does its poor calculation of weight and zapps it to burning point. occaisionally if I'm concious enough I'll stop it 30 seconds early. anyway - the point I'm getting to is found in the unwanted comedy moustache you get when you drink it and the milk skin attaches to your top lip. or worse - you actually drink it.......

Continue reading "yuba"
Posted by stupot at 10:26 PM Sunday 15 Jan

heavy but good

figs.jpg

so since food is the great japanese pastime, and since british cuisine is held with such low regard here, it was nice to try and eat some good food while I was in scotland.

on my first day there I visited the ship inn in irvine (pron. irvin) and had, along with my pint of eighty shilling, lamb shank and vegetables. the food there is unpretentious and wholesome - a bit like the food in general. on my second day I had a lamb curry (the lamb theme tailed off a bit after this) in portobello whilst visiting my sister and it was good to try some dry basmati rice for a change. as well as curry with some heat in it.

Continue reading "heavy but good"
Posted by stupot at 11:21 AM Thursday 5 Jan | Post comment (1) comments

chrimbo.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:57 AM Monday 26 Dec

turkey and toys

christmas is always a great chance to catch up with family, eat a lot and take some time off. this year was certainly no exception whilst visiting scotland. it's nice to see all the traditional decorations - a flashing doraemon climbing up an apartment block in osaka in santa claus outfit is just a bit odd - but then there are no mantlepieces in japan and there really isn't enough room for a real tree.

the temperature in south west scotland was comparable to osaka, which fueled concerned looks by some who didn't realise it could get so cold so near the equator. it doesn't help that japan runs from so far north to so far south, but it's about as near the equator as scotland is the north pole (the popular belief in japan being that scotland is an arctic wasteland).

what was interesting was how dark it got there - if cloudy, it really didn't get particularly light during the day and 9am felt like 7 in japan. a reminder as to why christmas overtook the mid-winter solstice celebrations of old - there's still no escaping the lack of light.


Posted by stupot at 11:56 AM Monday 26 Dec

aisukureemu.jpg


Posted by stupot at 04:42 PM Sunday 18 Dec

ice cream by drip

whilst I've found some pretty nice soy ice cream in japan, I've never really found a great brand. until today! we got some I.V. tonyu (soy milk) ice cream from hankyu department store and it was de-licious - the packaging in itself said it would be a good product, the flavours were mouth watering to choose from and it lived up to all the haagen dazs traits on show. at 263 yen for a thimble it's not cheap but I felt worth it. I got rum and ichijiku (fig) which was a little rich and sweet, but then I didn't buy it to be dull and tasteless! try some.


Posted by stupot at 04:28 PM Sunday 18 Dec | Post comment (2) comments

reality tv

I'm now quite accustomed to seeing large fish being gutted on prime time tv and tonight we marvelled at some beautiful big fish being caught at sea and then prepared and eaten in the studio as celebrity guests drooled, 'ooh'ing and 'ahh'ing over the delicacies. the healthy thing that strikes me most is that food here is understood and has a history: it's mainly seasonal (local) and people are educated as to how it is caught or picked. although satsuma's are something we associate with christmas, it never really dawned on me that they are actually harvested in cold weather. everyday's an education!


Posted by stupot at 10:44 PM Thursday 15 Dec

wrap.jpg


Posted by stupot at 07:02 PM Monday 12 Dec

it's (almost) a wrap

so as the year marches on, today was put aside for gifts and cards. for the shopping part I headed to kintetsu department store in tennoji and their wonderful food hall. whether you are in Japan or not, the next time you come to osaka I recommend going to the food hall in a department store. perhaps tokyu hands, den-den town, horie and a department store food hall. it's magic. especially at this time of year.

today was very much a food theme with some toy shopping thrown in for good measure (any excuse, eh?). the sweet and cake section is a wonder to behold in kintetsu: it's a huge underground labyrinth which smells amazing and the food looks even better. so much care goes into the packaging too and this is all before you eat any of it. three of the counters we went to today started again after failing to wrap our chosen gifts with perfection - notably this was not through lack of skill, but more in trying to be flawless. we suspect the staff were later sacked though.

I remember an assistant wrapping a present in scotland for yuka and the look of astonishment on her face at the mess of sellotape and crumpled paper. I admit that before I met yuka - a botch job would absolutely suffice.

as I was looking for typically japanese stuff, the locals were often buying french tea and italian wine. the frivilous youngsters shopped for christmas presents for loved ones but the old guard remained, doing their best to buy annual gifts of gratitude, and so maintaining the tradition of o-seibo.

Continue reading "it's (almost) a wrap"
Posted by stupot at 06:25 PM Monday 12 Dec

the pied piper

sometimes you don't need to look at your watch. sometimes things just always happen that remind you when you are. like the 5 o'clock chime for children to go home. the 11am kerosene van doing it's round in winter with its cute, heidi-esque, falling snow, kids choir anthem.

at eleven o'clock every sunday, without fail, the ramen man comes by our neighbourhood and the haunting tune of his traditional pipe music echoes around the streets like the pied piper himself. there's a security in always hearing him and there's also a feeling that time passes by so quickly. another week has ended, another has begun. on countless occaisions I've wanted to go and see him but I'm glad I haven't broken my image of him. his invisiblity and the secrecy of it all fuels the imagination. sometimes I think that if I look out the window all the local kids will be following him. or at least the local vermin.

in any case, when the tune fades into the distance and the stillness of the sunday night resumes, I know it's time for bed.


Posted by stupot at 11:12 PM Sunday 11 Dec

daikon

daikon.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:28 AM Tuesday 6 Dec

friedsushi.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:59 PM Tuesday 29 Nov | Post comment (2) comments

sushikatsu

breaded, deep-fried pork (or chicken) cutlet sounds like the invention of a west of scotland chip shop, but infact it's the brainchild of some gifted japanese scholar. in an event that must have been like stumbling upon the holy grail, another genius decided to stick it in a sushi roll. fantastic. the combination of health and heart-disease combine to leave only the feeling of deep satisfaction. curry-katsu is also fairly high up on the mouthwatering scale. if only lunchtimes were always like this. who says it's all about raw fish anyway?


Posted by stupot at 11:50 PM Tuesday 29 Nov

nabe.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:49 PM Wednesday 23 Nov

stewpot

it's nabe time again and there's nothing better than getting home to a hot mixture of chicken balls, shrimp, tofu, cabbage, pork, mushies and leek. or whatever. cooking it up on the table whilst sheltering under the kotatsu is a one of the great joys of autumn and winter. we were given the pot for our new home by our sister in law - so cheers naho! when the ingredients are gone we usually finish off the soup by adding ramen noodles - I'm not the biggest fan of udon (much to yukas continual grief) it's a texture thing - how do you eat yours?


Posted by stupot at 11:37 PM Wednesday 23 Nov | Post comment (1) comments

sweetshop.jpg


Posted by stupot at 06:07 PM Monday 21 Nov

ohagi

today was another peach of a day weather wise and after stretching the legs along the river I popped out to get some ohagi cakes from our local. the women are dead nice and the smell of the steamed hinoki wood, grilled rice and sweet red azuki beans is a very tempting combination.

today was also a day for picking up the new year postcards. I can't believe it's almost that time already - last year we left it too late so I made sure we got our pack of postage paid, plain postcards for the printer (easy for you to say) before they sell out. got some long johns from uniqlo as well: they have a big warm-biz campaign on just now. perhaps now I'll fit in a bit better with all the old timers at the bath house.


Posted by stupot at 05:29 PM Monday 21 Nov | Post comment (1) comments

sharonfruit.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:52 PM Monday 24 Oct

Kaki

today was stereotypically autumnal. as I cycled over the mountains to Koyasan in the sun, the smell of burning crops was all around, fruit was ripe on the trees and in the shadows, the air had a definite bite to it. the combination reminded me of Hallowe'en and it's only a week away (it was the smells mainly).

Japanese Obon, or 'ancestors day', in August is the largest celebration after New Year and it's all a bit like Hallowe'en. for me, a lot of traditional religious practice in Japan is much like Paganism. the Japanese light up their houses to guide their departed back and offer food for them to eat during the three days of Obon just as Celtic Pagans traditionally did the same thing.

In Scotland we tend to celebrate New Year more than Christmas so infact living in Japan doesn't feel particularly alien to me at that time of year. given Scottish weather I tend to have a lot of respect for the sun too - you can certainly understand the pagans perspective.

I headed back over Kimitoge ('toge' is pass, 'ki' the old name for the wakayama area and presumably the 'mi' is the verb to see), which was a key part of the original pilgrimage trail to Koyasan, where this time last year a wee farmer stopped and chatted. I remember he went to his van to get me a key? but I later found out Kaki is the name for Persimmon which sounds quite similar. he was on his way to market and gave me 4: bless his cotton socks. the road to Koyasan today was littered with makeshift shops selling the fruit. no sign of my farmer today (and I could have done with the fuel) but I got back home eventually after a near miss with a lorry and then a chase with the sun before it set. before you know it the gloves'll be out and everyone will be complaining about the cold!


Posted by stupot at 10:51 PM Monday 24 Oct

karipan.jpg


Posted by stupot at 03:58 PM Sunday 23 Oct | Post comment (1) comments

hangover cures

no.47: kari pan
the humble curry bun rivals irn-bru in its ability to ease the suffering of a hangover. infact the combination of the two should probably be researched more thoroughly. it should be noted that japanese curry is a mild, sweet stew-like food - not sharp and hot.

for some reason last night it slipped our minds that mixing hot sake, beer and an islay malt is not the best preparation for a busy sunday morning. ah well. life trundles on regardless.


Posted by stupot at 03:45 PM Sunday 23 Oct

cafe au ma god

it might seem fitting that as the leaves change from blue to red, so too do the labels underneath the vending machine coffee. an urban sign to tell you that autumn has once again arrived. during the summer you can subject yourself to not only vending machine coffee but cold vending machine coffee and you generally have no choice. that is not to say that it's 'iced coffee' - this is simply cold nescafe. a sobering thought. it's surprising what an addiction can lower you to.

which reminded me of some of my better cups of tea or coffee and alistair gow of clachan of campsie.

alistair is a legend in central scotland not only for his ability to build the best bike wheel around, but also to keep you in conversation for two hours longer than you had anticipated. despite having heard about him for many years, I only got to know him shortly before I left - his shop sits at the foot of the campsie hills in a tiny, sleepy village (clachan). he sorted a few wheels for me while I supped on fantastic tea that was in endless supply - if the pot ran dry his assistant would be called to brew some fresh. alistair, like a farmers wife offering seconds, looked personally offended if you declined.

his shop could be described as a disaster zone: it really gives meaning to the phrase "looks like a bomb hit it", but sitting in the far corner and only occaisionally looking up from his bastard of a truing jig, he could answer almost any product related question pointing to a toppling stack of boxes to find a jersey, or an old wooden chest drawer to help find a fixing. calls would come in, in the background, from all over the UK and the interesting thing I noticed was that most of the crap lying about was far from that - it was new, high quality goods ready for shipping.

the best thing about alistairs and any good bike shop is the personal service, blether and cup of tea. my goal now is to find the japanese equivalent of big al - the only trouble is, is that even though I've gotten friendly with some local bike shops they're all so terribly well organised. I can work on that though.........


Posted by stupot at 11:28 PM Tuesday 18 Oct

kanpan.jpg


Posted by stupot at 06:54 PM Monday 17 Oct

times gone by

we were walking in our local neighbourhood the other night when the tune to 'auld lang syne' came pumping out of several shops as the merchandise was being taken inside for the night. it's a funny tradition in a country so culturally and geographically apart from scotland but one used throughout the service industry: golf driving ranges use it to usher you out, convenience stores too, as well as random wee local places. the japanese version 'hotaru no hikari' (fireflies light) is most commonly associated with graduation ceremonies where similar feelings are presumably felt with the passing of a big day. I'm sure rabbie would be very happy.

on a related theme I bought some dog like biscuits the other day - the packaging for which had caught my eye on more than one occaision. trying to reduce my sweet-tooth related after dinner nibble purchases I thought these looked ideal. yuka said some people keep them for emergencies because they are very simple and last a long time. I still don't get the whole piper thing but they certainly are bland and have enough carbohydrates to pass as scottish cuisine.


Posted by stupot at 06:48 PM Monday 17 Oct

topten.jpg


Posted by stupot at 03:59 PM Monday 10 Oct

YAKITATE!! JA-PAN

spotted by a friend in a local convenience store, here we have battle of the bread (called pan here). looks like maple hot cakes are selling like, well......hot cakes. but what's this?! - look out for marbled cocoa bread at number four!

incidentally, one of the big manga sensations of the hour is 'yakitate!! japan' - a story about a young guy who trys to make a national bread for japan. yakitate means freshly baked and the second part is a pun, or as the japanese might pronounce: "pan!"


Posted by stupot at 03:35 PM Monday 10 Oct

goya.jpg


Posted by stupot at 07:02 PM Friday 30 Sep

a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

I pass this fig tree every morning on the way to work and even if I forget about it, I'm reminded by a whiff of the creamy, almost ripe fruit which is a delight to the nostrils.

a block further on though is goya - a totally different kettle of fish. goya is, for some, another odd looking and foul tasting vegetable. with many a food intolerence, I'm simply a beggar who isn't a chooser and if I don't react to it - I'll generally eat it. to me goya tastes fine. I spotted this handsome specimen on a vine on the way to work the other day and it got me thinking about why we actually eat it. bitter melon, it's english pseudonym, goes a bit further to describing the intense flavour of the food we usually eat in chanpuru - a tofu and pork stir-fry dish.

but there's more to this than just dinner. goya has recently been the subject of a lot of medical research and in the Philipines and India it is already used as an anti-diabetic drug, lowering blood sugar levels with an insulin-like chemical. it's also good for recovery from viral infections and is even used in the US as an alternative therapy for AIDS.

so next time you pig out on a carton of ice cream - you might just want to finish off with a big ugly gherkin. itadakemasu.


Posted by stupot at 07:00 PM Friday 30 Sep

medicine.jpg


Posted by stupot at 07:48 PM Thursday 29 Sep

roll up, roll up....

I remember very well noticing supplement tonics the first time I came to Japan. there's something very japanese about them in the fact that they are immediate and they suit modern living perfectly: if you are about to keel over from too much work, you can hold out a hand and you should be able to reach one - they are everywhere. batteries for the urbanite - the salaymans kryptonite. you can pay up to 10 of your british pounds for a classy, all-singing-all-dancing, herbal chinese number or you can just part with 100 yen and get some juice with vitamins and caffiene in it like I do.

there is something definitely appealing about the olde worlde brown bottle, like some miracle cure from the mid-west, a hundred years ago. this is old skool red-bull - who needs sulph when you've got a starbucks and a vending machine near by? chemists, the country over, have a fridge packed with these foul smelling little beauties. they kind of remind me of some of the odd tasting sweets I grew up on - like a bastard child of 'kola-kubes' and 'parma-violets', if you will. the main difference is that these drinks claim to be good for you, and because of the packaging I fall for it - hook, line and sinker.


Posted by stupot at 07:41 PM Thursday 29 Sep

baga2.jpg


Posted by stupot at 06:32 PM Sunday 18 Sep

on this harvest moon

they say americans are always talking about the weather - or is that the english. certainly the japanese seem to be at it too and in all respects, it's understandable. lets face it - it's human nature and not just small talk.

It's just that these days, for many of us urbanites, the weather doesn't really have an affect on us. there just isn't much of the hunter/gatherer left in us and it seems that some of us only look up if we're inconvenienced. sometimes there are just too many buildings. with my grandparents having been farmers I was educated in, from an early age, the art of weather speak. I can still hold a transglobal conversation with my gran limited to only the basic elements. I watch the weather fairly religiously too - but thats probably just the cyclist in me coming out.

anyway, we've come to yet another delicate point in the transition of seasons and things are changing. the moon and sun are strangely magnified at the moment - the setting sun looking truly like the burning ball of fire it is and the moon living up to its reputation as a reading light. I've yet to see the rabbit there, but that may well be just down to lack of imagination.

we're right in the middle of tsukimi or moon-viewing season at the moment and it's not hard to see why. the smell of the burning rice which represents autumn in our kanji will soon fill our noses in a welcome combination with the cool air.

meanwhile - the mcdonalds hamburger chain has come up with a rather appealing advertising campaign as they have to become increasingly savvy with their marketing. perhaps based on japanese senga art, they've used a simplistic and powerful style. sadly thats where the appeal ends. one look at the fare on offer and the first ever generation of obese japanese children kind of puts you off your dinner. or is that meant to be a breakfast.


Posted by stupot at 06:31 PM Sunday 18 Sep

chick.jpg


Posted by stupot at 01:26 AM Wednesday 14 Sep

chick murray

obvious things aside, there's little I really miss from Scotland. when you have a good reminder though - it jogs the memory something chronic. like going for dinner tonight.

my brother-in-law's back from singapore for a week and we were chatting at the driving range over some tea and a cigarette last night, as guys do. apart from reminding me that osaka is actually hotter than singapore because of the humidity (remembering singapore is on the equator) he was mentioning a french guy he knows there who speaks Japanese very well. anyway - he was mentioning that although he's skilled, he does speak like a woman. an unfortunate side effect of having the bread knife teach you, but an effect one must consider none-the-less.

so the father-in-law rocks up this evening to take me to curry with mates in tsuruhashi and I have this on my mind. it's funny - we get on very well in a low but increasingly communicative relationship. Junichi is your typical Osakan male - with full on dialect. to say he asks friends if they're making money would be an understatement. we're doing pretty well tonight, both of us becoming more adventurous with our language - me trying not to sound too feminine. and we get to tsuruhashi - where douglas junior made the movie. you know. black rain. tsuruhashi is raw - both culinary and culturally. it's the real, modern, urban osaka - visually grotesque but bursting with amazing food and very genuine people with some great anecdotes. there are less sword weilding bikers these days though.

after picking up a seemingly random man (Junichi tends to keep his cards close to his chest) the curry shop we ended up at was both authentic and tasty: nan, lassi, long grain rice, samosas, the lot. five others joined us including Yuka and it felt strangely like being back in scotland (indian curry is scotlands national dish). it was interesting to watch the locals slightly perplexed with the food and saying "karai" (spicy) alot and asking for chopsticks and not too sure about the foriegn beer and definitely not into the rice. it's a funny thing isn't it - the japanese are particularly proud of their rice. it is nice though. just not with indian curry.

so my father in law works at a major food-sauce company who supply to trade and the mystery guest we met on the street was one of the chefs. I found out tonight that there's nothing worse than sitting across from a chef who works in a major food sauce company - they eat far too clinically. but tonight I shall rest well with a belly full of pukka scran.


Posted by stupot at 01:25 AM Wednesday 14 Sep

ramune.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:51 AM Tuesday 6 Sep

ramune

drinking "ra-moo-nay" is one of many things I do to stay a child. usually I'll try to do a handful of things each day - and being in japan it's made a lot easier given there are so many different experiences. there are far too many glum faces on the street - too many adults, not enough children.

anyway - as soft drinks go - ramune is a crazy. firstly you have to open it and I'll admit to having phoned the trouble and strife for instructions on my debut - rekindling her memories of long hot summers. first you take off the wrapper and you're confronted with a green plastic thing and a blue plastic collar covering a glass bottle. now this is where I went wrong - the instructions suggested placing part of the green plastic thing on top and pushing down hard but I had visions of broken shards of glass in my arm. obviously this wouldn't be a great idea for a kids drink so I pushed and pushed and eventually it gave way and alot of pressure was released. when I started drinking I realised I'd released a glass marble into the bottle which gets caught in the pinched neck (you can see it in the final photo). WOW - a toy and a drink. fantastic.

the taste itself is a bit like cream soda.

a toy and a drink, eh? who would have thought. and for 88 yen. a bargain.


Posted by stupot at 12:50 AM Tuesday 6 Sep | Post comment (1) comments

dinner

taco1.jpg


Posted by stupot at 08:39 PM Monday 5 Sep | Post comment (1) comments

miso.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:23 AM Tuesday 30 Aug

101 uses for the soy bean

the soy bean is used almost as much as rice in japanese cooking, from the bean itself (edamame) to tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, miso paste, natto (fermented beans - see june), and of course, soy sauce.
if you are allergic to milk - Japan is a great place to be.

it's an amazingly versatile thing and fermenting it allows for longer life expectancy for human and bean. allegedly miso paste evolved from battle: when a clan was under seige a tactic used by attackers was to starve them out - until someone spotted a horse eating fermenting beans and the original natto or miso was born.

I've included the picture above to prove the point as well as show that some stereotypes are kinda true. of course most japanese, especially young things, eat a french breakfast consisting of a coffee and a 2 inch, or 50mm wedge of pan (yes, the japanese decided to use the french word for bread) slathered with butter. Actually we generally only get around to having a traditional breakfast if we have the day off - just like we'd only have a 'full' breakfast in scotland at the weekend.

here we have then, 4 types of soy in a traditional breakfast - luxurious rice with wheat/whole beans topped with fermented natto and a bowl of miso shiru with spinach and tofu pieces.

it almost rivals porridge as a start to the day.


Posted by stupot at 11:22 AM Tuesday 30 Aug

ricegold.jpg


Posted by stupot at 05:37 PM Saturday 23 Jul

out of the frying pan...

sitting down to a fairly typical afternoon of earthquake announcements on TV (actually narita airport has been closed), sounds of a local matsuri (fesival) in the distance and fans doing their best to move the hot air around.

at the end of a busy week, yuka and I are basking in 5 days off work. we saw danny krivit, down-town, last night where we enjoyed some very classy house until the wee oors. it was really the perfect tonic for a hot night: go somewhere even hotter and dance for 5 hours solid. it was a good crowd and the grand cafe is certainly a great venue.

Yuka has 'sweat-blisters' too, but my heat bumps are all over my feet and hands. slightly worrying, but as my unfazed wife puts it, I'm just "acclimatising".

She received some lovely rice sweets from her work - presumably for working un-godly hours for the past while - and they are the type with flakes of gold in them. as if to concrete the view that japan is an expensive place to live, even the sweets are made of gold.


Posted by stupot at 05:36 PM Saturday 23 Jul

nankaridogu.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:54 PM Tuesday 19 Jul

watch I did

I saw star wars this afternoon. I had had a craving for cinema for a while - it's been a year at least, and although the first two episodes were utter pish, I sensed there would be more to this one. it was like I had been drawn in by a force.......and I was right to have listened to my feelings.

I eventually arrived at the new town, mall complex just before the movie started but the seats were 2400yen (or �12.25) in the premier cinema, so I went for a salad and a nan-curry-hot-dog over at mos burger - quality fast food. I even had to wait. it's funny that you get a menu-calorie chart as the paper on your tray at mos. only in japan, neh? anyway - I guess my meal equated to the difference between a reclining chair and big speakers in the premier cinema and waiting for my absolutely adequate 1800yen seat in economy at the next showing.

there was only 8 people in the cinema which probably accounts for the high seat prices. or is it the other way around. and you know women get in for 1000yen on wednesdays? bloody sexist - mind you I think wages aren't equal. and most things aren't, so actually it's probably fair. I should have waited til tomorrow and put on some lipstick.

they say malls are our new cathedrals and certainly many aspects of this statement are true: they're gigantic structures. alot of people go there on a sunday. you go there if you feel down. you get brainwashed by salesmen. and so, like a modern urban dweller I headed off on my weekend to worship my religion.

and, you know, I really felt better for it. yoda never threatened burning in hell.


Posted by stupot at 10:54 PM Tuesday 19 Jul

soul food

feeling a little off today, yuka mailed me to ask what I'd like for tea and when I said 'some soul food', I should have guessed she would suggest nikujaga. or mick jagger as we affectionately refer to it.

it's a traditional food of sorts but odd in the respect that it's meat 'niku' with potatoes, onions and sugar. yes folks, it's sweet mince and tatties. a variation on a scottish national dish - but the japanese add sugar - the cheeky monkeys. don't tell anyone though - if scotland, the sick-man of europe, finds out, he'll be demanding golden syprup poured over every main course. it does beg the question though, of why the japanese diet is so healthy even when they add sugar to alot of cooking (take sushi {rice} as the obvious example).

I suppose it's moderation. and I guess it's the fact that uncle mick is just an occaisional dish which is one of those filling and simple comfort foods. tonight, being a fairly average meal, consisted of a tofu salad, natto (see tramps-muccus, june), rice, chicken salad as well as mr jagger; our little sweet friend.

so there you are. nihongo ryori is not just about raw fish and seaweed (though more often than not it is). and it's comforting to know that no matter how different we all are, we often fall for the same things in time of need.

ps. I clattered my head a cracker on the back door to our apartment building on my way to the hospital today and it really, really hurt. this is a main exit to a 'public' building for goodness sake. I'm going to check the building standards.
as soon as my vision returns.

pps. oh. I sniffed out a macha (green tea) kit-kat today. another unique take on a quality snack.


Posted by stupot at 10:39 PM Thursday 14 Jul | Post comment (3) comments

ochasnax.jpg


Posted by stupot at 08:31 PM Monday 11 Jul

101 uses for.......

I'm not big on eating crap - usually because I'm allergic to it - and I don't seek out home comforts from the motherland. but yesterday I found a new favourite - green tea flavour mcvities digestives. a quality snack to go with a nice cup of tea and a sit down. as you can imagine they're a bit on the sweet side, but being japan there was only eight mini-biscuits inside (so the diabetes will be kept at bay for another week or two). I think they say that the extra air pumped into the packaging is to keep the stuff in reasonable nick opposed to deceiving you that you're actually getting your moneys worth. but to be fair the biscuits were in all intact. there was even foil wrapping to prolong freshness so I knew it was money well spent.

all washed down with a carton of green-tea flavoured soymilk. although this concocts thoughts of chai and exotic asia it unfortunately tasted of piss. recommendation - stick to the biscuits.


Posted by stupot at 08:31 PM Monday 11 Jul

taco.jpg


Posted by stupot at 06:19 PM Tuesday 28 Jun

takoyaki

people don't visit Osaka for the culture. even the castle is a reconstruction. but the best thing about living here is the food. it's great, it's everywhere, it's what people talk about.

whilst japan has many delicate foodstuffs, osakan cuisine tends to be a reflection of its down-to-earth residents. perhaps most famous and the reason many people visit, is okonomiyaki: a kind of a cabbage pancake with your favourite topping, finished with brown sauce and fine seaweed. ehhhh. it tastes better than it sounds. infact it's superb.

a more visible sight and perhaps just as famous is takoyaki - literally fried octopus balls. yes, octopus have balls too. these are great fun to make at home - see a recent meal above (most people have a cheap, specific griddle) - but you can pick them up beside the train station on the way home.

they consist of; a simple flour, egg and water batter; finely chopped pickled ginger; tempura 'bits' (like those magic waste bits of batter from the chippie); spring onions and of course, octopus. the reason they burn your mouth is because you can never wait 'til they cool down. they're irresistable. mmmmm.


Posted by stupot at 06:19 PM Tuesday 28 Jun

onigiri.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:20 PM Sunday 26 Jun

pass the parcel

packaging is just something you can't escape from in japan. it's still a big part of the culture, it's a beautiful tradition: an artform. but the translation to modern society often leaves a bad taste in the mouth: you certainly get a grasp of why the japanese (have to) recycle.

you get a plastic bag in almost every shop you visit, even if you don't buy anything. I'm pretty sure this stems from the gift culture that is still a wonderful and integral/evident part of living here. you visit someone - you buy a present. you come back your holibags - you bring a present. (this is the reason postcards are often difficult to find - even in tokyo). so anyway - you go to a shop - you get a bag. as many as you want. it makes them happier if you request more. they're making them out the back.

a nice example of plastic engineering, however, can be seen in modern rice-ball wraps. they enclose the seaweed outer sheet and the rice while keeping them seperate and when you pull the packaging apart in sequence (it feels like rubik designed it the first time you try) the two are married.

but japanese packaging is traditionally so natural; bamboo, leaves, paper.
I'm not disputing the fact that opening most packages in this country is special, intriguing, a real experience. it's just that now it's usually plastic and as many layers as possible. I remember that when I shopped in Sainsburys in the UK they gave a penny back because I always used my panniers on the bike (well, they did it twice anyway) - a pretty pathetic gesture given that in Ireland you pay 20 cents for a plazzy bag in a 7-11. apart from anything else - that's good business! but it certainly shows you the difference in mentality. and japan certainly sits on the fence with the UK when it comes to the issue, even if for different reasons. I'd say the british reason is just pacifism. that could be said for recycling in general. it could be said for a lot of things. oh - my dad was reminding me that plastic bags caught in trees are known as witches knickers. tonights call was definitely worth it!

anyway - I'm investing in the polythene bag industry - and soon you're gonna be paying me for the privilege! hoo-hoo-ha-ha!


Posted by stupot at 10:18 PM Sunday 26 Jun

bestuseofawhale.jpg


Posted by stupot at 01:47 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

whats for dinner?

so most brits have a hard time comprehending japanese cuisine. it's all fancy and arty and that. and if you eat it in britain it's at a rip off house with medium to poor quality ingredients, whipped up by some teenager just out of catering school who's only taste of asia has been spare ribs and bbq sauce with chicken balls and MG sweet and sour sauce from the local 'dragon wok'. so I guess it's a fair misconception. if that makes sense.

I have to say - I even winced a little recently when I was confronted with (raw) chicken sashimi (see also tramps mucus -06.05). this was something I hadn't been told about. and jesus - I'm in asia! I'll get SARS or some mad flu strain that's incurable and I'll sweat away my final hours in a country hospital before breathing my final breath (thank god I got repatriation in my insurance).

but no - it was nice. aided perhaps by the soy sauce. but certainly a beautiful texture and being japan the chicken was probably killed in the kitchen and bought from a neighbour (I had it in a very rural area in shikoku). anyway - I trust.

whale-on-the-menu is another well known fact about japan. I saw this poster on the door of a restaurant in kyoto - choose your cut. infact choose your bloody whale. sperm or blue? it's not cheap though and it's becoming less popular as people become more understanding and sympathetic with the cause (there actually aren't that many left to eat). apparently whale spotting is becoming a more popular leisure activity for more modern types in japan. I'm not sure if this is on whaling boats and you can 'harpoon-your-own' for dinner, or if it's more of a WWF/greenpeace venture. probably the latter.

but it's out there - you can get it if you pay. man, you can get pigs ears, raw horse (okay - raw anything), varying degrees of deadly blowfish, fermented soy beans. at the end of the day - whale's just another tradition and some traditions die hard. that doesn't mean I agree or not. I've never even tasted the stuff. but it's far from being an underground business. although whaling is banned (except for research purposes - and japan seems to do a lot of research...) it is still very publicly sold at reputable businesses. and this being japan - you know it's not frozen.


Posted by stupot at 01:46 PM Tuesday 21 Jun

just not right

with today being the first day to start using the fan in our bedroom (I've not slept properly for a week), it's no surprise to see all things summery around; parasols, ice cream promotions, bamboo shades outside windows and people generally sweating. It was a bit of a shock though, to see what I witnessed today in the supermarket. since the Simpsons immortilised japan by visiting many years ago, some things have become synonymous with the country - futuristic toilets, unusual games shows and expensive living - which was highlighted of course with homer buying that square watermelon.

my consumer choice today was not shape but rather what colour of watermelon I wanted. to be honest blue might have been a more appealing choice - a kind of a friendly reference to all that sci-fi food we were brought up on back then, in the world of arthur dent and in other low budget bbc sci-fis. a time when people actually had an imagination when it came to dangerously tampering with nature.

people really do have too much time on their hands or is it just me? am I just a cynic? is our choice of food really so limited that we have to invent new stuff? jees. japan moves another step further away from the real world - but it certainly makes doing the shopping a hell of a lot less of a chore!


Posted by stupot at 11:38 PM Saturday 18 Jun

natto.jpg


Posted by stupot at 03:19 AM Thursday 9 Jun

tramps mucus

it's funny - when I arrived in Japan last august I still couldn't bear the smell of natto, never mind eat the stuff. now i can't get enough of it.

it looks about as appealing as tramp mucus poured over out-of-date baked beans. but actually there's more truth in that statement than you might think - natto is essentially fermented soy beans and despite everything - it's damn healthy. I guess it would have to be for you to try it, but once aquired, the taste is very good. I don't know if I could go back to baked beans now - just that sugary sauce which puts me off a bit (mind you I just had a vision of a doorstep slavered in melting marg and heinz beans poured on top on a cold winters morn).

anyway - natto is meant to contribute to a healthy heart, help keep camcer cells away and generally make you a demon in the sack. I'm not sure about the last bit there, but essentially it's kryptonite. again - why do you think the japanese live so long? it's just they have no sense of smell.


Posted by stupot at 03:18 AM Thursday 9 Jun

cupramen.jpg


Posted by stupot at 10:22 PM Saturday 4 Jun

cup ramen

I never really 'got' pot noodles. okay - so the advertising was 'off the wall' and as a student with lack of funds, uneducated taste buds and a need for a quick fix - sometimes I turned to them for ease, but really (and snobbery apart), they are a disgrace to the word food.

Continue reading "cup ramen"
Posted by stupot at 10:21 PM Saturday 4 Jun