Sunday, October 12, 2008

Autumn festival

Saturday Afternoon

Assembling the danjiri

Wiring up the lanterns

Portable shrines in the main shrine building


Sunday Morning

6 am
Danjiri gathering at the shrine

Miyauchi kids

The Miyauchi Taliban. Forced to drink Asahi Super Dry

Cranking out the noise with drum and bell

6:30 am
In the shrine. Sake. Devils. Horseplay

Looking back through the temple gate

Lion dance. Old men drumming.

Acrobatics - cartwheels

Acrobatics - soixante-neuf

Very foxy

Wind getting up

7 am
Running the danjiri up and down the street

The kids are getting excited

By the river

Beer break

8 am or thereabouts
Momo shows up. Dogs aren't sure what to make of human festivals.


Happi and koikuchi in the house. Must be a festival on

Oh my God

Fancy pants

Japanese weight-saving technology is not generally
applied to portable shrines

Shinto is a primitive, nature-based religion

The following weekend

Jika-tabi washed and drying. My neighbour,
Takaichi-san's family grave in the background

On seeing the first kuko of Autumn

Yesterday I noticed that the first wolfberries (kuko) are going red. This caused me no end of excitement because it means that I'll soon be on the path to eternal life thanks to all the antioxidants that I'll be consuming.

I thought it might also be a good idea to try a fresh wolfberry, but this proved to be a bit of disappointment. The berries had a distinctly uncooked vegetable-like taste, somewhat like raw aubergine (aubergine and wolfberry are the same family). One of them was also full of seeds.

I'm hoping that when the temperature drops, they'll start getting juicier and sweeter.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pickled habaneros

In the summer, the local home centre was selling potted habanero pepper plants as the "hottest peppers in the world". I immediately had an image of the pickled jalapeƱo peppers I once enjoyed in a Mexican joint in Santa Monica and decided to have a crack at it.

The pepper bush didn't do very well over the summer, but in the autumn, it suddenly took off and provided a small crop of fairly ugly pale green and red peppers. Today as I was picking them, I nibbled part of one that had been holed by some insect and found it very hot. Indeed, my lips went numb and stayed that way for 20 minutes.

With no sensation in my lips, I washed the peppers, cut two slits in each, put them in an enamel saucepan with some 'rakyu' pickling vinegar and a big clove of garlic, cut into chunks. I simmered them for 5 minutes, omitting the salt and baby carrots in the recipe that I found online. Then I transferred them to an empty jam jar and shoved in some Italian parsley as a means of keeping the peppers fully submerged in the vinegar. With this method, the peppers are supposed to be edible immediately, and are said to keep for a month or two. By the almost transparent appearance of the peppers after an hour in the jar, I think I probably simmered them for 4 minutes longer than is necessary.

I'm looking forward to trying my first home-made pickled peppers - not without some trepidation, it must be said.

The Italian parsley has been visited recently by a pair of fantastically coloured caterpillars. Since they're so outrageously showy and more importantly, don't appear to be harming the parsley, I can't bring myself to kill them.

When Blake wrote,

The Caterpillar on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy Mother's grief.

one can only assume that he had a different caterpillar in mind, because this one was completely silent on the subject.

And for bunce, a sunset panorama.


Jesus Christ!

I tried one of these goddamn pickled habaneros with the tail end of dinner tonight, and Jesus Christ!

A fair old stink accompanied the opening of the jar, and a few seconds after I took a small bite of one these toxic peppers, pain filled my mouth and breathing became difficult. I experienced several violent hiccups that felt like depth charges going off in my stomach. As my discomfort became apparent, my family dissolved into mirth, with much sarcastic comment, "How is it, is it nice?", "That looks good, are you going to finish the jar off?" Speechless with distress, I could only throw myself back in my chair and sit with my head back and my mouth open. "You've gone all red, ha ha ha!" my family informed me gently. And when I tried to put my distress into words, the smell of the pepper in my mouth flew across the table and made my wife and son screw up their faces in disgust.

I managed to eat only half of one small pepper, and thankfully there was still some tofu on the table to assuage the nerve damage to my mouth. A chilled pear also helped in this regard. But the smell from the remainder of the habanero on my plate seemed to fill the whole dining room.

The question remains, what to do with this hazardous food product.