Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Fast

For Thanksgiving dessert, I used to be most fond of apple pie with a thick wedge of triple cream brie or even a ripe blue cheese.  I used to lovingly bake these pies with a buttery crust and apples I grew.  Thanksgiving is a gluttonous holiday for most Americans and for many decades past I have gorged myself to excess every season. I ritually and pathologically vow to eat moderately in the gastronomic aftermath of every Thanksgiving dinner.  This year, the time was right to contemplate the meaning of Thanksgiving by forgoing the feast altogether.  I've been appreciating more and more the curiously additive power of subtraction. I've never looked forward so much to having nothing before.

I am normally not a creature who is accustomed to even half an empty stomach since I rush to fill my belly anytime a thought of food enters my mind which is almost every other hour.  I had earlier in the summer tried fasting for health and philosophic reasons without much success.  Food thoughts are hypnotically powerful.

Instead of a full day of fasting which would result in an unbearable grumpiness, I went for 16 hours skipping the main dinner.  Being hungry by choice is a luxury I can claim for today.  A shocking number of humans go hungry in a world where an even more shocking number of humans die as a result of being continually overfed. There rarely is a just balance in this world and I can only mind myself.   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chestnut Season

Each autumn, I eagerly wait for chestnut season to begin but I'm only privy to the supply at the grocer's. Strangely enough, the first crop to appear in Berkley will be those from Korea. Early last century, Americans had no shortage of state grown chestnuts until a blight wiped out four billion trees from the landscape. My mind cannot really comprehend the staggering number of chestnuts this would have represented- more than enough for humans, pigs, birds, squirrels, and any creature wanting of such sweet nutmeat.  Apparently the American chestnut tastes more intense lacking bitterness in the skin. Such a pity then that the  American chestnut has not made a comeback and we're forced to rely on the Koreans, Italians and the Chinese to fill this void.

Rarely we roast chestnuts in the fireplace opting to simply steam them and scoop out the nut meat with small spoons.  When I was a little girl, my cousins and I used to go chestnut hunting on my grandfather's lands.  My younger keener eyes were particularly good at spotting those green prickly bombs. Those lands have long since been converted to condos.  Many good things come to an end and we must make new good things to continue on.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Kimbop in Sunol

When growing up in Seoul, my mother would make us a delicious treat of kimbop to take anytime our family would get away to the mountains.  You wrap a harmonious combo of rice, meat, and veggies with a seaweed paper into one tight roll to be sliced into bite friendly pieces.  The humblest version would be just rice(the bop) in the seaweed paper(the kim). My favorite classic filler back then was the egg, SPAM, and takuan- the pickled mooli radish which glows a radioactive yellow.

Yesterday I huffed up the mountains in Sunol with the explicit purpose of creating the ideal conditions to enjoy a box of kimbop.  Kimbop as you can see from the photo can be a labor intensive affair and so in my laziness I relied on a local Berkeley producer Spoon who creates a most excellent barbeque pork version.  Food is much much tastier when you have sweated for it and though I only managed a meager 1200 foot climb,  I wolfed down these rolls with much satisfaction.

The Sunol Wilderness east of Fremont is famous for it's acorn woodpeckers - a species whose unique behavior reminds me much of a puerh collector. These woodpeckers drill holes in dead wood called granaries to store their beloved acorns.  But acorns inconveniently shrink as they age and dry out and so these comic birds spend most of their days fussing over each acorn- moving them in and out of various sized holes to make sure each acorn is secured most snugly.

Woodpeckers like us spend more time in granary maintenance than actually partaking of the acorns.  Who knows how much pleasure and satisfaction a woodpecker derives from a perfect fit.