Tag Archives: food

Diet is a Four Letter Word


katsuo
One of my approved meals. Frankly, it was easy to prepare.

I have been dieting for the past three weeks.

Dieting for the first time in my life.

I’ve always thought dieting was no big thing.

But now, I’ve come to the realization that diet is a four letter word.

In fact, I found the first three letters in diet is die. 🙂

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Yamato
Taken at the Yamato Museum in Kure, Japan, Nov. 2013 with my cousin Toshiro. I was near my peak weight then.  Notice my Packers shirt, not my belly, please.

In 2012, my oldest son Takeshi (who is now pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy) and I ventured to Japan, mostly to vacation but also to take the ashes of our Aunt Shiz back home to Hiroshima.  During our stay with our cousins, Masako always patted my stomach in fondness – implying I was Santa Claus.  Yes, for only being 5’6″ tall, I was the jolliest in all of skinny Japan.  I tipped the scales at 187 pounds.  Japanese people were taking bets if I could squeeze through the  train doors.

My son, however, could probably lift the whole bullet train – with one arm.  You should have seen the girls stare at him…  Well, they were really staring at my belly.

Body build
A recent pic of my oldest boy, Takeshi. Not one ounce of fat on him. I used to look like that, by the way.

…But to be fair to myself, this is me below when I was about 20…

toyota dorm
Can you guess which one is me? I’m on the right in the tall “geta”, or wooden sandals. I wore them to and from the tavern – drunk as a skunk and never tripped. Taken at the Toyota School dormitory in Tokyo. By the way, I was the arm wrestling champ at the school. Even kicked the teachers’ asses…but my son Takeshi laughs and still doesn’t believe me. Hmmph.

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Two years ago, my great doctor – with whom I’ve been under his wonderful care since 1990 – asked me, “Do you exercise, Koji?”

“Um, no. Whyyyy..?”

“When you first came to me, you weighed 130 pounds…  You weighed 183 today.  You need to lose 50 pounds…”

I don’t think I heard him…  Men suffer from bad hearing, you know.

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Long story short, about four weeks ago, my buddy invited me over to his beautiful home in Newport Beach for what I thought would be a cigar gig…  Instead, there were nothing but lovely ladies there… There to learn about a dieting system.  They described it as a way of life.

Egads…  Never did have that cigar.

Well, two days later, I signed up for a 30-day plan with a goal of losing ten pounds.  I was already down to 161 pounds – solely from cutting out breakfast burritos and enchiladas at lunch.  I also lost some pounds from being on Leyte for six days in July.

I started the 30-day plan on October 21st.  It was a strict plan.  Basically, only chicken, fish, turkey, green veggies, tofu, protein shakes and a potion that reminded me of Robitussin syrup of years ago.

Yes, it disallowed everything I loved: salami, mayo, beef, pork, Parmesan Reggiano, chili tamales, fettuccine Alfredo… 😢 I realized determination was key… like resisting the two Pringles leftover in your kid’s lunchbox.

My oldest daughter Robyn invited me over for Halloween, coinciding with her birthday.  There were cheeseburgers, homemade tamales… and a chocolate mousse birthday cake.  OMFG.  But I resisted.  I distanced myself from the deliciously smelling food by sitting against the walls.  I even resisted the bite-size Milky Way bar my little granddaughter Emi was waving in my face as I took her trick or treating.  Luckily, she dropped it somewhere along the way.

double

I took my Little Cake Boss with her friend to In-n-Out on the fourth or fifth day of my diet.  They both had Double-Doubles and those famous, wonderfully smelling, fresh French fries… but I didn’t even lick the wrappers.  I wanted to but she told me I’d be embarrassing her in front of her friend if I did.

And the toughest times were when the kids were with me; I had to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for them.  I didn’t even TASTE TEST the food before I plated it up because of my diet.  It must have been OK since they ate my beef stroganoff, spaghetti al Limone, breakfast sandwiches before school, my famous pancakes from scratch smothered in real Grade A dark amber maple syrup with perfectly crisp BACON…  I even baked a classic pound cake from scratch for Brooke to take to school.

Oh, man.

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The results after three weeks?

It is November 11 as I write.  Here’s my weight record from my doctor’s records although I haven’t seen him since April; started at 161 pounds on October 21st:

weight

And here’s a pic of my fancy-schmancy scale today (notice my Green Bay Packers socks) – it’s 147-ish, about a 9% drop:

weight1

I guess it’s an OK result.

BTW, can you see that belt in the picture with my schoolmates in Japan?

I still wear that belt and it is on the first notch once again!  Don’t worry.  I won’t gross you out by posting a picture of my belt with my belly as a backdrop.

Moral to story: Son, you have competition… but first, I’m hitting Tommy’s Burgers.

Just kidding.

If I can do it, so can you.

It’s a mindset and with a little encouragement, you can attain your goals.

Fresh Tuna and Pyrex Pie Plates


A good number of pies have come out of my oven during the past six months to be taken to parties and such.  Even to a cigar lounge.  Fortunately, there have been no claims of food poisoning – so far.

But I ended up buying a few more Pyrex pie plates (They work great provided you place them on a preheated cookie sheet – helps brown the bottom.).  But what to do with them when pies are on hold?  They just lay in my pots and pan drawers.

Well, my vetunary good friend from the 1980’s, Tom G., had a “fishy” time last weekend.  Tom is an avid fisherman and got shot at in Viet Nam.  He was drafted and did his duty as an American (unlike Clinton).  His dad saw combat as a gunner in a B-24 Liberator during WWII.  His family has indeed served the US of A.

Anyway, Tom went out on a fishing boat and everyone on board hooked tuna like crazy… except for Tom.  Just kidding!  He snagged his limit of five so we were recipients of fresh tuna!

What does fresh tuna have to do with pie plates?

Lots.

As my kids “whine” about eating, i.e., “Pasta again, Papa?”, I decided to try something different – and easy… and hopefully, the kids would eat it.  That’s where the pie plates come in.

I decided to try the “Garlic and Ginger BBQ Tuna”.  Couldn’t go wrong, I thought, as I know the kids’ll eat (almost) anything if it has soy sauce and garlic in it.

The marinade was simple:

  1. 2 tbsp soy sauce (I have a ton of that)
  2. 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar (I have a ton of that, too)
  3. 1 tbsp sesame seed oil
  4. Freshly rated ginger (Use the side of a spoon to scrape off the outside.)
  5. Minced garlic
  6. Chopped green onion
  7. Pepper (I used the Japanese kind)
IMG_3943-002
Ready to get grilled!

All went into a Pyrex pie plate (which I have a ton of) and the tuna was marinated for about 30 minutes in the fridge (turned after 15 minutes).  Onto a dilapidated Weber BBQ grill over medium heat they went, four minutes each side (I had to slightly over-grill them as my son Jack wouldn’t eat it if he saw just a touch of red). Three minutes may be sufficient, too.

They turned out good!

IMG_3949-001-1So if you have an unused Pyrex pie plate and a great friend like Tom, try it!

buru tunaThanks, Tom!

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch


IMG_9680-10
My pumpkin pie.

Its from scratch.  Crust too, as you can see.  It looks like the world’s biggest churro’s surrounding the pie.

It was a lot of work outside of the crust.  Pumpkin puree, candied yams, syrup, heavy cream milk, eggs, sugar, nutmeg, salt and…grated ginger.

But my little Cake Boss said it “tasted better than the supermarket’s pumpkin pie”.

Does that mean I can keep my job?

Hamburgers and a ’63 Merc


MM burger
Marilyn Monroe eating an old-fashioned hamburger at a drive-in hamburger stand. Photo by Philippe Halsman.

Nearly all Americans would agree that hamburgers are the All-American icon.  A simple grilled ground beef patty, salted and peppered, slathered with mayo, mustard and ketchup then sandwiched in a plain bun.

At least that’s how I know them.  Oh, hold the pickles, please.

Now, us kids that grew up watching “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” have given birth to a generation that has taken a simple thing and made them into $15 gourmet, fancied-up, mushroom-covered (expensive) cuisine.  Do you think I like Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden?  Drool…

But I don’t know if I like the “change”.

Back to this in a minute, folks.

The fancy hamburgers – not the drool.

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Dad had always owned Fords when he could finally afford getting a car.  I guess that’s where I get my Ford passion from.

July 5, 1955
Aunt Eiko holding me in front of my dad’s Ford Consul automobile. If you are reading my past stories about WWII, you will know that only the occupying Americans could afford to buy a car. Her husband was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  Tokyo, July 5, 1955.
Enoshima Beach, Tokyo - April 1957
My dad’s ’57 Ford Fairlane parked on Enoshima Beach, Tokyo. I’m thinking it was a dark green. April 1957.

After leaving Japan for the last time  in the late ‘50’s, my pop bought his first new car stateside in 1963 – he was 44 years old.  It was a two door Cascade Blue 1963 Mercury Meteor custom hardtop; a king of obscurity to say the least, but to a kid of about ten, it was Flash Gordon’s rocket ship.  Unlike Hillary, it was easy to love this car.

1964 or 1965 / Dad's new 1963 Mercury Meteor
On a road trip to Chicago in 1964. I’m still holding onto my Fujipet camera with dad’s 1963 Mercury Meteor behind us. This may have been in Utah.

Don’t get me wrong.  It wouldn’t get a choice spot if valet parked.  I say wouldn’t as my old man couldn’t afford valet, let alone a family dinner out.  But to me, the rocket ship had a chrome finish AM push-button radio – turn the dial on the right, find a station, pull out a button, then push it back in to set it.  Trouble is I did it a dozen times each time I got into the car.  But all I cared about was KFI 640 AM, the Dodgers’ station.  The golden voice of Vin Scully… and Fairly, Gilliam, Wills and I forget who played third.  They were World Series champs that year.

Six adults could get into this rocket ship with room to spare – eight of us little Japanese folks and a dog.  The cargo hold in back swallowed up my Sears JC Higgins bike in one gulp with enough space leftover for Frank Howard.  (I saw him hit the scoreboard in right field with a home run.)

Unless my aging grey matter is dissolving at warp speed (maybe it is), there were ash trays with shiny covers in each armrest…and this was for the back seats.  It was a favorite depository for my Bazooka chewing gum but I kept the wax covered cartoon that came with it.

Pop kept it for quite some time.  I passed my driver’s license test in it on my 16th birthday.  I got a 96 only because she claimed I never looked in the rear view mirror.  Poppy cock.  I always look in the rear view mirror for cops.  Even back then.

And as it was the only car we had back then, I also drove my date to one of my senior proms in it (I went to two.).  And the answer is, “No,” if anyone was wondering…but I’m sure she was disappointed.  Well, maybe not.

The four-wheel drum brakes were spectacular…not.  Instead of rubber meets the road, it was like rubber met the world’s supply of Vaseline while fighting the pull to the left… and this was at 25 mph.  Steering?  An oil tanker’s captain would do well.  Turn the wheel a lot; see the slight change in direction a few seconds later.  Pat Brady and Nellybelle turned better – and that was out in the desert on sand.

meteor engine
The Mercury Meteor’s 260 cid V-8.

I overhauled the epoch 164 hp 260 cid V8 sometime around 1976 in our garage.  At 13 years of age, she had become an old girl.  She had become a V6, meaning it had lost compression in two cylinders.  I remember setting zero lash, then three-quarters turn of the ratchet for the hydraulic lifters during the overhaul.  The distributor was the biggest headache, of all things.  It was like extracting an impacted molar and only after using copious amounts of Liquid Wrench in place of laughing gas did it finally come out.  “Older” Blue Oval guys know what I’m describing.

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Back to today’s elegant hamburgers and change.

Instead of the push-pull AM radio, my youngest son – who was seven when I bought it – similarly discovered my ’08 Mustang GT had a “My Color” dashboard light feature.  Now I know how my pop felt as my son forced me to experience every color of the rainbow while driving at night – every time.  It was like being at an all-night disco club.

Bazooka bubble gum and ashtrays are no more but treasure hunters will be pleased after exploring the map pockets.  No disappointments there.  I promise… especially after my little Cake Boss had sat in the back.  Latex gloves are highly recommended before exploring.

Overhaul it?  After all, my GT’s got a 281 V8, only twenty-one more cubes than my pop’s…but it pumps out a magnificent 505 hp thanks to her Roush supercharger and Carmen pulley.  Hell, I’m afraid to change spark plugs.  Who would imagine in 1963 there would be a TSB on just how to R&R spark plugs?

roush blower
My Roush supercharger and gizmos.

And unlike my pop’s ’63 Merc which ran on simple mechanical principles (but threw physics principles out the window for the so-called braking), the computing power in my Mustang would cause Einstein to strike a pose like Captain Morgan.

And today’s stunning braking power is the true reason for seat belts – it compassionately keeps your head from being continually used to redesign the windshield.  The aftermarket Wilwood six-piston disc brakes I installed with slotted and cross-drilled rotors exacerbates the stop-on-a-dime tendencies… which is a good thing.

270768_1922679229805_1326818011_31876806_6107098_n
The Wilwood Six Piston disc brakes on my Mustang.

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So it appears the delicious, basic hamburger of the 1960’s has been brought into the 21st Century.  Kids that watched Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden fooled with the wonderfully simple ground beef and bread formula to give us today’s foodie gourmet burger…and we can still listen to Vinny’s golden voice, to boot.  Glorious.

And well, with 505 hp at the crank instead of 164 hp, it’s hard to complain.  Neither do my kids when they hear the whine of my Roush supercharger.  They like to scream.  But it’s a shame my pop’s ’63 Mercury Meteor won’t be swept into anyone’s museum.

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I guess technology has its benefits.

I’ll take a gourmet burger in the end after all.

Pass the Heinz ketchup, please.

At least that hasn’t changed.

(Almost) Pie Crust From Scratch


P C 1

Making a pie crust from scratch is really pretty easy.  Tried it for the first time.

But rolling out the pie dough… Now that’s a bitch.  (Pardon my French.)

But I did it…  Sorta.

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Yes, the Cook’s Illustrated recipe called for vodka.  No sense paraphrasing it so this is what they said:

“The problem is that dry pie dough is impossible to roll out. We needed a soft, pliable dough for rolling—that is, one with plenty of liquid—but a dry dough when it came to baking. The solution turned out to be, surprisingly, vodka. By using a quarter cup of ice water mixed with the same amount of chilled vodka, we could add a high amount of liquid and create a dough that was moist enough to roll out easily, but still tender after baking. While gluten forms readily in water, it doesn’t form in alcohol, and vodka is 40 percent alcohol. The alcohol vaporizes in the oven, so that no trace of vodka is detectable in the finished crust.”

Well, it really worked except when this old former mechanic decided to deviate from said recipe by leaving it in the oven to bake for three extra minutes.

And letting the dough get too warm while rolling it… if you call it rolling.  LOL  Instead of being circular, it ended up looking more like Patrick Star of Spongebob.

Oh well.

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Let’s get down to the evidence:

P C 2
Pulse 2/3rds of the unbleached flour together with the sugar and salt.
P C 3
After adding the chilled vegetable shortening and unsalted butter, process no more than ten seconds. Separate dough into two or three sections then add remaining flour. Watch out for the cloud.
P C 4
After adding the remaining flour and about four to six pulses, dough should look like this. Don’t overdo it.
P C 5
Transfer to mixing bowl, add water and vodka, and fold. Should be tacky.
P C 6
Form a four inch circle, wrap in plastic wrap then refrigerate at least 45 minutes.
P C 7
Liberally dust. I was dumb enough to use my granite counter top…which was still warm from basking in the afternoon sun. I also forgot to dust the top before rolling. 🙂
P C 9
Patrick Star in disguise. Making the dough til now was a snap. Rolling it? HA!
P C 9a
It needs plastic surgery…but don’t laugh. 🙂
P C 9b
A burned fait accompli. You can see the results of my uneven rolling! In fact, the right side slid down! I actually had to throw it back into the oven as that section was still moist… The bottom ended up looking like graham crackers it was so toasted!
P C 9c
It didn’t look TOO bad when it was filled up with strawberries covered in PERFECT glaze… not like jello and certainly not runny! Anyways, my good USAF neighbors got half of it; I think he may have flung out the pie crust from 30 Angels as a lethal weapon.

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Well, the dough certainly was easy to put together.

This (aging) former mechanic did it…but didn’t follow the instructions at the end.  In short:

  1. Dust the top of the dough before rolling. LOL
  2. Learn to roll out the dough evenly. Double LOL
  3. Roll it in the early morning before the granite counter top feels like the Sahara. Duh

The secret is the vodka and keeping the ingredients chilled.

Oh.  Don’t burn the crust nor watch Spongebob before rolling.

The Pain of Survival and Aunt Michie – Part 7


“When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.”

– Vernon McLellan

That was Aunt Michie.  She gave all of herself and of her life strength to others because her heart knew no other way.

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At the moment Aunt Michie watched the ugly mushroom cloud rise from her field that day, her older siblings – my dad, Aunt Shiz and Uncle Yutaka – were all imprisoned in the “war relocation centers” scattered about the United States.  These were truly prisons and the popular view is that FDR imprisoned them “for their protection” because they looked like the enemy.(¹)

Life within these “camps” was “sub-standard”.  They were forced to live in small, shoddily built wooden barracks covered only with tar paper with little or no privacy.  No running water – they had to go outside to use public latrines or showers.  Food was served in mess halls on pot metal plates at specific times, just like in the military.  The food was miserable according to Dad and worse yet, they had to wait in line.  For the first month or so of imprisonment, he said all they had was liver, powdered eggs and potatoes.

But then again, he said it was food.

Aunt Michie and her family were near starving in Hiroshima while dad was imprisoned in the good ol’ US of A.

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IMG_5864
Taken at the Kanemoto home in Hiroshima, 1951 and soon after my parents wed. (L to R) Sadako, Namie, Aunt Michie holding a young Kiyoshi, Grandma Kono, Masako, mom and dad. Courtesy of Kiyoshi Aramaki.

It is assumed like for the rest of America, Dad and his older siblings heard the news of the atomic bombing but while in the camps on or about August 8th… that one enormous bomb had wiped out Hiroshima.  There must have high anxiety and anger as many of the inmates in Dad’s camp (Minidoka) were from Seattle; they had family in Hiroshima as their parents had immigrated from there.

My cousins tell me that sometime after war’s end, Michie’s “American” siblings – my dad, Uncle Yutaka and Aunt Shiz – managed to re-establish contact with Grandmother Kono and Michie.  With the Japanese infrastructure destroyed, it was a miracle.  And it was no easy task as letters to and from Japan were not only prohibited, it was impossible.  There was no telephone in the villages where Grandmother and Michie lived.

But her American siblings somehow managed to send much needed clothing to them.  When my father finally reached Hiroshima while a sergeant in the US 8th Army, he carried two duffle bags full of C-rations, candy and Spam.  They said it was a feast for them after years of hunger.

051912_0639_4.jpg
Dad in front of his Hiroshima home – April 1948

Sadako (who savored the white rice Michie made them on the day of the bomb) told me at a farewell dinner two years ago that she fondly remembered my dad taking them to a market of some kind where he bought her a little coin purse.  She remembered Dad gave her the money to buy the little purse and was told she could keep the change.  She remembers then handing the change – which was a LOT of money back then – to Michie who humbly accepted it.  Sadako said she cherished that little coin purse for years.

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EPILOGUE

From exhaustive laboring on her farm… to taking precious sashimi to her brother Suetaro… to walking ten miles with children in tow to care for Grandmother Kono after her stroke… to the pain of learning of her brother being killed in action… to being thrown onto the ground and watching a huge mushroom cloud rise over a small hill… to pulling a wooden cart over a hill…  to tirelessly aiding the victims… and most of all, sacrificing her own health for the sake of others…

She never gave up in those thirty years.  Would you have? I don’t believe I would have had the fortitude.

But because her soul would not quit, she got everyone to tomorrow… but in doing so, her own tomorrows dwindled.

Michie is still here.  The fruit of her sacrifices can be seen today in her six children, all of whom have lived – and are still living – full, joyous lives.

Soubetsukai Picture
Four of Michie’s children with my son and I. The four at the left front were at Aunt Michie’s farmhouse after the atomic bomb; Hitoshi was there as a burn victim. Hiroshima – September 8, 2012
Entaijisou Meal
At breakfast – Endaijisou Hot Springs, November 2013.  Tomiko was at home when the atomic bomb went off; the house was destroyed.

They have their mother, Michie, to thank and they cherish that… and that they were all there at the farmhouse when she looked at each one of them intently one last time before leaving this world.

A most grand mother.

And yes…

They all love food to this very day.

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I wish to deeply thank my Hiroshima cousins for sharing their memories of their life with Michie with us.

Like all Hiroshima citizens I have met, they simply pray for peace.

NOTES:

(¹) There are declassified US intelligence documents which show that a small number of Japanese and Japanese-Americans were performing espionage.  Intelligence was able to determine this by intercepting and decoding secret Japanese communications. This information was given a cover name of MAGIC and these documents were typed up for FDR and a very small number of trusted officials.  However, rounding up the spies would clearly indicate to the Japanese that their code had been cracked.  These documents present another view contra to the widespread belief that FDR imprisoned the Japanese and Japanese-Americans from discrimination and war time hysteria.  In other words, FDR used that hysteria as a cover story; by doing so, he was able to remove the “spies” from the West Coast without alerting the Japanese.  FDR also stated in communications that there would be “repercussions” from such action.