Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hodgepodge & Pineapple Jam

A Matey Slap
One aspect of life in Japan is that I chat a lot with men. It is more often the foreign men who stay here, marry, and manage this complicated balance of life in another language. They also usually speak English. I don't think they wrestle with their choices as much as I do or maybe they accept their choices better than I do. Life happens. We make these little choices, tiny life altering twists of fate, and then we move along. There is living to do. The other day as I was making my way down the sidewalk on my bicycle, an Aussie friend riding up the road on his bike, held out his hand for a nice matey slap as he rode by. I was too preoccupied to process it in the moment since, well, I am a chick and few people offer to slap my hand as I cycle about, but it made me smile.

Reading a bit of Marco Polo's journey to China, I was struck by how long the journey lasted, 24 years, and that once he returned to Venice and got out of prison, he never left again. Part of the reason Marco Polo was gone so long was his exotic Latin appearance- Kubla Khan would not permit him to leave the court. Travel gives a different view, another way of seeing. You don't go back to the old world and see it in quite the same way. I do think it makes you appreciate home in new ways too.

Sometimes I marvel at how comfortable an uptight white person can feel in Japan. My husband says Japan is "egosyntonic." It is comfortable once you learn the way. As once the way, always the way, even for us clueless foreigners. No one here has ever aimed at making me feel bad, show me the way, yes, but only because there is a way and you must follow the way.

Some lives pine for what will never be, some lives churn up waves of discontent in every direction, and some lives help all they encounter. I have known of all three. It is because of the entirety that I know the value of the helpers. My children have at times asked me for an explanation of good guys versus bad guys. It came to me in one of those moments, "good guys help others (even when it isn't convenient) and bad guys hurt others (even when there is no benefit)." Sometimes I even ask myself, "Was I trying to help?" when I feel I might have hurt someone. My intentions are usually good even if my aim is not. Sometimes my intentions are not pure. Sometimes I am just tired. I wish that I could ask when someone is unkind if they think they are being helpful. I really wonder at some of the help we offer each other.

Pineapple Jam
The homework pile at Casa Kamakura is dwindling. The pineapple jam was made at last. I can't say I was happy with the pineapple cake, but I am willing to try again. I didn't follow the recipe for the jam- it seemed it would be too sweet. I used half of the sugar. I am thinking to try some kind of pineapple jam muffins. 

Pineapple Jam- good for yogurt, toast, cake, muffins, etc.  I boiled jars and lids and then poured boiling hot jam into the jars, fill to the top, tap jar wearing a hot pad on the counter to evacuate air bubbles, and then place on the lid. Clean off the jars and label. I suggest consulting a cookbook for more authoritive descriptions of the process particularly if it is your first time, but nothing beats homemade jam.

Cut up one pineapple and weigh on scale!

Add half of the weight of the pineapple in sugar
Mix sugar and pineapple. Let it sit about 30 minutes to get juicy.
Cook over medium heat and skim the froth as it forms
Blend the pineapple for a smooth consistency- I used this.
Cook the jam about 45 minutes, thickens as it cools
I used 2 pineapples so it made a lot
Consult a jam book for canning tips

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