inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #76 of 197: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Thu 9 Oct 03 07:37
    
At least up in Tsuruta, where Miz Becky lived, 5:00 is also when all
of the vans-with-speakers cruise the parking lots of the supermarkets
to exhort the shoppers to buy something, or vote for someone, or get
hopelessly addicted to Pachinko:

Pa-chin-ko!
Pa-chin-ko!
Pachinko shima sho! (which means, I think, "let's pachinko!")
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #77 of 197: Berliner (captward) Thu 9 Oct 03 12:34
    
Actually, typing in that recipe this morning made me nostalgic, so
guess what's on the stove? But I'm going to try Dennis' suggestion and
go with some shao xing instead of sherry. Which I guess equates to
Eric's "carrot juice, stock, or BOOZE" instruction. Eric's other
suggestions are interesting, but I think he's underestimating the
flavor the saffron adds, which is sort of metallic, yet warm. It does
blend well with cilantro, though, and I regret not stopping by the
Vietnamese guy's place and picking some up. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #78 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Fri 10 Oct 03 20:53
    
Having had the recent peasure to savor some of your cooking Eric, I am
wondering if you cook professionally? 
  
 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #79 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 11 Oct 03 00:15
    
No, and I hope to god to keep it that way. I don't think I'm cut out
for restaurant work--those dudes are at it 18 hours a day, minimum six
days a week. I have no idea how they endure it. I have a whole life
outside of cooking, and I desperately need many waking hours to engage
in that life. 

That said, I do cook professionally as a private chef; people hire me
to do intimate dinners for up to 10, maybe 12 people either with wine
pairing per course or not. I sometimes call this California
kaiseki--the meals are typically eight to 12 courses, depending on what
I see when I shop that morning. I get a special satisfaction out of
these meals--it's a total pleasure for me to cook this way. The menu is
written after I get back from the farmers' market the morning of the
dinner. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #80 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 11 Oct 03 00:16
    
Oh, and I never acknowledged that glaring error in the book, the pork
recipe. Broiled is very, very different from braised. Ugh. Thanks for
pointing it out--it managed to escape three layers of editors, me, and
tons of test readers. Ugh2.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #81 of 197: Berliner (captward) Sat 11 Oct 03 02:31
    
I perfectly understand, as someone who loves to cook himself, why
you're not interested in opening a restaurant, Eric. I've always told
people that while I've converted a lot of the things I like to do into
money-makers, there should always be a couple of them that I reserve
purely for my own pleasure and enjoyment. But...how would you react if
someone who'd studied your book decided to open a "breakaway Japanese"
restaurant and asked you to consult? 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #82 of 197: Bread, Cheese, Slanting Light (maya) Sat 11 Oct 03 08:51
    
> I trust <gower> to be more Charlie Parker

Oh no no, more Ben Webster than Charlie Parker, more soulful and
evocative.

I prepared the baked tonkatsu from Eric's book for my houseguests. 
Why?  Because I found incredible porkchops at the butcher's and because
I had little heels of bread left from the various loaves we have been
sampling and trying from Paul's, our local boulangerie.  And because in
the produce store I found one perfect red pepper, one perfect yellow
pepper, one perfect orange pepper, and the knives are sharp in my
kitchen so I could cut them into tiny little squares and rectangles. 
And because I found one handsome red onion that made me cry.

That's why.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #83 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Sat 11 Oct 03 09:09
    
< The menu is written after I get back from the farmers' market the
morning of the dinner. >

If you prepare the menu *afterwards* how do you know what to buy?  How
do you avoid over-buying?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #84 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 11 Oct 03 17:00
    
>But...how would you react if someone who'd studied your book >decided
to open a "breakaway Japanese" restaurant and asked you to >consult? 

Now THAT would be a nice problem to have! It's a great question
tho--I'd be flattered, no doubt about that. As long as someone else
took it on as his/her baby and only brought me for ideas, writing
menus, and miscellaneous other stuff, I'd be in hog-heaven. It would be
weird though, if someone just ripped off the recipes and declared them
to be original, and was just trying to capitalize somehow . . . but
that seems ludicrously unlikely to me. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #85 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 11 Oct 03 17:02
    
Talk about solid reasons for making tonkatsu! And what tasty little
accompaniments surround you there in Paris, Maya .....
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #86 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 11 Oct 03 17:11
    
>If you prepare the menu *afterwards* how do you know what to buy? 
>How do you avoid over-buying?

You know what to buy by buying whatever looks best! That's the method.
Say I had planned on making some kind of salmon dish for one of the
main courses, but the dude just happened to bring out some beautiful
crab he *happened* to come across hours earlier. That makes the
decision for me. And if, say, my usual guy at the farmers' market came
up to me, visibly excited by his squashes, then squash would be on the
menu in some form, also dependent on what else I see. So if I see a
beautiful bunch of tarragon, or Thai basil, I'll buy them not knowing
yet how they'll eventually get used, but once I get home, dump my stuff
on the table, and see the gorgeous tarragon next to the gorgeous
squash, then that becomes an easy decision for a dish. 

Quantity is harder, but not THAT hard--I typically only cook for fewer
than 10 people anyway, so I don't deal with huge quantities of
anything. There is almost always something leftover for lunch the day,
which also more or less part of the plan. I usually cook a slightly
larger portion than I think I'll actually need. It's nice to have a
fridge full of great food the next day, when it's time to read all day
long and decompress, and NOT cook. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #87 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 11 Oct 03 17:14
    
The event at Kinokuniya today went well--about 50 showed up and bought
books, heard me prattle on, and tasted an edamame dish that I
demonstrated how to make. Lots of older Japanese showed up, which for
whatever reason made me really happy. And a spirited q and a session
left everyone seemingly satisfied. 

Now it's time for a glass of Cline and a puff!
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #88 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Sat 11 Oct 03 20:47
    
<I'll buy them not knowing yet how they'll eventually get used>

Oh dear....if that were me, two weeks later I'd find the tarragon in
some corner of the fridge.  ;(

  I like to have tofu for lunch, but it needs to be something that can
be transported easily (I often ride my bike to work) and whipped up in
the limited conditions of the office breakroom.  Can you suggest
anything?   (Veggie preferred.)  
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #89 of 197: Berliner (captward) Sun 12 Oct 03 03:12
    
Eric has just illuminated one of my favorite anecdotes. I have a
friend who used to be an amazing chef, and when I'd visit, we'd go to
the Mill Valley Market, where he'd wander around like he was stoned or
something, sort of unfocusedly staring at things for a while and then
bam! he'd galvanize into action, buying this and that, and then we'd
head back and he'd produce alchemy. I learned an awful lot from his
techniques, except how to do that goofy wandering around, synthesizing
the information into dinner. 

This being a q and a of sorts, I wonder if Eric would be so kind as to
go into more details as to the questions he got asked at Kinokuniya,
particularly by those "older Japanese" folks. Based on what's been said
here already, I'm wondering what they were asking.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #90 of 197: beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Sun 12 Oct 03 08:11
    
not that I'm a chef or anything, but I frequently decide what's for dinner
by wandering gazing at what's in the case at the seafood store, or roaming
Whole Foods a few times with an empty basket until the perfect thing jumps
into my basket.

I left Breakaway on the coffee table while we had about 50 people in the
house last weekend and quite a few commented on it - one woman said it was
the perfect coffee table cookbook because it's so lush and gorgeous.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #91 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 12 Oct 03 09:19
    
Chrys, if you like to eat tofu for lunch, I would keep a modest of
stock of stuff at the office: a small and excellent bottle of evoo, a
few bottles of vinegar, some good s&p, perhaps a jar of pickled ginger.
Is there room for that? (with the possible exception of the ginger,
you don't a fridge). Then I'd bring some fresh tofu and fresh fruit to
work, gently dress the tofu in those things, and top it off with
seasonal fruit. Have a look at the tofu section of the book--there are
some more ideas in there. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #92 of 197: Berliner (captward) Sun 12 Oct 03 09:20
    
I blame the Japanese pottery, myself. 

Whoops! Eric slipped in. Hey, tell us something about that pottery. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #93 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 12 Oct 03 09:33
    
Hey, I know that stoned-goof wander!

Q&A at Kinokuniya: it wasn't that the questions were all that
great/penetrating, but that they kept rolling, and we had a nice little
flow going. One Chinese man was simply astounded that I wasn't
pursuing a restaurant/some food business, so I talked at length about
how important free time is to me, the role of cooking as livelihood,
that doing that would kill the spirit of what's fun about cooking for
me, etc. Another guy was fascinated with tofu, so we got into that.
Also got into the virtues of the kamado (you can see these gorgeous
tools at www.kamado.com ), cooking for one, the concept of how to
"brighten" a dish (the incorporation of tart, sweet, and savory), and
wine. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #94 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 12 Oct 03 09:41
    
Yeah, in lots of ways, it's all about the pottery. I have a rather
meager collection with me here in SF, alas. It makes a HUGE difference
to serve something on a hand-made gorgeous piece of clay versus serving
it on white china. It adds yet one more dimension to the food, beyond
all the usual considerations. *Everything* looks good on cool Japanese
(and Korean) pottery. It never ceases to amaze me what a difference it
makes. 

Lots of the pottery in the book is mine, and some we borrowed from
some Kodansha editors and a monk I know with an awesome collection. The
best part about shooting the photography for the book was standing in
Bill's huge living room, with the pottery laid out over the entire
room, so that we could select the right piece for each dish.
Watanabe-san, the photographer, the man with the eye, did most of the
choosing. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #95 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Sun 12 Oct 03 10:04
    
Thanks for the lunch suggestions Eric.  (I had to think twice about
that weird 'evoo' ingredient.  For anyone wondering, I believe this
translates as 'extra virgin olive oil'.)

<so I talked at length about
how important free time is to me, the role of cooking as livelihood,
that doing that would kill the spirit of what's fun about cooking for
me, etc. >

I would love to hear you muse some more on the 'role of cooking as a
livehood' and maybe talk about what form(s) your 'day job' takes. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #96 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Mon 13 Oct 03 15:45
    
Well, something fundamental about cooking changes when one is paid to
do it. Expectations arise that simply don't otherwise. One tends to be
delighted with food, no matter how ineptly it's made, when one receives
it from someone whose pure heart/intentions are patently obvious. When
they're paying for it, the whole scale somehow shifts, and we are
perforce obliged to come up with a subjective value on what the meal is
really worth. I do this all the time in restaurants, and so does
virtually everyone I know. One's critical faculties are brought out.
That's fine, but a more interesting connection often arises when money
is not exchanged. It's just different.

Nothing is better than finding that sweetspot in a restaurant that
says, "The food is superior in everyway; I have no idea how they do
this profitably." We all have our own ideas about what constitutes
value in a restaurant, and it's nice to feel that a place offers superb
value and gives one an all-around pleasant experience.

I think that quite a bit of my love for cooking would dissipate if I
HAD to do it all the time. I feel confident that I'll be cooking until
the day of my last gasp of air--the show/experiments must go on! I
don't want to spoil that by making my living from it and associating
food with any sense of unpleasantness or drugery. Ithink it's the
hours--most of the great chefs routinely work 12 hours a day, often six
days a week. I really don't think I have it in me to do that; I have
an entire life outside of cooking. It's just a nice backbone to life as
a whole, since we have to eat several times a day anyway, no matter
*what* else is going down ... we might as well be mindful and eat great
things, things we really enjoy, and pay attention to what makes our
bodies feel good (and bad). It makes the whole organism run a lot
smoother, affects our psychology/mind states and energy levels, and is
just damn tasty, especially if we've got the right glass of wine!

That said, menu consulting is a whole lot of fun--writing new menus is
something I *really* like to do. And I like cooking for very small
groups (under ten, preferably 5-7) with wine flights. 

I'm lucky to be able to eke out a very modest living as an
editor/commentator for the Japanese government's naikaku-fu (cabinet
office/prime minister's office). I do a similar job for the Bank of
Japan. We do everything by email (mostly edit economic papers,
speeches, and letters), and often very late at night here, since it's
biz hours there. 

There but for the grace of the government go I!

I have modest needs/expenses, So I have plenty of free time to cook
and write and read. I think it's a rich and free way to live, despite
the lack of money. It's not for everybody--the instability of it all
would be nerve-wracking for heaps of people, I'm sure .....
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #97 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Mon 13 Oct 03 16:23
    
Very well said Eric. Thank you!
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #98 of 197: mother of my eyelid (frako) Tue 14 Oct 03 10:11
    
This is something that's been bothering me lately. Say you have a great
talent for something, but you're afraid that if you start doing it
professionally the long hours and external demands will kill your creative
spirit. So you never become widely known for it. I guess that's not such a
bad thing, as long as there are people around you who appreciate what you
do.

We often eat Japanese at our place, and our most common use of tofu is in
the miso soup. After the dashi (fish stock) and miso are combined and have
been sitting quietly over heat for about 15 minutes, I lower 1/2-inch cubes
of tofu (about half the contents of a typical American package) and a
handful of freshly chopped scallions into the broth and drink immediately.
Refrigerate the leftovers and you've got a very nice lunch for the next day,
providing it's in a well-sealed container. You can just drink it out of a
thermos if you must.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #99 of 197: Berliner (captward) Tue 14 Oct 03 10:19
    
It's a delicate balancing act. I love to write, and I'd probably be
doing it even if I weren't doing it professionally (I was going to say
"even if I weren't getting paid for it," but at the moment I hardly
am!), although I doubt I'd be doing it in magazines or newspapers. I'd
be sending long letters to friends, posting here, maybe doing a blog or
something. So you're gonna do it, whatever. 

I also have a number of talents, to greater or lesser degree. Some of
them I *don't* sell, because I want there to be things in my life I do
purely for enjoyment. Others I've had to sell at one point or another
and discovered half-way points where I can keep some back and sell the
rest. 

Problem is, as I think Eric's gone and said, there probably isn't a
half-way point in the restaurant biz. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #100 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Tue 14 Oct 03 11:18
    
>as long as there are people around you who appreciate what you
do.

Yeah, appreciation/validation is nice. But I think it's important to
understand that, ultimately, it's YOU who must appreciate and give
validation to what you do. Not to get all overblown or anything, but I
really think this is the basis of all art--you simply do it because you
must/need to. Everything else comes later, if it comes it all, and you
somehow have to make peace with that. 

There *might* be a halfway point in the restaurant/food biz. The
private chef thing I do is sorta halfway; I get the satisfaction of
people loving a special multi-course (often ten) dinner, and getting
paid for it, and then having it be over until the next time. After
these things, I get down on my knees and thank Jah I don't have to do
again the next day! The problem is that I can't really make a living
off it; it's just supplemental income here and there. 

You know what would be cool? To have three or four like-minded chefs
start a place and share all the expenses; then we'd only have to cook
twice a week! 
  

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