Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Food for thought: Japanese desserts

As it turns out I'm staying in Nihon for a bit longer, I thought I would continue with another post on the scrumptious bliss of Japanese food, or to be more specific, desserts!

Let's start with the wonder of Japanese jellies. Americans: forget the plastic-bound, blandly sweet little lunch box gelatins of your elementary years; jellies are a culinary art form in Japan bursting with chilled, full fruit flavor! Presentation of said jelly is also part of its appeal: Admit it, this dark gem grape jelly adorned in a mint leaf and garnished by a carrot cake cookie has you drooling for a spoonful, doesn't it?

Now, let's move on to pastries. I have to admit, the chocolate pastries in Japan tend to fall short of the diabetes-inducing decadence of American pastries that I am used to, but their fruit pastries are another matter. Take the triangle of celestial confection below. It is made of croissant-like (er, -esque?) slices of bread that puff with crisp, buttery flavor in each bite. A delectable dust of powdered sugar adds a light sweetness. And the filling! Clouds of delicately-flavored cream layer a subtly tart strawberry lining. A ripe summer day couldn't taste any better. Best of all, this little wedge of heaven is under 200 yen (basically, under 2 dollars).

But sometimes a simple ice cream is in order. While I lament Japan's lack of my favorite flavor (peanut butter chocolate rules!), there are many flavors unique to this country, like Hokkaido Milk.
The Hokkaido region of Japan is famous for its creamy milk, which is used in gourmet chocolates and ice cream. It's hard for me to describe the milky flavor; lighter than vanilla, more like cream of cloud!

If you are ever in Japan, be sure to enjoy at least one of these treats!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Everything's Fine by Janci Patterson

I finished Janci Patterson's YA novel Everything's Fine in a night and a day. I couldn't put it down! The reader is immediately sucked into Kira's raw pain at the sudden suicide of her best friend Haylee and tangled fears of what Haylee's missing journal might say about her. I think I was able to devour this story so quickly because each page never let me forget that grief waits for no one to catch up in real life. It's breathless and searing and hollows everything inside you until the smiling veneer of "fine" is all you have left for the anxious demanding gazes of others. Even as Kira struggles with the mystery of her best friend's death, she must navigate the confusing maze of her feelings for Haylee's cousin Nick, and Bradley, Haylee's idol and the last person she dated the night before killing herself. Kira is thrown into a rush of crazy emotions as she gets closer to the dark weight of silence that crushed her best friend, and is now threatening to tear those she left behind apart. But Kira is strong enough to listen to what nobody else heard, and that's why I had to stay, too, avidly following her through the last stubborn, desperate stretch of ink to learn the truth.

For a read of wrenching beauty, buy Everything's Fine on amazon.

You can also follow author Janci Patterson and learn about her other books on her blog.