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Listening to Ann Cole. Growing Hakurei turnips and tatsoi. Not sure where any of this is going.
In the meantime, to help the Tohoku region of Japan (or just to get some fine recipes), please go buy a copy of Elizabeth Andoh’s Kibō.
In Tokyo on the evening of February 15, I was sitting cross-legged in the private dining room of Takara, a modern izakaya, with John Gauntner and his students taking the 2011 Advanced Sake Professional Course. At the table with us was John’s own sake sensei, Haruo Matsuzaki. The night felt auspicious. We toasted, shouting, “kampai!” Mori-san, the maitre d’, organized the perfect service of numerous courses of food matched to the seven sakes John had chosen for the evening. After we ate and drank ourselves into a happy flushed stupor, people began crawling like babies over cushions on the wood floor to talk to others. The very long table was covered with tall 1.8 liter bottles of sake, many katakuchi (sake flasks with open tops), innumerable o-choko (small sake cups), and the plates from dinner. The conversation was animated, enthusiastic, and a bit drunken. Delight and déjà vu: back in 2005 through 2008 when I lived in Japan, Takara had been the site of nine memorable John Gauntner dinners that had solidified my interest in sake.
One of the sakes on February 15th was Sharaku 冩楽 junmai ginjo from Fukushima, a rich, tingly, and delicious pure rice sake named after the 18th-century ukiyo-e master whose identity is a mystery. The neck of the bottle had a label that read, “Pure Love Brew,” a pun on the word jun for “pure” [100%] rice sake, with a mixed meaning of something like “love of pure rice sake brewing” and “brewed with pure love.” I was so taken with the phrase that I pledged in a slurred voice that I would pursue a jun life, making it delicious and full of love.
And that is where I stopped writing when I heard the news of the earthquake/tsunami/radiation crisis in Japan. This post was going to be about my love of sake and sake people: my sake sensei, John Gauntner, and John’s coordinator in the sake courses and sake tours (sake expert in her own right), Etsuko Nakamura. I wanted to share photos of the toji (master brewers) and owners of the breweries we visited and the two sake experts that shared their knowledge with us in the class, Shunsuke Kohiyama, and Matsuzaki-san.
After much thought I think that my impulse to highlight the lives of individuals remains the best way we can relate to tragedy. Waves crashing over entire towns can too easily be abstracted in one’s mind as a trailer for a movie about world destruction. But what is lost is moments and memories we can grasp one person, one moment at a time. This is all I can offer today: names and faces of individuals in Japan, some of whom I know are safe, some I hope are. I offer my broken heart with pure love for the the people who died, the people who will suffer, and all that will be lost.
QUESTION: Has Madam been silenced by an evil cartel of Tea Party enthusiasts and vegetarians? –WL
ANSWER: At some point during the hot summer here in D.C. the sake ran out; things looked bleak. Time passed. After a short vacation in Maine, Madam came home to her local bar, was offered a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, and she realized it was already autumn. She has a story or two to tell…
Oh those dire times, back in July 2008, when Madam, your blog mistress, with misgivings and many protestations of 寂しくなるだろうよ (I will miss you) was required to move back to the United States. Farewell, sake friends and sumo tournaments and my unbelievable Japanese teacher with her weekly regional treats and her tart ironic glance at her countrymen…
A year-and-a-half goes by and I’m buying too much sake and reading back issues of Kyō no Ryōri (Today’s Cooking). I’m wondering why American bathtubs are so shallow and useless except for washing a sweater, where can a gal get a proper soak? I got nothing for a blog.
Sei Shonagon is fucking laughing at me. She’s in her layered silks and writing about how this fool arrived at court begging for scraps, singing bawdy songs. Nope, it was Sei’s bag all along. I may be located in Washington, D.C., but a piece of my 心 is still in Japan.
I want to explore sake and Japanese culture, or what scraps I can find in the Washington, D.C. area. Of course, I may meander off topic. After all, I’m eating a white pizza while drinking a lovely junmai ginjo right this moment.
Therefore, the blog goes back to its maiden name, “You, madam, are no Sei Shonagon,” and there it shall remain.
Madam has been a bit busy learning a new job, taking Japanese, worrying over her sick dogwood tree…
She promises to write before the end of August soon. If you would be kind enough to check back later (おかえていただけませんか), she would greatly appreciate it.
Back soon… またね！