Instagram Is The New Food Channel

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Have you noticed all those people taking pictures of their food at restaurants? Chances are iphoneit’s going up on Instagram before they even take their first bite. When our family eats out, we’re not allowed to dig in until all the shots have been taken. We’ve even been known to use our cell phones to add extra lighting when it’s too dim to get a decent shot!😜 Sorry, so obnoxious…😓 Of course, we always make sure it’s OK with the restaurant; these days they all seem to be used to it. Besides, there are plenty of food bloggers around who do reviews, too. 👍

advicepicIn the Instagram world, the “food shot” is probably the most popular image posted, along with pics of kids, pics of pets, quotes that give out life advice, and those self-promoting selfies.😒 Wait, did I just apologize for being obnoxious with our food shots? I take it back–there are worse offenses.

Instagram is a legitimate force in social media today with well over 300 million users worldwide; probably why Facebook bought the company back in 2012 for $1billion. Make no mistake, Facebook is still the king with over 1.3 billion users!😲 I happen to have accounts in both Facebook and Instagram, even though friends my age are usually in Facebook. Instagram is mostly populated by the Millenials and the age 35 & under demographic, but my day job is to manage social media for our kitchenware company, so I’ve been the one to post images to our Instagram account, @goodcookcom

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My mechanic diagnosing my engine!

I find it more fun than Facebook; it’s very easy to use, I don’t have to write a whole story behind the picture, and for a graphics geek like me, playing around with the image filters, photo cropping and collage framing is kind of satisfying. On my personal Instagram account, I find myself posting events or images that are quirky or interesting to me, but I don’t think my kids find them particularly “Instagram-worthy”. Apparently we don’t think alike. Who knew!😞

I leave the food pics to my wife, who has become very skillful with her cell phone. She cooks a lot, so between her creations at home and our tours out on the town to find foodie places that she scouts on YELP, there’s a lot of content to share. Ironically, the dishes I get to eat at home are every bit as delicious as they look, but by the time I get home for dinner, the beautiful plate that made it to Instagram does not look like what I’m eating!😠 Oh well, it tastes the same though, so I can’t complain!😄

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Fresh POKE (Hawaiian style marinated sashimi tuna)

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Basement record store in Boston

The above shots come from 2 separate Instagram accounts: my wife’s and mine. Is it obvious which one is hers and which one is mine?

 

Good Taste: Gin-nan (Ginkgo Nuts)

Gin-nan or ginkgo nuts ripen in autumn, and this month, fans around the world will be picking them straight from the trees to bring them to their tables.

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Patience is required to prepare ginkgo nuts. Fresh nuts are encased in three layers – a?pulpy, yellowish outer covering; a hard, smooth white nut case; and a thin, brownish inner?skin. And that’s not the only protection around the nuts! The pulpy outer covering is extremely pungent, likened to durian fruit in intensity and odor. Avid enthusiasts undertake the challenge of removing the smelly outer covering, cracking open the nut case and then scrubbing the inner skins off while the nuts are soaked in hot water to get to the nut within. (The not-so-avid can definitely find fresh, hulled nuts at Asian markets around the world.) The inexperienced novice will certainly come away with skin peeling from their hands and an overfull stomach, as only 4-5 nuts should be eaten at a time (unfortunately, ginkgo poisoning is a thing).

ginnan02Gin-nan grow on female ginkgo biloba trees, which are prized not only for their fruit but for their beautiful and unique foliage. In Tokyo, ginkgo trees turn a splendid shade of gold during the fall season, and locals and tourists alike visit the “Ginkgo Avenue” or Icho Namiki near the Aoyama-Itchome Station and in Showa Memorial Park. Each location is planted with four rows of ginkgo trees, forming broad avenues overhung by leafy branches dappling shade. A ginkgo tree is also at Sensoji Shrine in Asakusa, the oldest temple in Tokyo.

The raw nuts, once harvested from the trees and deskinned, are white in color but turn pale green when cooked. In Japan, the nuts are skewered and grilled, kushiyaki-style and more commonly found in chawanmushi,?a savory egg custard appetizer. The true connoisseur loves these nuts simply roasted, warm and fragrant on an autumn day.

How to…use an Oroshi-gane

Japanese kitchens are equipped with a few simple, elegant and highly-functional tools…great knives, a mortar and pestle, a rice cooker, chopsticks, and an oroshi-gane, or hand-held grater.

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A traditional sharkskin oroshi-gane

The oroshi-gane is a key implement used in daily Japanese cooking. Primarily used to grate roots, such as wasabi and ginger, the oroshi-gane is also used for grating daikon radishes, wild mountain yams and citrus zests.

The grater is commonly found in three varieties: plastic, ceramic and metal. They each oroshigane03feature a small handle that the cook holds, a flat surface with thorn-like projections against?which food is grated and a collection trough that captures the paste and juice from the grated food item. In old times most households owned a metal one. Today, plastic ones?are gaining popularity as they are less expensive and can be replaced when the grating surface becomes dull. They also come in a variety of colors and fun shapes, making the tedious grating experience a bit more exciting. Ceramic graters are easily breakable, but don’t retain odors which is nice when you grate a lot of ginger, wasabi, onions, or any herbs and vegetables that have a strong scent. Oroshi-gane were originally made from sharkskin stretched and glued onto a wooden board. The rough skin, similar to sandpaper in texture, turned wasabi roots into mush, creating the paste-like wasabi we know today.

Have you used this type of grater before? Share your stories!

Delicate Customs: Undo-Kai!

Undo-kai time is here!

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Every year in Japan, schools hold sports festivals showcasing their students’ physical talents in competitive and cooperative sports. Families and members of the community all assemble at their local or school stadium and watch children at each grade level compete in track and field, dance, o-en-dan, kumi-taiso, ki-ba-sen, tama-ire and ball games.

Undo-kai festivals are daylong events, and often coincide with the National Sports Day holiday on October 10, which commemorates the opening of the 1964 Olympic Games in undoukai03Tokyo. The day begins in the morning, with a procession of children marching to music in their gym uniforms – red teams (aka gumi) separated from white teams (shiro gumi) by the color of their hats. Families spread out blankets on the nearby grass, and lay out their cushions and picnic lunches, ready for the morning’s performances. Children on each team warm-up and stretch, the o-en-dan cheering squads perform dances to music and taiko drums, and the track and field and ball games begin!

Each team has been practicing for this event, from the youngest first grader to older sixth grade students. Each member of the team contributes to the team’s points, which will be tallied at the end of the day to declare a winner. The morning’s competition breaks for one of the highlights for families…a picnic or bento lunch.

Students share the bento lunch with their families, taking a long break in the shade to rest and prepare for the afternoon’s competition. Bento lunches are as much a part of the Undo-kai tradition as the games themselves. Parents and grandparents have been up since early morning preparing onigiri, fresh vegetables, fruit, desserts, chicken, fish, shrimp, omelets, sausages, salads, pickles and sandwiches. The shapes and colors and textures of the food, all delicately seasoned, is a sight to see! Freshly-brewed tea is loaded into insulated bottles and the entire feast is packed in beautiful, stackable bento boxes.

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After eating until everyone is satisfied, the children return to the games, and the afternoon’s competitions of kumi-taiso (group gymnastics), ki-ba-sen (shoulder war), dancing and music continue as more points are collected for each team. Finally, the games end, and the scores for each team are announced. The school principal and representatives from each team lead the closing ceremonies. Win, lose or tie, each team has demonstrated a quintessentially Japanese trait… cooperation, even while competing.