Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Archive for May, 2012

To have and have not

Lately I’ve found myself watching this nice, well-made, nostalgic-feeling Kodak commercial from around 1960 (). I previously posted it on FaceBook.

When looking at the album in the commercial though I have this feeling like, “The physical photos are so fleeting. I’m glad I have digital photos now so I always have them.”

My mother, on the other hand, when she looks at photos on her iPad sometimes asks, “Can I have this photo?” I say, “You do have it” but I realize she means she doesn’t feel like she “has it” unless it’s an actual printed photo.

We feel a slightly different sense of what it means to “have something.”

And what about memories? We have those as well, don’t we?


By the Edogawa, next to the Edogawa Hospital

This is what you see when you get off the bus by the Edogawa Hospital. It’s right next to the Edogawa (Edo River), which is the border between Tokyo and Chiba prefecture.

Today was an especially nice, breezy, comfortable late spring day by the river.


??? Ah. I understand.

Barley rice and pumpkin (could use some advice with this one)

Lunch today was another cooking adventure.

This meal was definitely filling, but I could use some suggestions as to seasonings, advice on how I made this and confirmation about whether these calories are for real or not.

Serves 1 (but is maybe “too much”):

1. Microwave one 200 gm package of barley rice (mugi gohan) for 2 minutes at 500 watts.

2. Take that out of the oven, put on the side and put a plate of cut, washed pumpkin in the oven. Cover with a glass bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes.

3. Arrange nicely on the plate, add seasonings to taste and eat. I seasoned with kumin, black pepper and a slight bit of non-oil dressing.

This was ok, but here are my discussion points and questions:

1. The way I made the pumpkin was easy, and the pumpkin came out nice and soft with a good texture. Unlike with the baked potato the other day, I covered this because I wanted to get a full steaming effect. One problem is that when you try to take it out everything is truly scaldingly hot beyond belief. And so was the steam after I removed the top bowl. I guess I need special gloves for that. Any suggestions on a better way to cook the pumpkin? This was quick and simple, and the pumpkin itself came out perfect. But if anybody has any better ideas…? Also better seasoning or sauce suggestions would be welcome.

2. Barley rice isn’t brown rice, but it is lower calorie and has just as much fiber because of the barley mixed it. I am guessing it is just as healthy?

3. I have to learn that just because I buy a package of something it doesn’t mean I have to eat it all in one meal. đŸ™‚ In this case, the pumpkin came to 309 gm! That plus the 200 grams of rice means my lunch was more than half a kilo! It felt a bit too much. I am thinking I should have maybe just used a few pieces at a time and mix it in with the rice.

4. My big question. Are pumpkin calories really that low?! I entered 309 gm of pumpkin at MyFitnessPal and it logged just 101 calories in my food diary! I couldn’t believe this so checked with Calorie King and there it is just 26 calories per 100 gm, about the same. Is that really true? That’s less than one-third the calories of potatoes. But they are just as filling as potatoes. It just seems wrong somehow.

If the pumpkin calories are true, it means the entire lunch was just 387 calories. Seems unbelievable.

Anyway, comments are welcome.


The easiest way to cook a potato

Believe it or not, until yesterday I never cooked a potato.

But potatoes are great for a heart-healthy diet. They aren’t really high in calorie, have almost no fat and have a good amount of fiber. Yet they are very satisfying. They are great for a plant-based diet.

So I spent some time searching on the Internet, and found what has to be the most drop-dead (pardon the expression) easy way to cook a potato.

It really is this simple.

1. Scrub the potato (i.e. wash it really thoroughly), but don’t peel it.
2. Poke it 4 or 5 times with the tines of a fork.
3. Put the wet potato on a plate and microwave on high for 5 minutes (don’t cover it).
4. Turn it over and microwave for another 5 minutes.

Be careful, because it is VERY hot. But you have a perfectly cooked “baked potato” where the skin is firm, not soggy, but the inside is soft and moist, just like you like it. And you haven’t boiled out valuable nutrients.

I couldn’t believe it was that simple.

This is the potato I made yesterday. It was a good-sized medium potato weighing 200 gm, which is just 186 calories, almost no fat, and 4.4 grams of fiber.

I added some Japanese furikake to it for seasoning (that’s really meant for rice, so it must look strange to my Japanese friends) but it was very tasty. Next time I think I’ll top it with some salsa.


Mixed greens and beans salad with ume dressing

OK. I would hardly call this a “recipe” because it’s too simple to make. But please understand that I am a 55 year old male and “survivalist cook” who can barely make anything. Yesterday I cooked a potato for the first time in my life, and had to look up how on the Internet.
Serves 1:

  • One individual sized package of cut lettuce with sliced bell pepper mix.
  • One cucumber (a small, thin cucumber – not a giant one like in the U.S.).
  • One medium tomato.
  • One can of mixed beans (120 gm).
  • 4 T of non-oil ume (pickled plum) dressing.

Mix everything and eat. Extremely tasty and filling. The legumes give you that “protein satisfied” feeling. Only 219 calories and much less than 10% calories from fat. Be a little cautious in your dressing selection or you can end up with something relatively high in sodium.

Looks good, doesn’t it?


My heart-healthy supermarket basket

Cesium spikes in Tokyo Bay samples; Contamination linked to Fukushima plant; no immediate threat to health

Sludge samples taken at the mouths of two major rivers emptying into Tokyo Bay showed radioactive cesium contamination linked to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis grew by 1.5 to 13 times since August, a researcher at Kinki University said Monday.

The contamination poses no immediate health risk since no seafood from Tokyo Bay has seen contamination levels exceed the government-set threshold. But close, long-term monitoring of the seabed mud is needed, said Hideo Yamazaki, professor at Kinki University’s Research Institute for Science and Technology.

“Contamination is flowing into the bay from rivers, including the Edogawa River, where cities with high radiation levels like Kashiwa (in Chiba Prefecture) are located upstream,” Yamazaki told The Japan Times.

“Contaminated sludge appears to be . . . accumulating on the bottom at the mouth of the rivers,” he added.

Yamazaki, an expert on how radiation and chemical substances impact the environment, and his team took the samples at three locations at the mouths of the Arakawa and Edogawa rivers on April 2 following studies carried out in August.

Samples of mud pulled from 1 meter below the seabed at the sites turned up cesium contamination ranging from 7,305 to 27,213 becquerels per square meter. The August readings were between 578 and 18,242 becquerels per square meter.

Yamazaki noted a thirteenfold rise was detected in a spot where the August readings were relatively low. He said, however, the contamination does not pose a health threat, even if a child were to play in the water.

Although radioactive mud will continue to flow into the bay, the peak contamination concentrations should be within the next couple of years, considering that the half-life of cesium-134 is about two years, Yamazaki said.

“If the contamination were to spread to fish, it is possible that radioactive isotopes could accumulate when bigger fish feed on smaller ones,” he said. “We’re scheduled to continue our monitoring in the following years” to study such cases.


A bath in the hand…

Not everything is black and white

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