It is autumn, and dawn comes late, and the darkness early, in Hoi An. Autumn by the calender, but not by feel, for it is easily 30C each day, the humidity reaching the 90s.
In the darkness of the pre-dawn, the air felt cool. Once on the water, a sea breeze played around us as we set out over the waves. Around us, were struggling with their nets in the darkness, somehow balancing in their tiny boats. Larger boats circled around them, buying the fresh catch from the fishermen and delivering it to the markets, or straight to the restaurants of Hoi An. Continue Reading →
I never eat hospital food. I used to, some twenty years ago, if my break coincided with their irregular hours. The food was cheap, plentiful, and grey – including the vegetables. One evening as I searched for something to eat, I turned the wrong way coming out of the lifts and found myself outside the morgue. I never ate in the cafeteria again.
Luckily, every hospital nowadays has a private café, usually near the entrance and doused in sunlight. There are even express lines for those flourishing a hospital ID. The range of food extends from sandwiches and pies to offerings such as Persian rice salad or glass noodles. Last time I waited for my coffee I noticed a Japanese curry.
Until discovering the works of Haruki Murakami, I never thought of Japan as a land of curries, my knowledge instead restricted to sushi, sashimi, sake and Iron Chef. (Nor had I had associated Japan with truck stops, but in Kafka on the Shore I found both.) In Murakami the curries fed both body and soul; the curry I ordered tasted brown. So began my quest to find a true Japanese curry.
The zombie apocalypse is upon us. There is no point denying it. Just because we are all about to rise from the dead, however, is no excuse not to enjoy epicurean delights.
Brains have long been the Holy Grail of the zombie repertoire. Indeed, eating brains seems to be their raison d’être. Although rarely featured on the menu of a local pub or restaurant, they have long been considered a delicacy. In Moby Dick, for example, Hermann Melville lovingly describes the preparation of those two white globes comprising the brain of a smaller sperm whale.
A shout stopped me halfway along the street. Behind me, on his bike, was the concierge from the ryokan; he had pedalled after me, worried I would get lost.
With family in tow, I was following his suggestions for breakfast. Considering the language barrier, he’d given remarkably precise directions, complete with a hand-drawn map – yet still he worried we might lose our way, and kept weaving his way behind us until we reached the restaurant safely. Then, with a smile and wave, he rode away, if not quite into the sunset, at least to be swallowed by the crowds.
Along with the map, the concierge had also written some suggestions – in Japanese – which I handed to the waitress. With a bow she led the four of us over to the ubiquitous vending machine and pressed a selection of buttons. Out came not a meal, but brass-coloured tokens. The waitress ushered us to our chairs with another bow, then disappeared into the kitchen with the tokens. Soon the meals appeared, steaming bowls with variations of noodles and vegetables – and mine with a raw egg cracked on top. I always seemed to get the meal with the raw egg – but then, there is little I won’t eat, at least once.