The name of the weird vegetable I mentioned yesterday is ミョウガ, or myoga. The first nibble of it I had while washing it makes me reconsider my statement from last night that it’s probably unrelated to the leek/onion family. It’s flesh has a certain crispness and quality of affront that is very similar , and it also layered like those other plants in its growth pattern.

I sliced the myoga lengthwise (about a half dozen). I peeled and shaved probably and ounce of ginger, then split and chopped a half dozen green peppers. I sautéed all these on medium to high heat before covering significantly with water. I cut the leaves of about six or seven lemongrass springs in four sections (about 4 inches long) and added them to the broth. After cooking this down for some time the broth is still bitter and mild. I add chili powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. After awhile I get desperate, and add a quarter cup of mirin, the sweet rice wine, as well as a large dash of salt. This is the turning point. What had moments ago been bitter, spicy, and lacking substance was suddenly a full-bodied and seductive precursor to the soup to be. Add the zest of one lime, a sweet potato cut in half lengthwise, split into four parts, then sliced lengthwise very thinly. I add a significant amount of water, then readjust my seasonings including adding more rice wine. Eventually I add about a quarter cabbage, sliced around its circumference and then chopped thinly. After the cabbage wilts, I again add more water, as well as the juice from one lime, and readjust my seasonings, then reduce my heat.

Meanwhile I wash and soak sushi rice for coking.

Julienned (or attempted to) a three inch segment of my still looming daikon radish, bought last week and never-ending, and dress it in salt, lemon juice, and an apple puree I bought from Nyoki Nyoki. To it I add ground ginger (grated probably would have worked better). Again I make the mistake of dressing it too early.

When everything else is ready, I serve my still hot soup into my bowl than crack an egg. After a couple of seconds it is apparent tat my vague notion of egg-drop soup had not served me. I return my single portion to the pan, reserving my leftovers in a Tupperware for later (and vegan friendly) use. I get distracted and leave it on for longer than I would have liked – I’d hoped for a running yoke. Maybe eggs cooked in liquid with runny yokes are considered poached eggs? Some day I’ll get it right.

The finished soup begs for red garnish, but I have nothing. instead I use lime slices and more of the green pepper and some ginger. I wish I hadn’t added them, because they had a bitterness that is unripened to an otherwise precious broth, now quite dark in color. The egg, too, is not as successful as I’d hoped. I think it conflicts with my palette, which is a blind attempt at mimicking the few Thai broths I’ve had. The egg drop is perhaps Chinese, but I’m not sure.

In tasting my soup it is difficult to discern what when well and what needed changing. Overall it was a great success. Before serving I worried I’d overcooked my cabbage (part of the reason I added the raw green peppers was to reintroduce an element of crispness). It turns out, however, that I liked my second helping significantly more than my first, that is, no egg and no garnish worked better. Still, it was difficult to attribute what flavors to what vegetable, as I’m working with so many new features. Certainly the lemongrass was to die for – Id thought that is was necessary to remove it before serving, but it cooked down to be so soft and flavorful that I left it in and ate it in great gulps. The myoga, I think, worked well for me too. It lost most of its color, but it was subtle, slightly aromatic after cooking.

Summary: salt, sweet, subtle spice, roundness of flavor

The rice I dressed with olive oil, salt, and mirin – OMG to die for. I need to buy VINEGAR.

The radish was yummy, as expected. I’m not sure what role they play in a more orchestrated meal. What dishes would beg for the spicy crunch of daikon? It is especially as I dressed it, so spicy and acid that an unadventurous eater would probably reject it. Idea: would it be possible to use mirin as a frying liquid? Anything salty, sweet, and fried is irresistible…





  • ginger
  • banana
  • mysterious purple fruit, an iridescent purple kind of like a plum, shape is like a football, slightly more rounded
  • rice
  • mirin – rice wine used for cooking
  • lemongrass
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • mysterious vegetable whose name I forget, I asked someone next to me in the supermarket if it’s like an onion, and she says no What’s it used for? I ask, and she tells me you use it in Miso. The reason I asked if it were like an onion is because it was roughly the shape and size of a shallot, but with only fresh, deep-green purple stubby leaves growing out of it in a pattern similar to that of an artichoke. I thought perhaps it was related to leeks (and in turn onions), but then again I don’t think leeks and artichokes are related.

  • grated carrot
  • diced daikon radish
  • shredded cabbage
  • sliced green pepper (I’m unclear on what type, it is long and skinny, like a chili in shape but more bitter than spicy.)
  • grated lemon (pulp and rind)

  • 3 pitted umeboshi plums, chopped so as to form a paste
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • Perhaps equal parts of oil and mirin (mirin is the sweet element)
  • half teaspoon of new Thai curry paste I bought yesterday – it is chunky, spicy, and bitter
  • juice of half a lemon

I found the dressing rather unbalanced and ending up adding salt in addition to that already included in the plums and curry paste. I also add black pepper and the “zest” from the freaky-deaky vegetable I thought was jicama. It adds some viscosity (when rubbed the vegetable dissolves into this slimy white juice, not unsimilar in texture to reproductive juices). I think I dressed the salad too early or otherwise should have eaten sooner. I think I remember Matt telling me – was it him? someone – that acid can actually cook ingredients like raw ground beef. In any case my veggies lost their crispness and the overall sensation was too frontal. It was all sting and no fragrance.

I served the salad with leftover Korean cuttlefish I bought at the market yesterday. It was julienned and glazed ina bright orange sauce. The meat is curly but not too long, significantly chewy. The sauce is a sweet-spicy, instant gratification kind of thing. I eat too much and feel sick afterwards. It may not have soy sauce, but I’m pretty sure it’s not gluten-free. Dessert is sliced kiwi, washed, with skin on – for the fiver, as Adam Simmons taught me at his Appleseeds cooking demonstration years ago.




Basho’s and Issa’s inner relation to the idea of travel was essentially quite different. For Basho it was a discipline of renunciation—an exercise in solitutde—and the loneliness of the road expressed the fundamental loneliness of all human life. For Issa, on the contrary, the road was a link that bound him more closely to other human beings. The solitutde he experienced as a traveler only servied to remind him more strongly the happy home he had left behind. And it is characteristic of him that while on the road he should constantly be seeking a friend with whom to pass the night:

On January 13, I went to see the poet Charai, in the village of Naniwa in Kazahaya, which is seven miles beyond the village of Tsuchikuchi, but I was told he had died fifteen years before. The man who had succeeded Charai as the priest of Seimeiji temple did not allow me to spend even so much as a single night. I had come so many miles to see my old friend and now I did not know what to do As I wandered hopelessly on, I wrote:

Softly, softly
I stepped on the ground
But alas—everywhere
Water sprang up.

However, after a hundred steps of so, I came upon the house of the poet Goi, and there I was given a comfortable lodging. I wrote:

Under the soft moon
I sought
A good gate—
And I found one.

In brief, we may say that Basho became a traveler in order to leave the self behind and shake off the bonds of human attachment, whereas when Issa took to the road it merely strengthened and confirmed those that bound him in human love to the rest of mankind.

The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa’s Oraga Haru. Nobuyuki Yuasi. “Introduction.” Second Edition University of California Press, Berkely: 1972. 7-8.



In the morning the train is cold, dark, and I crack my drapes to see giant anthills illuminated between moon and approaching light pollution. They crest palm trees, whose silhouettes are black and texture only hazily suggested. The woman next to me, Hispanic, wakes a half an hour later. We watch L.A. suburbs for longer than what must have been L.A. I’m mildly disappointed I missed the entirety of Arizona during the night. When we reach the station she does not say goodbye, but she does take a photo of her travel companion, be it husband, brother, or otherwise it is unclear, seated next to me. I giggle with uncertainty about whether or not I’m supposed to be posing with him. They joke amongst themselves and show me the photo, in which I’m blurry with movement. I think that they’re entertaining the idea of Google translating what they are saying, which I did for them the night before when trying to offer a rearrangement of seating, so that I might be in on the joke. I wave to them from my seat on the second level as they are already half a car down the platform. It’s only her pink bag that salutes me back.

Much of our approach to L.A. I missed anyway because I was downstairs in the windowless women’s restroom lounge, changing to the extent I was able given my very limited clothing options, washing up and putting on lipstick. All throughout the rest of the day I felt ridiculous with the pigment drying on my lips and inevitably ringing their outer perimeter, exposing me as the poser I was. Somehow colored lips make me look younger, face rounder. As my hair fell flatter throughout the day, and I picked at the zit residing on the sloping horizon of my left eyebrow, and I stenciled my sandals with dirt from our walk through the farm, I felt phony in my spidery lashes and ringed mouth. Before dinner I changed, wiped my lips clean, bunned my hair, and put on my dangling turquoise clip-ons. In this manner I arrive back to myself.

Max and I sleep together. Clarification: Max and I sleep next to each other, sometimes holding each other and occasionally fumbling around with the sheets. We’re both wearing pajamas; my hair is wet. I never wear pajamas. The few times we speak it’s just -- “is it okay if I take off the cover?” and “what time is it?” It’s a voice I can’t make sense of, the one we’re using. It’s not an intimate one, but certainly one that pushes up close. Similarly our bodies push up close but do not make intimate exchanges. I sense the silent purring that is the mossy underside of our situation, which a couple of times through the night I become very still in order to detect. In the morning we’re still using the same voice -- I would have had it shift but it’s him who spoke first and set the tone for the whole departure. As we walk to the train station laden with my bags, I’m aching with an anxiety that cannot interpret our early morning state of affairs. We have enough time to sit down after I buy my ticket. We take a photo, and I give him the money he spent to meet me downtown the day before. Again he speaks with a voice that’s like that after a death: unfettered to go quickly or with any tonal flourish. It’s a voice like rough stone.

The train arrives from the east in a blinding straight-away of light. I board hastily, with Max’s help; he barely makes it off again before the doors close. When we leave Claremont station he holds the gesture of a single wave, like an outward salute.






I hadn’t much considered this day before. Here it is, afresh for no competition: September 6th is a day that I’m embraced for an extended duration on Pennsylvania Avenue in Kansas City, crying and wearing pink lipstick, by both my mom and dad, in that order.

I am eating leftovers from Thursday night’s dinner, sitting writing at a table inside Union Station’s main concourse. The dinner is ribeye steak, now wilted greens, saffrom rice, and sweet potatoes dressed in a red basil and sesame pesto. It’s served in an old camping Tupperware, a thick, light hunter colored plastic with radial ridges decorating the underside of the lid. The plastic silverware is a gift from our take-out Thai food last night, and the peach, banged up to the point of being brown, I scored last Saturday near the end of farmers’ market after someone had forgotten a bag of them on the Southwest side of the square.

The station is dim. I take a photo of the chandelier and my table.




I missed my train. As I ran from car to the track, then frantically around a fence that separated me from the station entrance toward which I saw mum and dad sprinting, I repeated to myself hoarsely, actually, in airy guttural spurts, “I’m missing my fucking train, I’m missing my fucking train, I’m missing my fucking train.” My hair is still damp from the shower I took half an hour ago. To have leisurely pampered myself unaware of myself that my train was then arriving at Union Station seems outrageous in my current state of heaving devastation.

Two men exit the station as I approach its doors; I refuse to acknowledge them. “Nice to meet you!” says one of them as I pull unsuccessfully then push on the glass door. His accent is unmistakably Chinese; from my peripheral vision I get the sense that he stopped to watch me pass. I think ridiculously that I will have to fly that night. Alternatively we could drive fast enough as to catch the train at the next station. I’m distraught. I think of Robert, who wrote in a letter to me this summer that he felt closer to me after I’d told him about the time I’d asked Juliet to pull over on our way to Clermont before we left campus. I was struck with a sudden and insurmountable anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to finish my work if I spent the afternoon sun tanning with her next to the Hudson. In my reply, which I never sent, I wondered what else might have come from my being more forthcoming with my faults and imperfections.

There is not enough to say what my skin feels like when my mom holds me despite myself and my tearful eye-rolls in the aftermath of our sprint. The Amtrak employee who rebooks my ticket for no charge is young and wearing a Kansas City Bears T-shirt. I collect myself quickly, breath now subdued, rationality setting back in. In the elevator from the entrance, when I was sure the train was igniting its engine, Mom looked at me with severity: “Serena, you’re going to get to Japan.” Now, as the adrenaline descends I am grateful we left an extra day before my flight from L.A. in case my train was delayed. Chris is the name of the guy working the counter. He offers to check my bags for tomorrow’s train. I make a mental note to thank him again the next day.

Reentering the hotel room, it is a place I thought I’d left for the last time. Dad let’s me sleep in the same bed as mum, against whose bosom I am cuddled up. He’s on the pullout couch. I’m still teary despite myself. “Stop making her cry, Joy,” says Dad without looking up from his game of Words with Friends. Not once did they shame me for my outrageous misremembering of the train’s departure time. “You are,” I call with resignation from my enblanketed cocoon. “You talk so much about feeling ashamed when you were a kid for not doing things right. I feel bad about how mean I was then. You were just a caring kid who made mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes.” He’s nonchalant still, and there’s this little nugget of old pain he’s tapping his finger on and saying, “Look sweetie, it’s okay, you don’t have to hold that here.”

“Thanks Tim,” Mom calls over as she sees my mute and watery gratitude, not yet matured into expression. I am grateful for them.