Lifestyle

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Because I’m also preparing it for post-pandemic life

A neat farmhouse kitchen. The well-stocked pantry door is open.
A neat farmhouse kitchen. The well-stocked pantry door is open.
Photo: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Lately, I’ve had an unsettling feeling as the realization that neither a new year nor a new administration likely means any significant changes to our daily lives, at least for several more months.

I can’t help but think of this time a year ago when I was looking forward to a party we’d planned. I didn’t know it was the last one we’d host for so long. When I look back at what I cherish and miss the most about what we did during pre-pandemic life, gatherings small and large are high on the list.

My kitchen still sees a…


How a tiny serving of Japanese pickles can make a huge difference

An illustration of a Japanese meal with pickles.
An illustration of a Japanese meal with pickles.
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura

What is this little thing in my bento box?

If you’ve ever picked up a Japanese bento box or ordered a traditional Japanese meal, more likely than not you would’ve found that it came with a tiny portion of pickles. Perhaps a small red umeboshi on your rice, or a bit of purple shibazuke piled up on the side, it’s not uncommon to find one or the other tucked into a Japanese meal.

Pickles are hardly the main event, yet why are they so ubiquitous throughout Japanese cuisine?

Pickles are so commonly found in Japanese dishes, that they’re actually seldom mentioned — like how you’d expect your fries to…


Bring out the picnic food and eat it inside

An indoor picnic spread.
An indoor picnic spread.
Photo: Theme Photos via Unsplash

I don’t care how much you love to cook — sometimes, you’re just having a crazy week and even a box of Kraft Dinner starts to look good. Many people make homemade pizzas and that certainly works too. I even know strange people who eat only volumes of popcorn on nights they don’t want to cook. Popcorn. But for my husband and me? Indoor Picnic Night is what happens when we are lazy and don’t feel like cooking.

I bring out a baguette, some creamy French brie, a jar of olives, a can of sardines, or smoked oysters. My husband…


To get us through the rest of winter

Lemons on a tree
Lemons on a tree
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura

It’s cold season, and so I’m doing whatever I can to not get sick this year.

While I’m always mindful to get plenty of rest and have a large variety of whole foods, every time winter rolls around, I become more attentive to getting two key vitamins in particular: Vitamins D and C.

Why I pay attention to Vitamin D and Vitamin C in the winter

Vitamin D and Vitamin C play a key role in our immune system function, as they help increase the number of immune cells and also stimulate white blood cell activities, cells which are responsible for attacking and destroying viruses and bacteria.

While it’s challenging to get enough…


Embrace ichibutsu zentai and worry less about how to eat

A whole fish.
A whole fish.
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura

When you think of Japanese food, there are many things that come to mind, but more than likely you’d probably think of fish.

Given that Japan is an island nation with a rich history of seafood this is unsurprising: While seafood consumption has decreased in recent years, Japan is still among the top three countries in terms of per capita seafood consumption, trailing just behind South Korea and Norway. At peak, Japanese people were eating over 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of seafood per person a year, about 1.5 times more than their meat consumption. …


Grocery prices are rising, but don’t panic. You have more control over your wallet than you think.

A woman masked up at the grocery store.
A woman masked up at the grocery store.
Photo: Anna Shvets via Pexels

There they were in the grocery store: a perfectly shaped pile of cauliflower heads priced at $8 a pop. I took one look at them, rolled my eyes, and laughed out loud.

There was a snowball’s chance in hell that I’d ever pay that for a cauliflower. Especially one that’s been shipped 3,000 miles.

Recently the news is full of stories about grocery prices going up from the ripple effect of the pandemic — well, I’m sure it isn’t a surprise after your last visit to the grocery store.

Maybe you’ve lost your job or you’re worried you might in…


They’re not just for vegans anymore

A shelf/pantry above a sink
A shelf/pantry above a sink
Photo: Gareth Hubbard via Unsplash

With my election anxiety diminishing, thoughts turn toward pandemic life during the upcoming winter. My daughters will continue with online school and it’s likely to be a season spent mostly at home. While we remain committed to helping our favorite local restaurants survive by getting take-out about once a week, like many people, I continue to see a whole lot of home cooking on the horizon.

While I appreciate that the pandemic has offered us opportunities to become a better cook, there are no signs it’s ending soon. …


Waking up to freshly cooked rice will restore the magic of the day

An illustration of a Japanese breakfast
An illustration of a Japanese breakfast
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura

My breakfast shapes my perspective on the state of the world and the way I see myself that day. If I eat like my world is falling apart, it will feel like it’s falling apart. If I eat like I have it together, I will be able to successfully seize that day. Sometimes, a sense of ownership over your day is as simple as that.

While emotions don’t reflect our reality, they play a big role in the way we perceive it, and our actions reflect that. So if you’d like to try making a Japanese breakfast, don’t be intimidated…


How to feel nourished during the long, cold months ahead

A bowl of soup with a fresh sprig of rosemary and a wooden spoon.
A bowl of soup with a fresh sprig of rosemary and a wooden spoon.
Photo: Tina Vanhove on Unsplash

I like to think I’ve been fairly resilient during the pandemic.

I take long walks, sometimes socially distanced with friends. I have a virtual personal trainer who nearly kills me twice a week with intense workouts. I call my family and friends often, sometimes even the old-fashioned way so we can just listen to each other’s voices and feel close to one another, instead of looking at each other on screens like animals at a digital zoo.

Winter may throw a wrench into the mix, though.

I grew up in the South, specifically Atlanta, where winter is nothing more than…


Eggs, like so many things, are a seasonal product

Chickens roaming in a yard in the fall.
Chickens roaming in a yard in the fall.
Photo: Kris Wong

People are always surprised when I tell them that I have to buy eggs from the grocery store in winter. I have a flock of nine chickens in my backyard. Surely that means fresh eggs year-round?

But eggs are actually a seasonal product: As the days get shorter, chickens left to their own devices will slow their laying and then stop until spring. Since the industrialization of egg farming — which moved chickens indoors into buildings that can be artificially lit year-round — egg season, for humans and industrial laying hens alike, largely doesn’t exist anymore. But it does in…

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Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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