Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto

Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda

Yoshie lives on her own in the Shimokitazawa neighbourhood. She works at a local bistro called Les Liens. She moved there a year after the death of her father. He died in a “love murder suicide in a forest in Ibaraki with a woman who’d apparently been a distant relative”.

Her mother soon moves in with her, saying that she can’t live in their family home. Yoshie is at first hesitant, wanting her independence and own space. But as she watches her mother, looking like a young girl, staring out the window at the street below, a thought comes to her mind: 

“What must it be like for your life to suddenly be a blank page, at her age? I wondered. No young children who needed her energy, no need to scramble to make ends meet. Only the dark, heavy shadow of regret that clung constantly to us both.”

The neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa is actually more important than I expected. The Japanese title of the book is “Moshi Moshi Shimokitazawa”. And the story opens with Yoshie talking about a movie called “Zawa Zawa Shimokitazawa” which moved her to tears the first time she watched it. She felt that it managed to put into words something she had been on the verge of grasping. 

“I longed to have the same kind of effect, in my own way – to cast such a wonderful spell over people.”

I was struck by how there’s a lightness in this book, despite it being one dealing with grief and death. A very unusual death at that. But Yoshimoto has this way of talking about small everyday details, like the neighbourhood and Yoshie’s work at the bistro. Life goes on even after the death of a loved one. 

“Our bodies forgot, left things behind, without our hearts meaning to.”

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

An unflinching story about a young girl kidnapped from China and smuggled to America in the late 1800s. Her journey takes her to a brothel in San Francisco to a mining town in Idaho, where she poses as Jacob.

“Daiyu to Feng to Peony to Jacob Li. When will I be me again? And if I become me again, will I know who she is?”

Not an easy read, as I kept wondering if life would get easier for Daiyu/Jacob. But this is the 1880s and the Chinese Exclusion Act is in play. While I had heard about the Act, I wasn’t aware of the many acts of anti-Chinese violence throughout the country at that time.

Four Treasures of the Sky was thoroughly researched and beautifully written. But I found it difficult to read the parts where the tragic heroine from Dream of the Red Chambers Lin Daiyu manifests herself. Not quite a ghost but perhaps an alter ego of the main character? It’s a way for teenaged Daiyu to emotionally extract herself from the trauma she faces. And she has a lot of traumatic experiences.

Beautiful but brutal.

What to do with (almost) 20 pounds of cherries #WeekendCooking

Brentwood, CA, is full of cherry farms. And during weekends in May and early June, the farms are full of families who’ve driven up from the Bay Area to pick cherries. Along with some friends, we drove an hour to RC Farms one Sunday morning, making sure to get there when the farm opened at 9am. Our family ended up with two buckets full of cherries.

So besides eating them fresh, here’s what I did with the cherries.

Cherry pie. This was the first time I’ve made cherry pie. I’ve made other pies, like blueberry and apple. I used this cherry pie recipe from Sally’s Baking Recipes, as well as the all-butter pie crust recipe on the website. The recipe was well written and easy to follow. And it turned out really delicious! I like how the half the cherries are to be left in halves (the rest are quartered) so that we had nice large pieces of cherries in the pie.

Cherry turnovers.

I made a bit of a cherry compote with some cherries, cooking it down slightly with a bit of sugar and vanilla essence. Then added it to some cut out store-bought puff pastry (it was right there and easy!). Another layer of puff pastry goes on top, and the sides are crimped with a fork. Brush with some egg wash and bake. A quick and yummy breakfast!

We also ate the cherry compote with yogurt. My younger son thought I needed to put more sugar in the compote but it was sweet enough for me.

Chocolate cherry ice cream

My absolute favourite of all these cherry treats was the chocolate cherry ice cream. I based it off David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Ice Cream recipe from his book, The Perfect Scoop. But added the cherry compote, just chopped up finely. He has a Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry ice cream in the book, but I didn’t have almonds plus my kids aren’t fond of nuts, so I figured that chocolate and cherry ice cream would do just fine. In his cherry ice cream, he uses 1 cup of the chopped candied cherries but mine was quite a bit more than 1 cup.

If you’re looking to make ice cream at home, I highly recommend The Perfect Scoop. His recipes are clear and easy to follow and more importantly, everything I’ve made from this book has turned out delicious.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Asian diaspora

While AAPI month is more of an American event, I wanted to highlight some Asian diaspora from Singapore. I’m from Singapore although I’ve lived in the US for over ten years now. But like many other Chinese Singaporeans, my great-grandparents came from China. And I still have distant relatives who live in China, although I’ve never met them and likely never will. 

In case you’re not familiar, about 75% of Singapore’s population is ethnically Chinese. About 15% are Malays, 7.5% Indians, and 1.5% Others (these are the official term used). 

Are Singaporeans diaspora? Yes, although Singapore is part of Asia, our ancestors migrated from China to Singapore, and there they stayed and started families. 

What am I? I’m Singaporean, I’m Chinese, I’m Southeast Asian. But living in the US has made me realize that the term “Chinese” is more closely related to China than what it means in Singapore. So at times when I have to fill in a form and tick off my ethnicity, my pen hovers over “Chinese”. Am I Chinese here? Because there’s also other boxes like Taiwanese, Indonesian, Malaysian etc. Maybe I should just be Singaporean. My kids, after all, have declared themselves “Ameriporean”.

Read in April 2022

My Friend Anna – Rachel DeLoache Williams

Well, after reading this I’m definitely recommending that you NOT watch Inventing Anna on Netflix.

The Hawthorne Legacy – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The second book in the Inheritance Games series.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo

I loved this one about a teenager living in Chinatown in 1954. Its focus is on the coming of age of a Chinese-American lesbian.

Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

A very disappointing read.

Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic – Wauter Manner

A fun comic about a young chef and a strange snack problem.

Falling Short – Ernesto Cisneros

A middle-grade novel about fitting in and basketball.

The Love Con – Seressia Glass

A cosplay reality TV show!

The Maid – Nita Prose

I listened to this one. But I didn’t really like the main character.

The Cartographers – Peng Shepherd

I was quite fascinated by this one. It has to do with maps and places hidden in maps. But the characters… I felt little for them.

Intimacies – Katie Kitamura

An audiobook that worked well for me. Fiction audiobooks are never really my thing as I can get distracted easily. But this story set in The Hague with an interpreter as the main character held onto me.

Hide and Geek – T.P. Jagger

A cute middle-grade novel about a group of geeks helping to save their town by solving puzzles.

Sea of Tranquility – Emily St John Mandel

Read my almost-review here.

Ballgowns & Butterflies – Kelley Armstrong

A novella of the Stitch in Time series. Don’t start with this one, start with A Stitch in Time.

Portrait of a Thief – Grace D Li

A kind of Ocean’s 11 but with art that was stolen from China by western countries. I really wanted to like but the characters were a bit bland.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel

I guess 5-hour airplane rides are good for reading books. I finished Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel and was rather impressed by it, although her previous book The Glass Hotel didn’t quite do it for me. 

But this time travel pandemic novel really just held on to me and wouldn’t let go. Maybe it was me sitting in an airplane wearing a mask and on the other side of the aisle, the man and his teenaged son were maskless, like maybe about half of the other passengers. 

We had traveled to Hawaii when masks were required on airplanes. And flew out of Big Island with most people not wearing masks. We’re still in the midst of this thing, are we not? 

This passage in the book especially made me sit up and reread it: 

“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. They arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorientating. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you, with seemingly no intermediate step.”

I don’t want to give you a synopsis of the story. I went into it not really knowing much about it. And I think that’s the best way of reading this book. Pull on your mask and plunge in. 

Big Island April 2022

The husband and I have been talking about visiting Hawaii for quite a few years now. I had been to Maui and Honolulu with my mum 16 years ago when her friend’s son got married. And the husband had been when he was a kid with his family. But we had never gone together. So we finally decided it was time! It was a first trip for all of us to Big Island. And we wanted to make sure we did as much as we could!

Night snorkel – Manta Magic with Hawaii Oceanic

The boat ride is only a few minutes, luckily, as it’s quite scary being out in the ocean at night. We were very lucky to have good weather. The waves were not too choppy, although they seemed to get more choppy as we left the area. According to the crew, the hotel near the harbor has been shining lights into the ocean for years now. This has resulted in manta rays coming to the area to feed on the plankton that’s attracted to the lights. The night snorkel excursion has us snorkelers hanging onto a large surfboard that has lights attached underneath. The manta rays swim directly under the board, doing backflips, even brushing up against us a few times!

We also did a regular snorkel excursion to the Captain Cook cove. This was a good place for the kids to try snorkelling for the first time as it’s a sheltered cove and the current was gentle.

Volcano National Park

What a stunning national park this is. It’s on the east side of the island, near Hilo. So it was a 2 hour drive from where we were staying (near Waikoloa). But it was worth the drive. We decided to go in the afternoon and stay until sunset so that we could see the lava glow. There’s so much to see at the park. Like petroglyphs.

It’s like walking into Jurassic Park
Lava tubes
Ho’lei Sea Arch
And of course spending time at the pool and the beach. The rental house we stayed in was part of the Mauna Lani estate. So there are two pools (the other is a lap pool), gym, and a private beach.

Sunset from the beach park.

Hawaiian plate lunch at Ippy’s in Waimea. This was one of my favourite meals.
Local bakery near Hilo.

Black Forest Birthday Cake #WeekendCooking

You may know that I’ve been making Black Forest Cake for the husband’s birthday for a few years now. (This is last year’s)

But this year, my older son decided he too wanted a Black Forest birthday cake. I made him a chocolate birthday cake last year.

Cherries still aren’t in season though, so I stuck with frozen cherries. But I still used my favourite chocolate layer cake recipe from KAF. The cherry mixture and whipped cream recipes are from from this blog.

I like to make the cake layers ahead of time and freeze them. So that way I won’t get too flustered by having to do too many things on one day! It helps that we have a large upright freezer in the garage.

I am of the opinion that cakes should be at the very least three layers of cake. But birthday cakes should reach for the stars with five layers.

This time I added some chocolate ganache to go on top.

To avoid bad icing handwriting, a Happy Birthday sign (that plays music) always is a better bet!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Read in March 2022

The Final Revival of Opal & New – Dawnie Walton

Ghost Forest – Pik-Shuen Fung

Almond – Sohn Won-pyung

A Stitch in Time – Kelley Armstrong

The Turning Pointe – Vanessa L. Torres

Dept H Omnibus vol 1 – Matt Kindt

Dept H omnibus 2 – Matt Kindt

Grass – Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

The Waiting – Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

The Orphanage – Serhiy Zhadan

The Old Woman with the Knife – Gu Byeong-mo

The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Donut Fall in Love – Jackie Lau

Ocean Light – Nalini Singh