The wasabi you’re eating isn’t.

In case you didn’t know; the Washington Post has a good explanation of why you nor I have probably never eaten real wasabi.

But even the common substitute can have unexpected side-effects.

I recently read of a woman from Israel who mistook Wasabi (the ubiquitous phoney version) for avocado, and consumed about a teaspoon of it. It gave her an attack of takotsubo cardiomyopathy, commonly known as “broken heart syndrome.”

It’s easy to think “how stupid,” but I can empathize. My own journey with Japanese food began in the late 80s when I was doing a lot of traveling. I was passing through New York on business I decided I would try sashimi for the first time, and they brought me a lovely little platter of the famous delicacies. I gingerly tried this and that (pun on *gari* intended), until I came to this little green ball. Knowing nothing no never at all and thinking it was some kind of fish paste, I popped it in and down it went.

The floor did a samba, my ears rang like the bells of Old Bailey, my eyes spun backwards and I screamed “A Eywa! Lu tstal-txewk mì re’o oeyä!” (Oh God! There’s an axe in my head!) After things had settled down, I used my best broken Japanese to ask my server “What in the name of Sugawara no Michizane was *that*???”

At which point I learned that balls of Wasabi, real or ersatz, are not to be eaten whole. But I can see how someone who had a particular susceptibility could be adversely affected why such an experience.

For what it’s worth, I still love sashimi and still use wasabi, but only in the recommended small doses.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Not all Soy Sauces are Created Equal

I love Asian foods; Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Thai, you name it. And with many cuisines (but not all… not all…) soy sauce is either an ingredient or provided table-side as a condiment.

SOY

Long before I did any research at all, I knew that there was a stark difference between the two major brands that are commonly known in America: Kikkoman and LaChoy.

The first, my preferred sauce in the kitchen, is a Japanese-type sauce, brewed in the traditional manner over a period of six months (although traditional Japanese soy sauce can take 18 months to make, or much longer):

soy2

Fermenting soy beans and wheat at the Kikkoman factory in Wisconsin – from the July 1987 National Geographic article, “The Prodigious Soybean.”

The second is what’s known as a “chemical soy sauce.” From an article at Serious Eats by Jenny Lee-Adrian:

Chemical soy sauces: These are made over the course of about two days by hydrolyzing soy protein and combining it with other flavorings. Their flavor is far removed from traditional soy sauces made with fermented soybeans.

Harold McGee explains the process in On Food and Cooking by saying:

Nowadays, defatted soy meal, the residue of soybean oil production, is broken down—hydrolyzed—into amino acids and sugars with concentrated hydrochloric acid. This caustic mixture is then neutralized with alkaline sodium carbonate, and flavored and colored with corn syrup, caramel, water, and salt.

LaChoy is popular, but it’s pretty much in harmony with their old jingle ¹- “LaChoy makes Chinese food… swing American.” It’s what you’d expect to pour on a can of their store-bought Chow Mein. I’ve never seen it in a Japanese restaurant anywhere, they either use Kikkoman or one of the many national brands available now – even in traditional grocery stores. Somehow it just tastes… wrong. But as in all things, that’s just my opinion – and your mileage may vary.

National Geographic also has a lovely 5 minute video on how soy sauce is made in the town of Yuasa, Japan.

Another article at Yum of China by Tiana Matson lists some of her favorite sauces, most of which could probably be found at your local oriental grocery store if you’re fortunate enough to live close to one.

A lot of local Chinese places here in Maine provide little packages of “soy sauce” (those scare quotes are there for a reason) made by Kari-Out Co. If you want brown salt water with hardly a hint of anything else – think LaChoy cut to homeopathic levels – by all means feel free to use it.

5152o_to_go_kari_out_soy_sauce

As for me and my house, Old_Wolf_Sick.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 


¹ And, if you’re old like me, you might recognize the ubiquitous voice-over tones of Mason Adams (“With a name like Smucker’s, it’s got to be good!”) who was a friend of my mother back in the day.

Patriotism is not Nationalism.

I categorically reject the concept that I do not love my country because I support “Change it or lose it” instead of “Love it or leave it.”

1200px-EcologyTheta.svgThe Ecology Flag

Our inhuman horror of a president, a spoiled, rich, unethical businessman and game show host, has proven again and again that he believes women are property that he can abuse as he pleases; that blacks and Mexicans are sub-human and should be removed from the country; that Muslims are undesirables who have no place in America; and that the poor and the sick should die and reduce the surplus population rather than drain the profits of his rich cronies.

It is *because* I love my country, and its Constitution, and by extension the flag and anthem which symbolize these things, that I support protests against the ongoing racism and injustice that are endemic in our society.

I respect my country far more than you do, Mr. Racist-in-Chief, by demanding change and supporting the oppressed and sidelined of our nation.

Wrapping yourself in the flag and screaming “Respect it or get out!” is the kind of attitude that allowed World War II to happen. I will not allow history to repeat itself in that matter, not in this country or under this Constitution.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Literacy Test: “I can make out the headline”

“Story of the Negro who went to register. The white man taking his application gave him the standard literacy tests: “What is the 32nd paragraph of the United States Constitution?” he asked. The applicant answered perfectly. “Name the eleventh president of the United States and his entire cabinet.” The applicant answered correctly. Finally, unable to trip him up, the white man asked, “Can you read and write?” The applicant wrote his name and was the handed a newspaper in Chinese to test his reading. He studied it carefully for a time. “Well, can you read it?” “I can read the headline, but I can’t make out the body text.” Incredulous, the white man said, “You can read that headline?” “Oh yes, I’ve got the meaning all right.” “What’s it say?” “It says this is one Negro in Mississippi who’s not going to get to vote this year.” ”

-John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me

Voter suppression was long an approved tactic in the South to keep people of color from voting; “Southern states abandoned the literacy test only when forced to do so by federal legislation in the 1960s.” (Wikipedia)

395px-The_color_line_still_exists—in_this_case_cph.3b29638.jpg

Now we have the state of Georgia trying to implement an “exact match” rule that requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls.

The state maintains that this is an attempt to reduce voter fraud, but individual voter fraud is largely a myth, and the odds of its occurrence is vanishingly small. I for one cannot count the number of times my name has been misspelled on official documents, especially because it’s not your vanilla white anglo-saxon protestant name like Smith or Jones.  Research by Ted Enamorado with colleagues Ben Fifield and Kosuke Imai have shown that this “exact match” rule could potentially disenfranchise around 900,000 voters in the state of Georgia, and that’s troubling in the extreme.

The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution. Governments interested in free and fair elections should be doing all they can  to make it easy for people to register and vote, up to and including making election day a national holiday, and implementing universal, automatic voting registration through the DMV and/or other entities.

Gerrymandering remains a terrible, terrible problem. The Electoral College and the existence of superdelegates cloud what should be a straightforward one-person one-vote election process. While the US has traditionally ranked high on a comparative scale of free and fair elections worldwide, cracks are beginning to appear in the structure, particularly with evidence of wholesale foreign influence via electronic disinformation campaigns, as well as direct foreign influence-peddling at the highest levels of our government.

Vote_Like_The_World_Depends_on_it_TW.jpg

… because it does.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

The face of depression

This is what depression can look like.

ye069jkmobt11

  1. Kurt Cobain
  2. Chester Bennington
  3. Whitney Houston
  4. Mac Miller
  5. Robin Williams
  6. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  7. Chris Farley
  8. Marilyn Monroe
  9. Amy Winehouse
  10. Chris Cornell
  11. Ernest Hemingway
  12. Lucy Gordon
  13. Simone Battle
  14. Layne Staley
  15. Gia Allemand
  16. Anthony Bourdain

Some of these people ended their lives deliberately, others by drug overdose that may or may not have been intentional. But their pictures belie what was going on inside – they were hurting.

While many of the comments in the reddit thread where I found this were insensitive and cruel, a few were on point:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”
-Robin Williams

“I wanted to write down exactly what I felt but somehow the paper stayed empty and I could not have described it any better.”
-Unknown

And an essay on depression that spoke more eloquently to me than much else on the subject (slightly bowdlerized):

Depression
Author Unknown

“When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.

Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.

Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.

Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in the bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.

Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.

The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just a blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.

Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel, sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.

I don’t know how it went down for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems like they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe they weren’t. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside.

I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis. I’m not putting heavy [stuff] out here to make your Friday morning suck. I know it feels gross to read it, and realistically it can be unpleasant to be around it, that’s why people pull away.

I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling”. It’s asinine. Of course you’re going to keep shoveling the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know what the stakes are. My message is to everyone else. Grab a [] shovel and help your neighbor. Slap a mini snow plow on the front of your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city council to buy more salt trucks, so to speak.

Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. And like the weather, it is a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable with great potential for harm. But like climate change, that doesn’t mean we are helpless. If we want to stop losing so many people to this disease, it will require action at every level.”

There is no one description of depression. There is no packaged solution for depression. While I’ve never dealt with clinical depression personally, I’ve lived with people who do, and my takeaways are fairly basic:

  1. Depression is real.
  2. Platitudes don’t help anything, and usually make things worse: “Snap out of it!” “What’s your problem?” “You need a boy/girlfriend.” A list of 100 things not to say.
  3. The best thing you can say is something like “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you”… and then do it.

battle

Kindness is never wasted, never amiss, never the wrong thing. A kind word or a smile to a stranger might just save a life that day.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The rivers of life

Shower thought on the passing of a virtual but nonetheless very dear friend and colleague. Inspired perhaps by a confluence of this XKCD and this story which I posted earlier:

“Our lives through time are like streams of water, and can cross and re-cross and diverge from those with whom we sojourn on this earth. It is at those precious points of convergence with souls who lift and enrich us, even though tomorrow our streams may once again separate, never again to reconvene, that some of life’s greatest joys are captured.

Moments. They’re all we get.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

New York in the ’50s, Part II

I earlier posted some photography by my father who was an amateur shutterbug. I selected images that I thought would be of greatest interest, and they generated enough curiosity that there have been some requests for more. A lot of the rolls of negatives which I scanned were simply not print-worthy, but a few other images, although very mundane, are perhaps deserving of wider exposure, if only for candid glimpses of every day life in the Big Apple in the middle of the 20th Century.

New York ca

Street scene shot through a window. I Googled around for “Rossi and Celentano” fruiterers and Seidman’s Stationery to see if I could identify the street, but had no luck.

New York Sweeper 4

The custodian seen in my previous post poses for a portrait.

NYC - Laundry

Laundry day: Wind and Solar power.

NYC 1953 551 5th Avenue

Another view up 5th Avenue

River View 4

New York Hospital from the East River

Rockefeller Center 1953

Rockefeller Center

St. Pat's Cathedral 1953

In front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

2 Ladies

Two elegant ladies on a stoop

New York - Ferris Wheel

Ferris wheel at a street carnival

New York - Garden Exhibit 2

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - Garden Exhibit 3

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - Garden Exhibit 4

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - Garden Exhibit

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - School

School, possibly part of Hunter College

New York - Shy Girl

Shy girl

New York - Statue

Sculpture, possibly something my father may have done.

New York 1950 2

Performance at the New York City Library

New York 1950 3

City Library Lion

New York 1950 4

Passers-by and pigeons

New York 1950 5

Glamor on a stoop

New York 1950 6

Street scene

New York 1950 7

Street Scene

New York ca 1950 3

Garbage men clean up the city

New York ca 1950 5

A back alley with fire escape

The last set of photos were taken inside a camera shop. I suspect dad was just practicing with his camera; I don’t think he knew any of these people, but the faces from the ’50s seen here are full of character. I might clean some of these up a bit if I ever find the time.

Camera Store 1Camera Store 2Camera Store 3Camera Store 4Camera Store 5Camera Store 6Camera Store 7Camera Store 8Camera Store 9

The Old Wolf has spoken.