Thursday, October 8, 2020

Review of "The Return of A Shadow" by Kunio Yamagishi

                                             
                                          
It seems to me that Kunio Yamagishi may have decided upon a particularly deep emotional challenge for himself as a writer of historical fiction. What if instead of writing about a lonely man who undergoes extreme emotional deprivation and finds true love and/or personal happiness in spite of that deprivation I write about a person who-- like many humans we hear about-- only experiences blurry glimpses of personal happiness through the course of his life. Would those dim hopes be enough to sustain him into natural death in old age? What are the choices in life when all your dreams evaporate? 

 Yes, The Return of A Shadow is possibly the saddest book I have read, or at least in a long time. But beautiful writing, and a likeable protagonist kept me interested and hopeful in the outcome. I believe that older adults, perhaps the age of the protagonist himself, would be most apt to read this book. Why? Because as individuals who have experienced disappointments that we are too old to deny (and which most of us come to terms with) it is refreshing to read about how someone with no strong blood bonds and only peripheral social connections still manages to go about living. While most of us (I don't have any stats but it is likely) have some family connections to which we prescribe "belonging" and perhaps love, there are certainly times when we feel alone and invisible in the world of younger and more powerful people, our own kin included. Are there ways to find meaning, to feel motivated to keep going forward, when we are overwhelmed by feelings of rejection and disenfranchment?

 On a meta-level, I am quite certain that this book recognizably addresses the experiences of Japanese internees and their families in Canada and the United States. When I did a very brief discussion of the book on Facebook, one of my friends dismissed the labeling of the internment centres as "concentration camps,"* a rather jolting term that Yamagishi uses. She assured me that the internees "had homes" and that maybe they had to leave their belongings behind, but that that was what happened during war, implying that the Japanese (and some born in Canada) had to take their lumps like all "foreigners" did. Would she recognize the institutional racism that gives rise to such statements? Possibly reading the book would give her a different perspective. 

The historical research is impressive, and I feel that I learned a lot from this piece of work. 

 * "internment centre for political prisoners of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order." concentration camp | Facts, History, & Definition | Britannica

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Easy Vegan Spicy Pear Butter Recipe


A dear friend had a huge Bosc pear harvest from her tree this year-- 700 pounds!  I was one of the lucky beneficiaries.  This vegan pear butter recipe is the result of a rave on Facebook by one of my friends.  So, looking at several recipes, I have chosen what I think works to produce a silky, yummy, pretty healthy pear spread.  The word "butter" does not mean that real dairy butter is involved (in fact, no fats!)

INGREDIENTS:

5 pounds of fresh Bosc pears, peeled, split, cored, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger*
2 tablespoons dried ground cinnamon**
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup coconut sugar
pinch of salt (optional)

                                                          These are common BOSC pears.
                                                          You can use this recipe for other
                                                             pears, such as Barlett, as well.
                                                          

EASY METHOD:
1. Gather together your ingredients, as well as get out 
  • a stainless steel pot with a lid 
  • a silicone or wooden spoon 
  • a melon-baller (optional) 
  • a peeler
  • a potato masher
  • a stick blender (or you can use a regular blender) 
2. Wash, peel and quarter pears, lengthwise.  Core.  A melon-baller turns out to be a really handy, quick way to core-- pears are especially easy to core when they are ripe.  Level of ripeness is NOT a big deal, though, in making the pear jam.




3. Chop pears roughly and add to the pot on the stove.  Stir and let them cook on medium heat for a few minutes, stirring to keep them from sticking.  When they are starting to break down, mash and stir with the potato masher.

4. Add in the spices.  You can opt to use other spices you prefer, and/or have available.  I would suggest not to use too many unless you are a 'flavour whiz', in which case, go at it!  Other spices might be: Star of anise, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom.  Some of the online recipes had commenters complaining about the domination of spices so I think that less is better.  Try some different combinations of two to see what you like.

5. Add a portion of the water (maybe 1/2) and the orange juice.  Let the pear butter gently bubble and simmer for a while and if it looks like it is drying out, add more water.  The pears I used were enormously juicy, but, on the other hand, you don't want to dry it up, so use your judgement.  Let it simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  Put the lid on and let it 'cook down'.  But keep an eye on it.  Check every so many minutes.  Add a little more water if it is drying up.

6. Add the coconut sugar, and a pinch more spice if you think it is needed.  Add a pinch of salt towards the end of the cooking.

7. When it is cooked down to about 3/4 of what you started with, use an immersion blender stick to make it smooth and creamy, or let it cool a bit and blend up in a regular blender.

ENJOY!  Add the spicy pear butter to top toast, waffles, pancakes, ginger bread.  Stir it into oatmeal, yogurt or your homemade granola! 

NOTES: This is a really friendly recipe for people who don't cook.  Just breathe and enjoy adding your personal touches.  You don't even need to add a sweetener because ripe pears are so naturally sweet, and as you saw above, the amount of fluid you add is pretty much dependent on the juice volume of the pears themselves.  I am going to try making a recipe with only a tablespoon of water or orange juice (or apple cider vinegar) to see how that works out!

Can the butter with the water bath method (google) if you wish, or just put it in a glass jar or other glass container in your fridge (with a tight lid).  

If you have a bunch of other pears left to process, you could always make a delicious vegan fruit kuchen (cake) by substituting pears for the suggested fruit in this recipe here.





















 

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