With not much fanfare, I sent in the last edits on my book and index on April 19 at 8 am. The editing process stretched from the end of last November on into a very furious back and forth well into this March. I don’t think any of us had anticipated it to take so long.
But the book is now at the printer and I am moving on to planning the fall “book tour.” As most people know, book tours are a thing of the past (no money except for the luminaries), but my publisher has been supportive and I am willing to kick in as well...and my community of food people has been overwhelming generous with offers to host or help.
And so, off I am going to Paris for 10 days. I know, it doesn’t make much sense, though I am trying to lobby for translations beyond the obligatory Japanese (after all, I live here, and I write about a version of Japanese life that is quickly disappearing, but in which there is burgeoning interest to revive). Patricia Wells is graciously hosting a Japanese Farm Food cooking class at her atelier on the rue Jacob in the 6th that I am whimsically calling A Spring Lunch in Paris. And the menu (with much fanfare):
Radishes with Miso
Kelp-wicked Sea Bream
Fava Beans Smashed with Tofu, Sesame, and Yuzu
Thinly Sliced Asparagus with Shaved Bonito
Clear Fish Broth with Chives
Flowering Tops Tempura
Steamed Ginger and Spring Onion–Stuffed Sea Bream
Spring Onion and Snow Pea Salad with Miso Vinaigrette
Organic Hachisu Rice
But before I go, I had my summer seeds to plant. I got morale (and physical) support from Alyssia and Yumiko, my teacher and assistant at Sunny-Side Up! The kids were there for entertainment and company. There wasn’t much for them to do. Shoveling dirt into bags is heavy work. And digging out mulch from the middle of an overgrown mulch pile topped with several inches of dried leaves is even heavier. Unwieldy comes to mind.
Here is how Tadaaki told me to do it (I need a refresher course each year so I won’t do it wrong): “Mix dirt from the field and sifted dirt from the mulch pile half and half for your planting boxes. And you had better cover the planting boxes with a plastic tunnel.”
OK, let’s just back track a little here. First this means rummaging around in the garage for the shovels (not there) and the sifter (Tadaaki had to find). Then going to the chicken coop to search out where the shovels really were. And then there is the business of reaching over a stack of 25k bags of feed to access the paper feed bags (for the dirt) that are of course lying under a whole slew of plastic feed bags. By this time the kids were already waiting for me at the field with Yumiko and Alyssia.
The SSU! kids danced around the field a bit while I searched for the cilantro that had miraculously reseeded last winter, but was becoming engulfed in weeds. (Found it!!) The kids scrabbled around at removing a patch of weeds and Yumiko shoveled dirt into the feed bag that Alyssia held. Division of labor (Yumiko is strong.) I set to work on the worst task of the day: digging out mulch dirt (read: digging a hole in the middle of the mulch pile and smooshing out the dirt by hand onto the flat, mostly useless, shovel). I lay a feed bag down and set the sifter on top of that while some kids crowded around to watch the “fascinating” operation. (I like to fool them into thinking that everything I do is utterly captivating and intrinsically worth study and discussion.) And from there I proceeded to sift the dirt of pebbles and sticks. Repetitious, tedious work that made my arm tired. The only bonus was finding a yochu—not sure how you call it in English but it looked like a large beetle (kabuto mushi) was due to hatch out in the not too distant future. We looked at him for a little bit, then I put him back in the mulch pile and covered him up.
Yumiko had filled three feed bags half way up in the time I had barely sifted enough mulch to make a quarter bag. Despite Tadaaki’s blithe recommendation of the 1:1 ratio of dirt to mulch, I figured we could make due with less mulch as I was losing steam (and interest in the project). I kept smooshing and sifting while Yumiko filled a bag with the unsifted stuff (to be worked on later). And that was that.
After lunch we grabbed some kids and finished the planting operation (which mainly consisted of throwing dirt and mulch into newspaper-lined plastic planters, poking in seeds, covering with more dirt and mulch, patting them down, covering with a thick layer of newspapers, and soaking with water). Tadaaki has mentioned a few times about making the tunnel. I haven’t yet. Last time I made a tunnel, I bought the wrong kind of materials. How did I know? That was the only tunnel being sold (still is). Apparently you can’t use gauze material, you need plastic. So this time I improvised and bought stiff wire poles and a plastic sheet that is supposedly meant for covering seeds. The only question here is whether there is soft enough dirt in a sunny spot at SSU! where I can erect this tunnel. And will I have time before I leave Sunday night? It is Wednesday here now, so there is hope. But the weather is not on my side since it is raining. And my staff is off until Monday for the Golden Week holiday, so I am on my own.
But I finished the book. There is that.