March 2007

This Sunday is April Fool's Day. Too bad it's on a weekend, since that reduces the opportunities for good old office fun. I am going to take the weekend off again from the online world, but in the meantime enjoy the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest from the archives. The weather's been so nice, maybe I'll go down to the Ticino to check out this year's crop...

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What's the soup of your childhood? The one that your mother made for you when you had a cold, needed cheering up, or just as a treat? For me, there's no question: it's corn cream soup.

Corn cream soup (and yes, it's called like that, not 'cream of corn soup' or 'creamed corn soup') belongs to the _yohshoku_ category of Japanese home cooking. It's an old fashioned, milk based potage, with creamed corn in it. It smells milky, and tastes sweet and savory. It's loved by Japanese kids.

Now, while my mother was a pretty good cook generally, she did have trouble getting some things right. Her curry for instance was always rather watery. And her corn cream soup, instead of being silky smooth, always had little lumps of undissolved roux. I loved those little lumps though - they tasted like tiny dumplings. Later on when I started to make my own corn cream soup I followed recipes, so my corn cream came out smooth and lumpless. That was fine, but I missed the lumps from my childhood memories. So, I incorporated them back.

Everyone uses canned corn to make a corn cream soup. You can be fancy and use fresh, but that lifts this humble soup into the realm of gourmet special-occasion big deal cooking, which is not what my memories are about at all. I have adjusted the usual way of making this soup by using whole corn rather than creamed, since whole corn cans have more actual corn in them and I suspect less added sugar, and I like the mixture of crushed/creamed and whole corn kernels. Besides, creamed corn cans are unheard of here in Switzerland.

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Don't forget to tune in to (previously mentioned on Just Hungry here) today! They are going to turn the Big Cheese over, take a core sample, and see how it's doing! If they haven't already...I'm not sure. Was that label on the other end before? (thanks Mimi!)

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Yesterday, I had some takeout sushi that was so terrible that I still shudder, more than 24 hours later, thinking about it.

No it didn't make me physically sick. I did not get food poisoning. But it was bloody awful. It was sold as 'fresh' sushi (and it certainly hadn't been frozen), but it had been refrigerated for some time, for who knows how long. (It had a 'sell-by date' but not a 'made-on date'. Sushi must, must, be eaten the same day it's made.) The rice was mealy, the grains hard. The neta (the fish) on the nigiri, salmon and tuna, was mushy and utterly tasteless. The rolls, filled with cucumber and some sort of tuna mix, were no better.

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Speaking of travel...we've paid in our house-rental deposits now, so once again we are going to be spending the better part of a month of our summer in Provence. We've been there at least once a year for the last few years, and no matter where else we go I just have to go there or I don't feel my year has been complete. Last year we even went twice, for a total of six weeks. (Thank goodness for broadband or our clients would just fire our asses. :) ) I'm not sure we can manage that again this year but at least I will have my Provence fix.

To see my way of experiencing Provence, start with A Food Lover's Way of Exploring Provence. This year I plan to do a bit more around the coastal area to the east of Marseilles - I fell in love with the small resort town of Cassis in November, and want to see it in its summer glory. Otherwise it's going to be markets, vineyards, and as many visits as we can squeeze in to my favorite bakery in the world. Ah, heaven.

Are you making your summer travel plans already? Where are you going? Do you let your tastebuds and stomach guide where you go as much as I do?

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Keep reading Encore Provence →

People email me about their food sites and blogs all the time. I don't mention those that I don't find interesting or think would interest any Just Hungry readers, but here are a couple that came in recently that did catch my eye.

  • Foodtripper is a new site that reviews restaurants and food shops. What makes it stand out in this very crowded category is that they seem to have a European outlook on things, that aren't limited to the usual places. I found several unusual and intriguing places listed, such as a restaurant in Pompeii that takes its inspiration from ancient Roman cuisine (though hopefully they don't have authentic garum) and a chestnut factory in southwestern France.
  • If you're visiting a major food-obsessed city where you don't know anyone, finding your way around can be a bit daunting. A culinary tour may be one way to get your bearings. offers walking and noshing tours of New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and New Orleans. If anyone's gone on one of their tours I'd be interested to hear your impressions.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC), which lead to the formation of the European Union. Over the weekend they had a big party in Berlin, where among other things they sampled two traditional cakes from all EU member countries. Here is the official list of cakes.

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Swiss people love cutely formed bread, just as much if not more than Japanese people. Behold, this masterpiece of adorable yet modern design, in the form of an Easter Bunny bread. (click on the image from the web page to see it larger).


The almond slices scattered on top were a bit misleading. I was rather anticipating some kind of sugar-almondy filling, but it was just slightly sweetened white bread all the way through. Perhaps the cuteness is enough sugariness for one small bread.

For more Swiss Easter Bunny goodness, read about the chocolate Easter Bunny making class I took last year.

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Mixed vegetable pickles

A mixed-vegetable marinade or refrigerator pickles with lemon juice and honey.


If you browse the aisles of a Japanese grocery, you may run across various instant tsukemono mixes. These come either in liquid or dry form. The dry granules in particular are very handy to have around, and they can make sokuseki zuke in a hurry. However, they usually contain MSG, preservatives and such.

Scouring around the Japanese parts of the interweb, I came across several pages that had recipes for a homemade instant tsukemono mixes, such as this one. They all used MSG or dashi stock granules though, and I wanted to come up with a mixture that was made up 100% of natural ingredients.

After some tinkering around and almost ruining the motor of my food processor, here's the mixture I came up with. To up the umami quotient it has a full 100 grams of finely chopped konbu seaweed in it. It also has some interesting very Japanese ingredients in it such as dried yuzu peel and yukari, dried powdered red shiso leaves.