Monday, March 28, 2011

March 11th - 17 days on

OK, so this is my food blog, but this is so important that I am posting this on here as well as my personal blog.

This is a difficult post to write, and please be aware that these are just my perceptions from living in Japan and from what I see on the news here and internationally.  Although aware through my own research and living here, I am not a scientist or an expert on the current situation, but I don't think the true picture is completely apparent outside of Japan.

It's been over two weeks, and in some ways I think the timing of this post is right.  For me, I'm starting to grasp more of the enormity and reality of it all and could only now write this.  Perhaps for many people outside of Japan the initial horror has passed, and it's just another news item.

I think that in the last week, the focus on international media (and even domestic media to a lesser extent) relating to Japan has shifted from the devastation in northern Japan, to nuclear power plant and radiation worries internationally.  Of course the nuclear power plant situation in Japan is a very serious concern, and has added to the number of evacuees and problems of food supply, not mention the large number of workers and their families.  However outside of the 20km zone, airborne levels are low.  For example in Tokyo, about 240km from the Fukushima power plant, after a very brief alarming spike they are currently at 0.11uSV/hour - higher than normal in Tokyo but still well under the international average of 0.27uSv/hour (based on an average background radiation of 2.4mSv/year). Outside of Japan, increases are minute (for example about one millionth of what you would get in normal daily background radiation).  This fortunately isn't another Chernobyl.

The devastation in northern Japan hasn't gone away, even if the focus on the news has.  Pictures in the news show the remarkable transformation of a major road with a great chasm after the earthquake - six days on you'd never know.  Businesses are starting to relocate and get back on their feet.  This enables some supplies to get through to the affected region.  These stories are great.  But the reality is that whilst things are looking better, they are still not good.  Food, water, basic supplies and medicine are starting to get through now, but the diet is poor because non-perishable foods have to be used.  As at March 22nd 320,000 evacuees are staying at about 2,100 shelters.  The risk of contagious disease such as flu is high.  The landscape is still flattened.

There is a still a lack of basic supplies, electricity and heat in many areas.  It is still very cold.  This means that people, especially the sick and elderly are still dying having survived an earthquake and tsunami.  This is correctly described as Japan's worst disaster since World War 2.  This page shows a translated interview with some local people.

It seems that many people feel that because Japan is a rich technologically advanced country, people don't believe that they need donations so much.  Yet the United States is also a rich technologically advanced country and they received substantially more donations in the first week after Hurricane Katrina.
Often  people donate in the first week whilst the emerging images are so strong.
Japan always donates generously to disaster relief funds, again for example Hurricane Katrina and now Japan needs help to rebuild  itself.

The northern area of Japan, especially the coastal areas, is not the richest region.  If a situation like this were to happen in the UK, then international help would be needed.  Japan is no different.  I think that people see videos and pictures on television and see people behaving in a quiet ordered manner without asking for help, and assume that help isn't needed.  There has been little looting in Japan, people tend to be more honest.  The culture in Japan is often to endure quietly and to try to resolve your own problems, not to ask for help.  The 'stiff upper lip' reputation of the British is more apparent in the 'gaman' of Japan.  Just because people don't ask for help, doesn't mean that we shouldn't give it.  Money is always needed for rebuilding no matter how developed a nation is.  Rebuilding homes, services, companies and lives.

Donations are the best way to help, so that the relief agencies can spend it on what is needed most.  The Red Cross in your own country will have a donation fund for the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami and is a good way to help.  This is the key aid agency organising support in Japan.  They will ensure that the money is used efficiently and, in the event that it can't be used efficiently in Japan, they will use the money for other countries that need it even more.

In Britain (online, or by phone or post), or you can use Google Checkout to pay via the Google Crisis Response site
In Japan there are many more options which will get aid to the right place.  Almost every convenience store and supermarket has a box, many legitimate charities including Second Harvest, but again you can donate on the Red Cross website

You can also donate by buying the Songs for Japan on iTunes for GBP7.99, $10 or 1500yen - all proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cauliflower cheese and potato soup

Nutrition Data (per portion, serves 4)
Calories 231
Protein 13g
Carbohydrate 17g
Fat 13g
Dietary Fibre 6g

1 large onion(210g)
1 tsp olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, head and stalks (520g)
160g potatoes
1 stock cube
100g grated cheddar
50g marscarpone

  • Wash the cauliflower and cut into florets, and cut up the stems.
  • Wash and scrub the potatoes, and cut into chunks.
  • Dice the onion.
  • Heat the oil and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until  soft and golden brown.  Add the cauliflower, potato, 1 litre of boiling water, and crumble in a stock cube.  Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  • Stir in the mascarpone and grated cheese and stir until melted.  Leave to cool slightly.
  • When cool enough to handle, transfer in batches to a blender, and blend until smooth.
  • Reheat to serve, grating in fresh black pepper and nutmeg.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Banana 'Ice-Cream'

A quick healthy dessert!

You can freeze whole peeled bananas wrapped in greaseproof paper and packed into airtight ziplock bags for a few months, without them going brown.

When you want to make this creamy ice-cream, just put a banana in a blender and pulse until completely mashed!  Serve with a teaspoon of chocolate sauce, or blend with a flavouring.  Idea from here

Shirataki Stirfry

Shirataki noodles are made of konnyaku and so very low in calories but high in dietary fibre.  They are filling and great once in a while, especially if you've eaten unhealthily and want to balance things out a bit!  They have no taste, but soak up other strong flavours.  This stirfry is tasty and quick to make.

Nutrition Data (total for both portions)
Calories 178
Protein 5g
Carbohydrate 30g
Fat 5g
Dietary Fibre 8.5g

1 x 150g pack of shirataki noodles
100g enoki mushrooms
100g leek (one leek)
40g red bell pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp reduced salt soy sauce
a little shichimi

  • Rinse the shirataki in a sieve under running water until the fishy smell of the packaging liquid is completely gone.
  • Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan, add the shirataki, toss well to coat and then continue to cook over a medium heat whilst finely slicing the leek and the red pepper.
  • Add the leek, red pepper, enoki mushrooms, soy sauce and a sprinkle of shichimi and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  • Serve immediately