Cross-Cultural Cherry Picking

About this time last year, I met a couple from Persia as they were picking red berries off some trees on our street. They told me the name of the berries in their language, but I forgot the word as soon as I heard it. Tonight, I saw the same couple again. We chatted for a bit, and they told me all the wonders of these berries: about their antioxidant properties and that they were beneficial to people with diabetes, heart conditions, and high cholesterol.

I tasted a berry and found it quite sour, but they said that a little bit of salt makes them delicious. The berries are also suitable for jam, so I might try that this year.

And while they told me the name once again in Farsi, this time they Googled the English translation. Zoghal akhteh, the name I couldn’t remember, translates as Cornelian cherries.

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Takoyaki Time

If there’s one dish that makes me think of the time I spent in Japan, it’s takoyaki, tiny dumplings with a chunk of octopus and a few other things inside. Takoyaki was invented in Osaka, the food capital of Japan, in the 1930s, by a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo.

In the beginning, takoyaki was street food for me, something I’d find at an Osaka matsuri (festival). It soon became my favourite après-ski food, far better than the pizza pops of my youth. And when I lived a few doors down from a takoyaki shop, it became a staple in my life, so much so that when I moved to a different neighbourhood, I bought myself a takoyaki maker and learned how to make the dish myself. I made a slightly westernized version, using homemade chicken broth instead of dashi, and sometimes veered from the traditional octopus, adding cheese instead (inspired by the shop in my old neighbourhood).

Takoyaki is a social dish, best made by a group of friends huddled around a kotatsu. I lugged the cast-iron moulds home with me when I left Japan, hoping I could recreate that experience in Canada, but I soon realized the impracticalities of hooking up a gas canister to the device in a Canadian apartment. Still, I was reluctant to part with the takoyaki maker, and stored it until my decluttering phase in 2015.

It’s become more common here in recent years. In fact, I can now get great takoyaki at nearby Ikoi. But I still miss being able to make it at home whenever I want. All that’s going to change, though, because the other day, my electric takoyaki maker arrived. Now all I have to do is source me some octopus and a few other ingredients, and get going. It’s a pity I no longer have my kotatsu.

box for electric takoyaki maker
My new takoyaki maker arrived!

All content © Barbara K. Adamski. All rights reserved. Please respect copyright.