Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bluesette's Crew In The Soup

We haven't been sailing yet this year. February brought snow, this month Spring was showing some promise with some nice days last week, but this week we have cold weather 5°C (40°F) again and rain. It's a good time to make some of Pandabonium's split pea soup for the restless crew of Bluesette.

Some of my favorite foods are not easily available in Japan such as vegetarian chili, refried beans, or pea soup. Japanese food is great, but we all like a change once in a while. Luckily I have a source for dried organic beans and split peas (Tengu Natural Foods), so I can make my own comfort foods.

Here's how I make it - give it a try:

Hopefully, you have a pressure cooker.
Why a pressure cooker? First because the air is pushed out during cooking which saves a lot of the vitamins and flavor of the food. Second, your cooking time will be far less, and third, you'll save up to 70% of the energy you would otherwise use. But don't worry if you don't have one, you can still enjoy this soup.

What you'll need:

* 1 1/3 Tbsp. olive oil (20 ml)
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1-1/2 cups chopped carrots (350 ml)
* 4 cups vegetable broth (1000 ml) - preferably homemade or "low sodium organic"
* 1 cup dried split peas, sorted and rinsed (240 ml)
* 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves (5 ml)
* 1/2 tsp. ground chili pepper (2.5ml)
* 1/2 tsp. salt (2.5 ml) - optional, I leave it out for my hypertension
* 1/4 tsp. pepper (1.25 ml) - careful. I'm not a fan of hot seasoning and use less, but this amount seems right to many sailors.
* 3/4 cup uncooked brown rice (175 ml)

Some people would add chopped celery - feel free to improvise.

Heat the oil in the open pressure cooker and saute onion, garlic, and carrots for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable broth, split peas, thyme, chili pepper, salt and pepper to pressure cooker. Cover and bring up to pressure. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the brown rice in a rice cooker, pressure cooker, or microwave rice cooker. Depending on the method, you may want to start the rice first.

Release pressure on the soup (I use the cold water method to bring it down quickly), open and stir in the brown rice. You're done. Enjoy!

I get about six servings from this recipe. Leftovers can be put into containers and kept in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen for a couple of weeks. The rice absorbs water over time, so when you reheat it on the stove or in the microwave you'll need to add a little water or soymilk to get the consistency you like.

Add a salad and a French baggette and you have a great lunch or dinner.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Art Is What Artists Do

Profuse thanks to our "Viking Invader", Martin, for this video clip of Scottish yacht designer Alfred Mylne's yachts sailing on the Clyde in the 1930s.

I am totally blown away by their beauty. The long, slender hulls, the massive size of the sails, their symmetry and grace belying the raw power of the wind that they capture as they surge seemingly without effort through the waters of the Clyde. It takes my breath away.

To me, these boats make the modern America's Cup contenders with their cold, corporate advertising plastered across their hulls and high-tech plastic/composite parts, for all their speed, look gawky and pathetic by comparison.

And what's up with calling a boat by a corporate name, anyway? OK, so the winner's name is "USA-17" but the original name is "BMW Oracle Racing 90". How lame is it to name a boat BMW Oracle? And then USA-17? What is that - afterthought without the thought? Lame is as lame does. Corporate bozos.

Where is god, country, wife, mother, nature, music, sailing history, or other inspiration? In days past there were names like Puritan, Vigilant, Resolute, Rainbow, Kukabura III, Luna Rosa, Constellation, Freedom, Young America, and Team New Zealand "Black Magic".

Something has gone very wrong along the way. Perhaps that is part of the reason why I am responding so strongly to the images of "real" boats with real names made of real materials which integrated form, function, and beauty.

The music by Breabach is a nice fit too.

Boat design is an art. What is art? Art is what artists do. Alfred Mylne was an artist.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Farvel - Art van Damme

Art Van Damme April 9, 1920 - February 15, 2010

Norwegian born Art van Damme has left us at age 89. Art was an accordionist who came to the USA with his parents in 1934. He adapted the music of Benny Goodman to accordion and had a long career in television music with NBC. He toured Europe and was very popular with jazz afficianados in Japan. Art died of pneumonia on February 15, 2010.

Here is a recording of Art from 1966 playing - what else? - Bluesette. Enjoy.

And and encore - "My Little Boat"

Farvel (fair well), Art. You were always one hip cat, and when it was hip to be hep, you were hep.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Sailing Epicure

While many of us who sail take some satisfaction in the fact that our means of locomotion uses no fuel (especially of the fossil variety), we who handle the tiller and sails do, of course, burn calories. That energy comes from the foods we eat, and so sailing and eating are inextricably linked. This is a very serious issue, and we all remember stories we've read of sailors in the old days having to eat stale hardtack and wormy pork and suffering the ravages of scurvy. English sailors suffered scurvy on every long voyage up until the 19th century (with rare exception due to the progressive practices of captains such as James Cook), even though the preventative - citrus fruit juice - was known to the British Admiralty for centuries! For Japanese sailors, the problem was beriberi, a debilitating disease of the nervous and cardiovascular systems, due to the fact that their rations of white rice did not contain enough thiamine (vitamin B1). It was the study of beriberi which led to the discovery of vitamins.

Scurvy AND beriberi? Nah... The passenger ferry "Royal" on lake Ashinoko in 2007.

Today, we recreational sailors have no such worries. However, we still do have choices to make.

Nowadays, some sailors, perhaps single handed racers, may balk at the word "epicure" in this post's title, and prefer some "scientifically" concocted "sports" food/drink/fuel chugged or sipped from a bottle rather than a relaxed, sit-down menu of sensuously appealing natural delights that also happen to provide the nutrients necessary to perform a sailor's duties. That's fine by me. Those same folk are often into a sort of sailing "minimalism" - where the whole point of the thing is winning a race. That's OK too. Whatever floats your dinghy. I do appreciate such people and applaud their pursuits.

But others of us enjoy sailing for its own sake and likewise food, music and friends. Our sailing is often leisurely and best shared with others, as are our meals. We fit into what is called the "slow life movement", which I believe started in the UK and has been well received in Japan. Happily, there is room in this world for all of us. I sincerely hope.

A sailing "fuel" I enjoy here in Japan at this time of year is "sasa mochi". It is steamed mochi rice, which is pounded with added "kusa" (Japanese name for the herb mugwort) and stuffed with tsubu-an - a not too sweet azuki bean paste. It comes wrapped in a dwarf bamboo leaf - sasa. It tastes especially nice served with ocha (green tea).

As much as pandas like bamboo, Pandabonium doesn't eat the wrapping.

Mugwort is sometimes called "sailor's tobacco". As a medicinal herb it has found numerous uses in many parts of the world, from ancient Rome to China.

So join us for a sail on Lake Hinuma and have a taste of sasa mochi. Barring that, at least take the time to be aware of and try to deeply appreciate all the sailing "fuels" you have the opportunity to taste in your home port.

Until next, sweet sailing.