Tag Archives: Furikake

Stephen Black at the Magical Kampung

Who: Stephen Black, Asia-based artist, writer and producer. What: Stephen Black will do readings, present his thumb kways and debut a new food artwork entitled Miso Furikake Riceballs, a collaboration with Mom NatuRa. When: Saturday, April 23, 2016 9:30-4:30 Where: Magical Kampung GUI  91 Lorong Chencharu, Yishun
Ground-Up Initiative (GUI)
Kampung Kampus, 91 Lorong Chencharu (Yishun), Singapore 769
Free admission. There are many events going on at the Kampung GUI, as it is their eighth anniversary. Stephen Black will be reading selections from his books, which will be available. The titles include Furikake, Contact With Shadow, Obama Search Words and I Ate Tiong Bahru. More information about the books can be found here. Information about the thumb kway artworks. Miso Furikake Riceballs, a tasty and nutritious autobiographical piece of social art, will debut at the the event. The artwork features organic tekka miso furikake, co-created with Bali-based Mom from Mom Natura Farm. There will be a few surprises as well!

Inari, Bali and Snow (3)

DO NOT READ THIS! THE FINAL VERSION IS HERE! I'm now thrashing around and the roosters are crowing. This is a work in progress that will be done within the hour. What follows are chunks of text that are being refined and polished down. Here is the start of this story. I will likely leave these mistake-filled fragments here, but the final, 14 karat version will be added to an updated version of this. Inari, Bali and Snow (3)

"Tekka" means "iron fire". Tekka miso. Iron fire miso, roasted in a pan for three hours. Sesame seeds. Coconut oil and palm sugar. Mom and I are talking about the art of food; food as social art. Nutritious, delicious sculptures and edible haikus. Popcorn as public sculpture. I explain about el Bulli, Documenta and Chinese pastries shaped like thumbprints. Mom tells me about the miso eaten at Hiroshima. We talk about making furikake.

The whole thing...

Hello. The following is a draft finalized on March 15, 2016 at about 7 AM. It will be reworked, restructured and rewritten.I include it here because it really captures the feeling of furikake. The following text is a sprinkling, a mix of tastes positioned by chance upon a whiteness.

Furikake days:

Faint, bittersweet sands of time

swirling clouds; rice ball.

Inari, Bali and Snow

During my first winter in Asia my home was a little tatami room in Yotsuya. There, on the morning of January 28, 1985, I awoke well before dawn, bundled up and set out to wander through the continuing grandeur of a snowstorm that had shut down Tokyo. I was hungry; had nothing but coins in my pocket and a camera loaded with black and white film. I slid open the door and began to trudge through the snowdrifts. Cold air stung my nose and lungs. After the white maze of my neighborhood, I reached Shinjuku-dori. Then west, past the Sun Music Building that the singer threw herself off of. Then Yasukuni-dori, with the thought of going right and visiting Yasukuni Shrine. I’d sat in its cafeteria once, with a veteran from World War II who said I looked like Gary Cooper. We drank green tea beneath a Mitsubishi Zero attached to the ceiling

But no, I wandered left, towards Shinjuku san-chome, where I stood beneath a traffic light and watched its colored lights tint the swirling snow. Eventually I reached Mitsukoshi and the other department stores, each big enough to occupy an entire block. Further west, across from the station, the gaudy lights, billboards and neon of Kabukicho had become soft pastels. On small side streets, I passed darkened yakitori-yas, convenience stores and round red akachochins topped with snow and ice. The quiet. The cold. The feeling of being immensely alone. And lost. Lost, lost, lost. Delightfully so.

Flower garden. A French friend and I went drinking near here one night and he told me that the Chinese characters carved in the monument now before me mean Flower Garden. Hanazono Jinja. Hundreds of years ago, the Hanazono family built this shrine , one dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Inari, god of the arts.

I walk forward, between two dull grey buildings. At the end of the passage, a torii; waiting like a strange goal post, or a letter from an alien alphabet. Tubular, wooden and orange, the torii is a relic from a ceremony of whispers. The people of Tokyo are warm in their beds and sleeping; I am in the cold and dreaming.

There is a stone basin for washing one’s hands and rinsing one’s mouth; the ice within it protected by lace made of wire mesh and snow. The ema, the small, thin wood plaques covered with neatly written hopes and wishes are bunched in rows, nooses connecting them to the display stand. The temple grounds are barely lit and surrounded by modernity. Then!

The clouds part and—for an instant– the sun rushes in like a spotlight. Below the dark blue snowy sky, golden light strikes the temple’s black tortoise shell roof, the white frost on the pine trees, and the stone foxes standing guard. The fresh vermillion paint for Oshogatsu, the corridor of red toriis, the simplistic arabesques of gold trim, the precise and clean concrete stairs; the sun is behind me, throwing itself forward everywhere. The gigantic shrine vibrates like a massive, noble flame of Japanese architecture. The vividness of details, the vividness of the whole… Then–just a glimpse– the full moon. Asahi!

I stood alone in that quiet heaven of color until the threat of the freezing cold be ignored no longer. My feet and hands were paralyzed.

I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought they’d be a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. At the top of the stairs, however, I saw that I was overlooking the two-story wooden shacks and alleys of Golden Gai. Golden Gai: one of those places that teen aged Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, gambling, rendezvous spots, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops, bars specializing in all kinds of music; all connected by very narrow walkways lit by red paper lanterns and old cheap plastic Suntory signs. Somewhere in Golden Gai was Shunchan’s. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into a Golden Gai that was now a little white ghost town. I was sure Shunchan wouldn't be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most Japanese shop owners, but as though he were sharing an inside joke. It was 7AM, in a frozen and snowbound Tokyo, but Shunchan smiled at me like it was late on a Friday night after payday. Both serene and slightly nervous, Shunchan is the perfect host. He stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with an ice pick while I thought about my order.

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No–but he was an anchor, a touchstone. Regular. I was a regular in Shunchan’s bar; he and his little bar provided a regularity in a city full of extremes of many kinds. There was always always an interesting crowd. Whether they were Japanese, Russian or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren’t that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the young woman in the bright orange dress.

I sat in the back, watched by the same old big posters of bent-over Japanese girls in bikinis on beaches holding mugs full of beer. Even when Shunchan’s was half-full, you had to stand behind the people seated at the bar and couldn’t help but sometimes touch them. There was a kerosene heater by Shunchan’s feet. My hands treasured my glass of hot water and whiskey. My frozen pants were melting.

A naked and attractive young Japanese woman tiptoed down the stairs like a pixie. With her finger, she moved her hair behind her ear. She She politely smiled at me, then leaned forward to watch Shunchan make her tea. I became fascinated with the smoke-stained chirashis promoting last years offerings of underground movies, independent music, butoh and avante-garde theatre. She was flush with the color and smell of sex. She was steamy. She went back upstairs. Shunchan said nothing, I said nothing. A moment later, a young naked Japanese man came down, got a drink and went back up. Then another. Shunchan, smiled at me and went back to using his ice pick. My unforgettable morning was, for him, just another day at work.

February 21, 2016

Bamboo Spirit is a large house-like, open structure located at the top of the Penestanan steps. It’s old, made of wood and next to a stream. Bamboo Spirit is a Hindu place, a Russian place, a quietly glorious Balinese place. From the second floor and the small room on the third, one can see rice fields and the hills of Ubud. On Sundays there is a vegetarian buffet and this is how I met Mom, who, with her husband, Komang, and a team from WWOOF, operate Mom NatuRa, a farm that uses no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Mom and her team display their goods at Bamboo Spirit. When Mom and I met, we soon discovered our shared appreciation of all things fermented. I gave Mom some laphet (Burmese fermented tea leaves) and she gave me mimosa tea. As soon as I could, I went to Mom’s farm, ready to experience the first shift, from six to nine in the morning.

I Am a Muddy Path With No Banana Leaves

I drove to Mas in darkness.

Mom welcomed me:"Six o'clock. You are on time. Like the Japanese." She gave me her husband's boots. My first task was to water "our plants".That was on Level 1. Later in the morning, Rachel watered Level 2 and Liisa looked for okra on Level 3. There's a teepee on the edge of Level 4. Mom was everywhere. Children from the school yelled "Hello" and "Good morning", their voices and enthusiasm strong enough to cross the big field between us. Later, we heard them singing Balinese songs. I used a sickle on the plants surrounding the wild peanuts and discovered okra blossoms. As she walked in, as though she were laughing, Alex asked me how I was doing.

We ate breakfast in Mom's bamboo house. Manny talked about food, air, water and McDonald's and we all discussed furikake, laphet and mimosa tea. Mom taught us that the “tekka” in tekka miso is derived from the Chinese characters meaning fire and iron. Tekka is also used to describe someone with strong, purposeful energy. Rachel mentioned something she'd read about how the visual appearance of food influences the effectiveness of digestion. We ate papaya and okra salad and rice balls. Another topic: the ideal state of mind for those people who prepare food. While I was at Mom's farm for those four hours I was in the center of a beautifully slow and flowing sequence of events, thoughts and exchanges. I drank no coffee.:)

But my strongest impression was my experience with the muddy path task. The farm has a network of paths and some sections had become very slippery because of the rain. Mom told me to use the old leaves and stalks from the banana plants as mats that would provide traction and improve safety. You don't want to fall with a large cutting instrument in your hands... I didn't plan; in such a cosmic place, everything would be naturally perfect. But I learned that my thinking was wrong.

I should have gained information about: a) the number of banana leaves available, b) the number of trouble spots, c) the "danger rating" of trouble spots, d)"danger ratings" vs. frequency of use, e) location and f) time available to complete the task.

I should have improved the most dangerous high-traffic sections first, starting with the steps between levels. Then, I should have used my limited amount of banana tree resources to prevent new trouble spots from developing. With whatever time was left, I should have put at least one leaf on all of the remaining areas, which would have warned others of danger.

But as it is, many parts of the paths on the farm are still very slippery and one small area in Level 1 is very safe.

So, although we had no serious discussions about furikake, my first day at Mom's taught me about her approach to farming. In that natural environment I also was given time to reflect upon myself.

But back to furikake...

It has always been my dream to create a type of furikake. I see rice as a canvas upon which a composition is sprinkled. This canvas, is in turn placed into the gallery of the mouth, where , instead of viewers, there are glands, teeth and the tongue with its taste sensors. These critics are brutal and a poor furikake artwork will be spit out. A great furikake artwork will be savored and possibly become an addiction.

This farm makes miso. I 've picked peanuts here, and used a hoe to make a ditch. Komang gave me striped okra pods that were like striped, brittle antelope horns. Three seeds in a hole. I did that carefully as I could but then the sun was going down and I speeded up. Not good to leave something undone. Komang may have seen me rushing, maybe not. He just came over and helped. "We always plant with love," is all he said.

LAPHET ART: A collaboration between Mom and Stephen Black

Miso Furikake, roasted over a pan for 2-3 hours and then mixed with other zingy things.

So:Tokyo, quite a few years, New York for a year, before and after The Handover in Hong Kong, then Tokyo for the millennium, then the excitement of crashing the dot-com boom party with Kumiko Akiyoshi. Singapore, to create Second Life, but before Second Life; to lay the foundation for something like Youtube, but before Youtube. My indefinably starlike daughter... Supernova relationships. Scholarly friends, friends who needed a bath like me, friends who drove around in new cars and threw cigarette butts out the window. Roommates with holes in their socks and roommates who blessed me with hearty breakfasts and made me feel like family. A three-legged cat and driving away from a lover's home in Paris as the sun rose and the taxi river played a ney as he drove me from the Port of Clouds to Orly. Medicinal mushrooms and sitting in a Clementi coffeeshop, a cheap mobile phone to my ear as I learned how they took a long blood vessel from the leg and put it in his chest to repair his heart. Chemo and radiation treatments. I think of all of these things,especially the chemo and radiation, as I plant black beans and watch the sunrise. Chemo and radiation, chemo and radiation.

But it was March 20, 2106 and we were in a bamboo house talking and talking, getting to know each other and preparing to create something that would be an artwork, a flavorful delight and perhaps a product: miso-based furikake. Alive, we were talking about making something that would keep people alive.

Kue.I should mention the name of this bakery because I am a food artist who has created artworks with kue, though I prefer the spelling of k-w-ay and most of Singapore, at least uses the spelling of k-u-e-h. For what it's worth, I am back in front of my computer after doing errands in downtown Ubud. There is a strawberry Danish and a pumpkin muffin on the table next to me, both from the day-old tray at Kue. I also have a cup of lukewarm Myanmar sour tea. However, just drank a cup of kopi Bali at the warung at the opposite end of the trail that runs from the Penestanan Stairs to the road that eventually leads to Ubud. I sat there, watching the women make offerings with canang sari while the men made small talk in the shade. Children from the pre-school screamed every now and then and insects making noises almost constantly,cicadas especially. Doves made their noises. Across the simple road, beneath a very large tree, was a grey structure, a covered shed built of concrete walls. The walls in the front were only about as tall as a man&s chest and there was a gate in the middle. The structure was stark yet attractive. The French architect Le Corbusier would have studied it. Le Corbusier wrote that houses are machines for living, but the structure was a machine for storing garbage, most of it unwrapped. Roosters strutted around or leaped and flew into the structure, looking like rags being tossed when they did. As I drank my coffee two of the roosters(at different times, as though they were on shifts) flew up on the short wall in front and crowed, as though proclaiming themselves guardians and thinking the dogs would be afraid.

I eventually finished my coffee and road back on the twisty trail that passes by the stream where people bathe, past the rice fields, past the luxury hotel that uses a golf cart to transport guests. I parked in front of the shop that does customized beadwork and sells papayas, then walked along the narrow trail that passes Yellow Flower Cafe and Intuitive Flow. Now I sit and review the relationship between my recent life experiences and furikake.

Miso! Man, the miso is serious! It seems to have saved people in Hiroshima.

seeds

Mom and I are standing barefooted on the ground, the earthen floor of Bamboo Spirit. There is a yellow silk canopy above that warms and softens the light, giving Mom and me, and everyone and everything here, a faint golden glow.

So yeah, Mom and I sat there in her bamboo house. Along with her husband and the WOOF volunteers, We'd worked all day and eaten a wonderful meal. We had amazake and Sayuri listened to our stories. Mom and I discovered that we'd lived in the same neighborhood in Tokyo and she was a very good friend of Shunchan's.

Bara e, e ma

pictures and words seen by kami;

it's a long old road...

Washed the clay and mud off my boots, kind of liked the muds stains on my blue jeans. Sat on the tatami wearing the green shirt my mom gave me, now with a hole between my shoulder and my heart. We sat there and Mom and I talked. She knew Shunchan very well, shared a bed with him in a nonsexual way and once was asked to pretend to be Shunchan's fiancee so his mother would stop insisting he get married. I'd heard bits and pieces of these stories from Shunchan. Mom and I had very likely waited for trains at Higashi-Nakano station at the same, time, maybe stood together almost touching maybe as we watched the practice sessions in the ninja school across from the station. We both had eaten in the Mongolian tent behind the KFC, where the owner had created a book about a circus and his daughter with autism. Maybe, three decades ago, I had sat at the bar with mom and thought of very lustful things.

A woman fully conscious of the fact that we are all in the same tiny boat on the massive River of Time, sometimes going with the flow, sometimes lost without a paddle.

Tekka “ means “iron fire.” Tekka miso, roasted in a pan for three hours. Sesame seeds. Coconut oil and palm sugar. Mom and I are talking about the art of food; food as social art. Delicious sculptures and edible haikus. Popcorn as public sculpture. I explained about el Bulli, Documenta and Chinese pastries shaped like thumbprints. Mom told me about the good salt in miso and long fermentation times. We talk about making furikake.

 

Inari, Bali and Snow (1)

DO NOT READ THIS! THE FINAL VERSION IS HERE! THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I WILL BE WORKING ON THIS THROUGHOUT THE DAY and WILL SOON BE ADDING IT TO MY FURIKAKE BOOK. For now, I hope that the following draft provides enough finished passages for you to enjoy and that the unfinished passages provide a sense of how important the story is to me. Inari, Bali and Snow During my first winter in Asia my home was a little tatami room in Yotsuya. There, on the morning of January 28, 1985, I awoke well before dawn, bundled up and set out to wander through the continuing grandeur of a snowstorm that had shut down Tokyo. I was hungry; had nothing but coins in my pocket and a camera loaded with black and white film. I slid open the door and began marching through the snowdrifts. Cold air stung my nose and lungs. After the white maze of my neighborhood,  I reached Shijnuku-dori. Then west, past the Sun Music Building that the singer threw herself off of. Then Yasukuni-dori, with the thought of going right and visiting Yasukuni Shrine. I'd sat in its cafeteria once, with a veteran from World War II who said I looked like Gary Cooper. We drank green tea beneath a Mitsubishi Zero attached to the ceiling

But no, I wandered left, towards Shinjuku san-chome, where I stood beneath a traffic light and watched its colored lights tint the swirling snow. Eventually I reached Mitsukoshi and the other department stores, each big enough to occupy an entire block. Further west, across from the station, the gaudy lights, billboards and neon of Kabukicho had become soft pastels. On small side streets, I passed darkened yakitori-yas, convenience stores and round red akachochins topped with snow and ice. The quiet. The cold. The feeling of being immensely alone. And lost. Lost, lost, lost. Delightfully so.

Flower garden. A French friend and I went drinking near here one night and he told me that the Chinese characters carved in the monument now before me mean Flower Garden. Hanazono Jinja. Hundreds of years ago, the Hanazono family built this shrine , one dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Inari, the god of the arts.

I walk forward, between two dull grey buildings. At the end of the passage, a torii; waiting like a strange goal post, or a letter from an alien alphabet. Tubular, wooden and orange, the torii is a relic from a ceremony of whispers. The people of Tokyo are warm in their beds and sleeping; I am in the cold and dreaming.

There is a stone basin for washing one's hands and rinsing one's mouth; the ice within it protected by lace made of wire mesh and snow. The ema, the small, thin wood plaques covered with neatly written hopes and wishes are bunched in rows, nooses connecting them to the display stand. The temple grounds are barely lit and surrounded by modernity.Then! The clouds part and—for an instant-- the sun rushes in like a spotlight. Below the dark blue snowy sky, golden light strikes the temple's black tortoise shell roof, the white frost on the pine trees, and the stone foxes standing guard. The fresh vermillion paint for Oshogatsu, the corridor of red toriis, the simplistic arabesques of gold trim, the precise and clean concrete stairs; the sun is behind me, throwing itself forward everywhere. The gigantic shrine vibrates like a massive, noble flame of Japanese architecture. The vividness of details, the vividness of the whole... Then--just a glimpse-- the full moon. Asahi! I stood alone in that quiet heaven of color until the threat of the freezing cold be ignored no longer. My feet and hands were paralyzed. I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought they'd be a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. At the top of the stairs, however, I saw that I was overlooking the two-story wooden shacks and alleys of Golden Gai. Somewhere in there was Shunchan's. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into that little white Japanese ghost town.   Golden Gai: one of those places that teen aged Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, gambling, rendezvous spots, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops, bars specializing in all kinds of music; all connected by very narrow walkways lit by red paper lanterns and old cheap plastic Suntory signs. I was sure Shunchan wouldn't be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most shop owners, but as though he were sharing an inside joke. It was 7AM, in a frozen and snowbound Tokyo, but Shunchan smiled at me like it was late on a Friday night after payday. Both serene and slightly nervous, Shunchan is the perfect host.  He stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with an ice pick while I thought about my order.

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No--but he was an anchor, a touchstone. Regular. I was a regular in Shunchan's bar; he and his little bar provided a regularity in a city full of extremes of many kinds. There was always always an interesting crowd. Whether they were Japanese, Russian or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren't that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the young woman in the bright orange dress.

The next section is here.

Writing Furikake (a short story from the Furikake book)

So... I wrote Furikake, a collection of short stories, in 2009. I did no publicity, saying that I would bite the bullet and expect no sales until I could publicize Furikake when I had completed eight other books. Furikake is on Amazon, where you can see the cover I created and called the "worst cover on Amazon". (It is now 2019; I changed the cover.)
terrible book covers

... ugliest cover on Amazon.

You see, regardless of your cover,unless you do publicity and marketing... Your. book. is. invisible... Here is a story from Furikake... WRITING FURIKAKE Dearest reader, Thank you for reading this. I do not know how this piece of writing found its way to you, but I hope it is worth your time. You are reading a piece called Writing Furikake. I will tell you right now that it is not very good. It is what I call “Saturday writing”. Saturday writing is the kind of writing that some unpublished writers force themselves to do on Saturdays or late on Sunday nights. Now, these frustrated writers can be very good and many are very good. However, when something is written out of a sense of obligation, the results are rarely memorable. So, why am I sharing this piece of poor, forced Saturday writing with you? The answer is easy: I need to pad my word count. OK, I actually am not a frustrated Saturday writer. It is now Wednesday, 2:11 a.m. and I really should start rewriting the condominium sales blurbs which are expected by nine. I would not be writing about furikake at this moment unless I had a furikake-related burning desire within my chest if. I do. Yes, I do have a furikake-related burning desire within my chest. I am serious. Almost as serious as a war zone. Being so deadly serious, I must inform you of a serious problem plaguing this book. I will also demonstrate the simple solution to this serious problem. However, the simple solution is not serious. As a few rough drafts of this book were completed, a problem became clear: the word ‘furikake’ is annoying when it is repeated. A page does not become a meditative mantra if it chants ‘furikake’ every six lines or so. ‘Furikake’, when used repeatedly does NOT become a hipsterish, postmodern amusement or a cute literary device. If “furikake” appears on a page more than once, its repetition overpowers the delicate sentiment and interplay of the other words, phrases and ideas. Unlike garlic or salt which can obviously dominate culinary creations (Holy guacamole! That’s way too salty!), the word ‘furikake’ almost creates an unpleasant sensation, its literary flavor somewhere between ‘French fries’ and ‘kelp’. On the page, ‘furikake’ is a leftover quiche that is “probably” OK to eat. This is sad, because furikake is a simple and marvelous thing to eat. Part of the problem is the rhythm of furikake; foo ree ka ke. In Japanese the ‘ke’ would be pronounced as’ kay, but is often mispronounced outside of Japan as ‘key’, just as sake is often mispronounced as’ sa key’, when the correct pronunciation is ‘sa kay’. Furikake: it could be a mob calling for the release of a political prisoner named Khaki. Free Khaki, Free Khaki, Free Khaki now! Or, it could be a give away for clothes: Free khaki jackets! Aisle three, while supplies last! But the above thoughts give the word ‘furikake -and the sounds used to pronounce it, more energy than they can handle. The eight letters and four syllables of furikake hint at ambition, but ultimately the word is uncomfortable in the spotlight. Furikake, is after all, a seasoning for rice, not a main course. To be fair, in Japanese the word works beautifully.' Furikake' is derived from the verb 'furikakeru', meaning 'to sprinkle over'. The sounds match the action; onomatopoeia, something the Japanese language often does wonderfully. But, in English the word just doesn’t work; the double hardness of the ‘k’ sounds at the end cancel the dreamy 'furi' part in the beginning. As promised: the solution. Easy. The solution is substitution. As you read, substitute another word or phrase whenever you see ‘furikake’. Some examples. Original text: As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform, awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. “They have furikake at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the furikake, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with furikake. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with furikake, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. Substitution example 1 As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. “They have organic goat butter at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the organic goat butter, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with organic goat butter. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with organic goat butter, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. Substitution example 2 As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away would soon arrive. I broke the silence. “They have hairless Chihuahuas at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the hairless Chihuahuas, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice, with our hairless Chihuahuas nearby. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with hairless Chihuahuas, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. The light of the train was no longer a dot. Soon the metal beast would roar into the station, blowing our hair like it does in the movies and she would take two steps away from me. Our years of joy and intimacy would be forever ended by the guillotine of the MRT sliding doors. She turned to me to utter the last words I would ever watch her lips make. Her eyes were wet with tears. “I hope,” she said, turning her head from mine to look in the direction of the train. “I hope,” she repeated, “that hairless Chihuahuas are cheaper there.” Perhaps now you see some of the difficulties writers face. When exercises such as the one above yield so many exciting possibilities, it is difficult to stay on track. The substitution exercise is an old favorite of mine, as it not only makes writers’ block disappear, it generates ideas galore. Some of these ideas, when pruned carefully, can yield sweet and wholesome literary fruits. However, temptation be damned! I have staked my literary life on ‘furikake’, a word as dynamic as furry slippers. Yes, dear reader, I am fully aware that, linguistically ‘furikake’ generates the enthusiasm of stale crackers, but I shall carry on as planned, against all odds. Viva la furikake!
photography as part of book cover design

the new cover, an image from the Furikake performance by Felix Metayer at Mom NatuRa's organic farm, where among other things, furikake is produced.

LINKS TO THE WONDER THAT IS FURIKAKE http://www.tastespotting.com/tag/furikake http://www.notey.com/@pepper_unofficial/external/7860755/make-your-own-furikake-with-everything-from-dried-fish-to-potato-chips.html http://setthetableblog.com/set-the-table-3/homemade-furikake

Mom Natura logo poll

So...in the course of doing this and doing that with Mom NatuRa, I was asked my opinion about a logo test... Thought it would be good to do a Facebook poll, but they seem to no longer be as easy to do as they once were....This was made with Opinion Stage... [socialpoll id="2345563"] And yes, if you are around Ubud on Sunday, stop by.
miso happy!

miso!

I Am a Muddy Path With No Banana Leaves

moms farn 009_edited white cloud ....I recently experienced a sunrise at Mom's Natura Farm in Bali. Mom and I are discussing a project that involves both her taken miso furikake and Furikake, my book of short stories. Furikake is the name given to the countless types of Japanese rice seasonings.Mom's Facebook page is here. Info on my latest book, Bali Wave Ghost, is here. GRRRRR ...WORDPRESS IS NOT DISPLAYING THE BUTTONS FOR THINGS LIKE LINKS AND ITALICS...GRRRR https://www.facebook.com/MomNatura/?fref=ts http://www.amazon.com/Furikake-stephen-black-ebook/dp/B002PAQAXE
Bali Wave Ghost: a short self interview
IMG_8611_edited cloud at dawn moms farn 026_muddy path I Am a Muddy Path With No Banana Leaves I drove to Mas in darkness. Mom welcomed me:"Six o'clock. You are on time. Like a Japanese." She gave me her husband's boots. My first task was to water "our plants". That was on Level 1. Later in the morning, Rachel watered Level 2 and Liisa looked for okra on Level 3. There's a teepee on the edge of Level 4. Mom was everywhere.Children from the school yelled "Hello" and "Good morning", their voices and enthusiasm strong enough to cross the big field between us. Later we could hear them singing Balinese songs. I used a sickle on the plants surrounding the wild peanuts and discovered okra blossoms. My boots leaked. As she walked in, as though she were laughing, Alex asked me how I was doing. moms farn 044_edited water web moms farn 018_edited Liisa Maija and Mom moms farn 004_edited Rachel walking moms farn 014_edited Rachel water We ate breakfast in Mom's bamboo house. Manny talked about food, air, water and McDonald's and we all discussed furikake, laphet and mimosa tea.Mom taught us that the katen in katen miso is derived from two characters that mean fire and iron."Katen" is also used to describe someone with strong, purposeful energy. Rachel mentioned something she'd read about how the visual appearance of food influences digestion.We ate papaya and okra salad and rice balls. Another topic: the ideal state of mind for those people who prepare food.IMG_8662_edited mom in kitchenIMG_8658_edited tea papaya onigiriIMG_8665_edited okra slad papaya The four hours I was at Mom's farm was a beautifully slow and flowing sequence of events, thoughts and exchanges. I drank no coffee.:) moms farn 033_edited Liisa Maija sun moms farn 048_edited tea in rattan woven spiral moms farn 025_tee pee moms farn 024_banana leaf trunk But my strongest impression was my experience with the muddy path task. The farm has a network of paths and some sections had become very slippery because of the rain. Mom told me to use old leaves and stalks from the banana plants as mats that would provide traction and improve safety. You don't want to fall with a large cutting instrument in your hands... I didn't plan; in such a cosmic place, everything would be naturally perfect. But I learned that my thinking was wrong. I should have gained information about: a) the number of banana leaves available, b) the number of trouble spots, c) the "danger rating" of trouble spots, d)"danger ratings" vs. frequency of use, e) location and f) time available to complete the task. I should have improved the most dangerous high-traffic sections first, starting with the steps between levels. Then, I should have used my limited amount of banana tree resources to prevent new trouble spots from developing.With whatever time was left, I should have put at least one leaf on all of the remaining areas, which would have warned others of danger. But as it is, many parts of the paths on the farm are still very slippery and one small area in Level 1 is very safe. moms farn 030_edited iron circle cropped moms farn 026_muddy path

Notes on Laphet Thoke or Pickled Tea Leaf Salad (1)

Notes for an upcoming presentation and a booklet about Myanmar's favorite snack food: laphet thoke.

pickled tea leaf salad

Myanmar's national dish and a very healthy snack.

Myanmar is the only country where tea leaves are eaten. Translated into English, 'laphet thoke' means 'pickled tea leaf salad'.

Uncooked,like a salad, laphet thoke starts with a foundation of fermented tea leaves,to which are added a variety of ingredients, such as tomatoes, garlic, peanuts,fried beans,small fish,cabbage, chickpeas and ginger.Oil is almost always used, the best considered to be sesame oil or peanut oil. Lemon or limes are also used.

It is said that laphet thoke was served as part of peacemaking negotiations. Though all parties shared a common dish, each individual could create a salad to suit their own tastes.

Caffeine! Laphet thoke is made from tea, and often used to help people stay awake.

I discovered laphet toke at some of the food shops in Singapore's Peninsula Plaza, which is often referred to as Little Myanmar. In January of 2016, Sayuri Okayama and I spent ten days in Yangon, primarily to research laphet thoke for a small booklet.

I enjoy laphet thoke because it has a great "mouth feel". It is not much to look at,but when chewed slowly, a beautiful experience occurs. Crunchiness, softness, bitterness,citrus tastes, earthy tastes, the sparks of garlic and chilies; all of these stimulate the mouth and tongue to create a something like a flavorful tea but with much more character. The aftertaste is like a mirage; almost like the sweetness of fresh water.

Laphet thoke + white rice= ecstasy

A recipe for laphet thoke...

Another recipe and a great introduction by S. H. Fernando Jr.

Richard Eilers, writing about laphet thoke for The Guardian

Laphet thoke Wikipedia

Lights! Camera! Food!

Hello!

This is a very brief introduction to my food photography. Please contact me if you have any questions. I am very interested in forming a long-term relationship with a restaurant or chef. I believe the internet offers many new possibilities that are more interesting than websites, Facebook, etc. To have an ongoing web project would not only showcase food and drink creations, but would be an artistic business project that would offer the viewers/customers both a perspective and a connection.

An experimental project about the Tippling Club, one of Singapore's most dynamic food and drink establishments. Note that the Tippling Club is now in a different location. Also, this was set up on Scribd which, unfortunately, no longer allows for a double page presentation.

Quark Powder.v Furikake,is not photographic, but a collection of short stories, all somehow related to food:

My food images have appeared in many magazines as well as in the following books: CoCo Alleno 101(Editions Glénat)

Secrets of Sushi

An elegant experiment, involving some three star chefs and very good writing....I feel, though that some of the digital images now lack punch because digital at that time was not what it is now.. The sushi shots, are on film...they are still jewels...

Omakase by cw

I would be thrilled to connect with a restaurant, hotel, chef or food artist who wants to make beautiful images and exciting digital projects!

Onward,

Stephen Black

A bit more, here on Behance.

Tables of Adventure, Woe and Joy

If you have followed even a small portion of the trail I have created on the internet, you will see that there are a number of detours and half-finished roads. Despite appearances, work is being done on all of them.   With this post I am jotting down notes about food, as an experience and as artwork. The most concrete example of my food/art projects is probably the thumb kway project which was the result of my involvement with the Open House project. Recently I have been rediscovering my past experiences with all types of food, reinterpreting them as algorithm-related data, settings for performance art and also as elements/influences upon my writing. Related: I Ate Tiong Bahru, Furikake, Lina Adams Food/Singaporean Performance Art History, Melvina Tan's  Jiak Muay Eventually I will add photos, links, a structure and more, but for now, the following is what it is... My Mom -A great cook. Christmas, carrot cake on my birthday (lemon glaze). The carrot cake article in Kurashi No Techo. Bill O'Reilly once mentioned my mom's lasagna on national television. My mom cooked for the sisters who lived in the convent near Regina Coeli School. My dad Oyster stew. Turtle soup. Buying Pinconning cheese on the way to up north. Ma Wilson's cured hams. Driving at sunset to the Moose Lodge for an all you can eat fish fry, driving back on very dark country roads, my brother and I in the back seat with very very full stomachs. Catching bluegills, bass and pike, my mom cooking them. My cousin Denny throwing pepper at me, got some in my eye. Gramma Black's pie made from bananas, Grampa Black: Raisin Bran for breakfast. I tried to make a cake once and added a cup of vinegar instead a cup of water. I worked at Pizza Inn. Doug, before he died telling me about one summer weekend we got a pizza to go from King Cole's or something like that. We both remembered the place, but couldn't  remember the name. He used to work at Ponderosa. Bob Hartman, the summer that Elvis Presley died. We caught salmon off the southern coast of Washington State, ate them hours later. I learned what Pinot Chardonnay was. Rochester NY,RIT Cafeteria food and then trying to experience the egg rolls of every Chinese restaurant in the city. Buffalo wings and PacMan. Toronto: Birthday cake, Iggy Pop and leaving Chinese food on the bus; something in oyster sauce. NYC Pizza slices. The Polish restaurant before Faculty Party played. The Ukraine restaurant. Cous cous at Carl's(?), eating with Arleen at the unexpected dinner with the Ecuadorean family that lived above the No Se No. Thanksgiving Party on the Bowery, driving back to Brooklyn in Ben's classic Volvo after Indian food on 5th street: the Brooklyn Bridge with Frank Sinatra playing. The meals cooked in the basement of a flat on the Lower east Side and running out at midnight to get Haagen Daasz,Paella and canolis. The Spanish food artist. Eating and cooking spaghetti with a friend in the last stages of life with AIDS. He had introduced me to Japanese food and the magic of clear soup. Tokyo Revolving sushi counters.The coffee shop in the middle of pine trees and rice fields that sheltered us and our bicycles from a thunderstorm so big and dense it turned the afternoon into night. Selfies taken with flash and film,the ice sculptures they made behind the Hilton in Shinjuku, nearly every meal a visual composition. The feasts of food, sake and good company at Miagawas. The food experiences in Miharu and Fukushima... The cooking culture of Obama, Japan. Tsukiji market with the three star sushi chef, fugu with the 3 star French chef, takoyaki with my daughter and running out to buy her yakimoo when she should have been sleeping... Paris Berlin: the musician taking us to the gas station that became a restaurant. Munich. Frim Price Koelling, talking about art and our time in Seoul at the Olympics and Trio and movies with optimistic themes; the perfection of imperfection. Hong Kong Too much Peking duck, discovering a char siew fan place that impressed even my mainland Chinese friends. The little place near Hollywood Road where I would eat breakfast nearly every day. Brunei... the colorful cosmos of jungle fruits in the market, noodles with Masui-san at the water village Sevilla. Dinner at the El Bulli hacienda; "the best breakfast in the world" Achatz Handmade Pies! Joe and Burmese food, la phet, Peninsula Plaza Bali: La Bruschetta and barbecued baby pig, the variety of vegetarian restaurants and the Warung Java across the street Documentations Tippling Club, Secrets of Sushi by Kazuko and Chihiro Masui      

Furikake (the most unattractive cover on Amazon)

furikake Nine short stories, all somehow related to the Japanese rice seasonings called furikake. The location for most of these stories is Singapore. A five-star Amazon review appears after the excerpts.  

an excerpt from Yumoto near Clementi

The couple across the room speak harsh Japanese,constantly repeating the word “Singapore”. I reluctantly translate their grumblings. Another flask arrives with a pair of grilled onigiri rice balls. The couple’s words fade away and they leave.

You tell a low stress story from your office, I tell a low stress story from mine. So and so broke up with so and so. I mention my blog and you tell me about the gym. Pleasant bla bla bla.

What do you want to do tomorrow? “

Ideas float across the table.

We could see a movie.” A perfect answer, one requiring no immediate serious thought or action. Steam swirls over my tea.

I tap a small cloud towards you. “Yes we could. I’ll get a paper in the morning.”

Your cloud floats back. The fluorescent light reflects in my tea like a small sun on a pale green sea.

Or we could finally check out the reservoir? Maybe Labrador Park and then the Korean place? It won’t be crowded on a Sunday…” These are also good ideas: everything is near and no tickets need to be bought, no phone calls need to be made. We can decide tomorrow and easily drift through the day.

Or if it rains, we could just stay in. I brought a book.”

Your face is neutral, beautiful, seductive, innocent, absentminded and focused all at once. You move the chopsticks away from your lips and pull your hair back, revealing part of your neck. “I guess we’ll just see what happens.”

I repeat your words slowly: “Yeah, I guess we’ll just see what happens.”

I walk over and pay the bill, which is neatly itemized in English. I show it to you. You smile and smile again at the waitress, who beams and bows. On the bill is a cute sketch of the two of us. Above us it says ‘thank you.’ Below us it says ‘Come again’.

We step outside of Yumoto, reaching for each other’s hands beneath the red paper lantern.

A dusty clump of inkstick bamboo is just in front of the parking lot. “Ah… something else that is uniquely Singaporean”. I gently tug you towards the plants and point to the red and green stalks, vibrant even beneath the dust.

Another thing? What’s the other? We had Japanese food.”

You. You are unique, you are Singaporean. But you’re certainly not a thing. I wish I could think of something clever to say, to better describe how magical you are.’

You put a finger to my lips to stop the flow of my terribly clumsy words. We kiss quickly for a long time.

...the rest of Yumoto near Clementi and other stories are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Furikake-stephen-black-ebook/dp/B002PAQAXE

an excerpt from Writing Furikake

The eight letters and four syllables of furikake hint at ambition, but ultimately the word is uncomfortable in the spotlight. Furikake, is after all, a seasoning for rice, not a main course.

To be fair, in Japanese the word works beautifully. Furikake is derived from furikakeru, meaning to sprinkle over. The sounds match the action; onomatopoeia, something the Japanese language does wonderfully. But, in English the word just doesn’t work; the double hardness of the ‘k’ sounds at the end cancel the dreamy furi part in the beginning.

As promised: the solution. Easy. The solution is substitution. As you read, substitute another word or phrase whenever you see ‘furikake’. Below are some examples.

Original text:

As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform, awkward, unhappy and silent.

Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence.

They have furikake at the supermarket in Jurong East.”

This could have been a code. She had always bought the furikake, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with furikake.

But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with furikake, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie.

Substitution example 1

As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. They have organic goat butter at the supermarket in Jurong East.”

This could have been a code. She had had always bought the organic goat butter, from a store by heroffice near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with organic goat butter.

But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with organic goat butter, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie.

Substitution example 2

As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away would soon arrive.I broke the silence.

They have hairless Chihuahuas at the supermarket in Jurong East.”

This could have been a code.  

...the rest of Writing Furikake and other stories are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Furikake-stephen-black-ebook/dp/B002PAQAXE

excerpt from Variety is the Spice of Life 

Voice 1 (from recorded source)

But where is F Ryu Hontoni, the Master Chef and leader of the Church of Furikake?

R. Ryu Hontoni

Lady I’m here, here in a hotel room somewhere in Bangkok with Rod Driver, man of mystery! What do you want Rod? You can tell me. Help with your career? You wanna be a movie star? You said you were from Dayton, just like me. We can talk. You went to Notre Dame all boys’ school. Me too. What a coincidence.  What year did you graduate? We’ve got a lot in common. We’re average guys...

AITT ( 6.9 seconds)

Rod Driver

Her diet is not properly planned. She is certain to have problems with reality until her diet is properly planned.

R. Ryu Hontoni

Or, maybe Rod, you want to save the world through Furikaki? I can make you a Gohan Level 10 -the first

one ever. No, better-you become Master Chef and I become Mentor Master Chef! That’s it! Rod Driver, I do hereby state to the universal raw ingredients that you, Rod Driver, have influenced the leaders of the world with your commitment to furikake. Not only your words, but your actions have provided nourishment to over 1 billion starving other bodies on this, the Vegetable Planet. In recognition of these facts, I now declare you to be the Master Chef of the Church of Furikake.

AITT6.9 seconds

R. Ryu Hontoni

I’ll give you a holy relic. Where’s an ashtray?

...the rest of Variety is the Spice of Life and other stories are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Furikake-stephen-black-ebook/dp/B002PAQAXE

an excerpt from Furikake and Rojak

The Guinness is nice and I eat happily. Writing becomes unimportant except for two quick notes to myself: 1. ‘rojak’ is the Malay word for mixture and 2. Indian rojak is very different from the fruity Singapore style.

I think of rice with furikake and its relationship with rojak. They share no ingredients except sesame and maybe shrimp. One is subtle, the other dances and slaps the tongue. They both involve the action of sprinkling. Rice with furikake is zen, rojak is rojak.

Both are healthy foods, loaded with vitamins and nutrition. What if they interacted? Rojak with seaweed, rojak with dried bonito? Fresh warm rice covered with a thin layer of rojak sprinkled with a dash of furikake? I am sure an inspired chef could make a hybrid of the two…Furirojak? Doesn’t sound too good. Rojikake?

Hmm… maybe. The important thing is an open mind… and perhaps the best way to open one’s mind is to first open one’s mouth.

...the rest of Furikake and Rojak and other stories are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Furikake-stephen-black-ebook/dp/B002PAQAXE

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Five star review by Branoalcollo
Format:Kindle Edition
"Tourists don't know where they've been, travellers don't know where they're going"
Paul Theroux Furikake is a book inspired by a mixture of spices, a dry Japanese condiment meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. Nine tales set in the Far East, mainly Singapore, linked by a different declination of furikake, like a recipe book full of savoury ingredients. Apart from some blank pages every now and then, due to the file conversion into a Kindle format, this is a truly enjoyable reading, between a memoir and a travel diary in which one can easily recognize fragments of oneself. There's a recurring theme, the literary device of a story within a story; excerpts in form of well-thumbed photocopies of Paul Theroux's The Happy Isles of Oceania offer a refreshing, creative view on the narrator's fictional life. Perspective and lack of perspective become key elements, the past is constantly reinterpreted in order to form an ever changing frame. The tales compose a very intense narrative, sometimes humorous (Writing Furikake, Furikake on Facebook), others nostalgic (Puccini liked it on ham, Who will bite my head) or euphoric (Variety is the spice of life); in any case a human comedy that won't leave you indifferent.
  To better understand Furikake's  unattractive cover, see page 11 here.