Friday, November 12, 2010

Anime at its Absolute Best

When you were a child did you ever watch something that was beyond your years? Something that you couldn't yet understand or analyze but that somehow resonated in your memory even years later? Often when I've tracked these bits of the past down as an adult- a scene in a movie, a cartoon, etc, I find that I can no longer find the significance that my child mind attached to them, that I can only relive their power by remembering who I was and what I felt at the time that I first saw them. But there are those others that prove to be even greater treasures when they are finally recovered, and the magnificence that you only saw hints of in the past can finally be fully realized and comprehended. Its an odd sort of consummation between the pure experience of the child and the intellect of the adult.

Within the past year, thanks to netflix and youtube, I have been lucky enough to find two of these half remembered experiences that have haunted me for some time. I'd like to share them with you now, simply in the hope that you might appreciate them as much as I have.

Both are anime shorts. The first aired as part of MTV's Liquid Television program in the 1990's. Its director, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, went on to make such cult classic films as Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust. But I would argue that none of his later work can touch this early short.

The second piece was part of a trio of shorts produced by the great Katsuhiro Otomo (director of Akira and Steamboy). This short was directed by Koji Morimoto, who later contributed to The Animatrix. I think I saw it when it aired on the scifi channel...back then they actually had good programming and showed alot of obscure anime on the weekends.

Enjoy and please dont blame my mother for letting a kid watch such heavy content, she had no idea what I was up to. ;-)

Here is part 1&2 of Running Man

I've included parts 1&2 of Magnetic Rose, you can go directly to youtube for the other 3 parts (I promise its worth the effort!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Just one of those lovely bits of syncronicity that we stumble upon now and then.

Fast forward to time stamp 3:44 and watch until 4:13

Now watch this entire scene from Nagisa Oshima's 1999 film Gohatto (Taboo)

Maybe Carl Jung was right....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Taking back Oatmeal: Steel-cut oats with pumpkin

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up the only oatmeal I had ever experienced was the kind that came in a little paper packet and cooked up in a few minutes flat. Convenient as hell yes, but about as gloppy and spiritless as wallpaper paste in execution. Only generous additions of brown sugar and cream could induce me to eat this gluey mess, and when I grew up and learned to cook 'proper breakfasts', I happily removed oatmeal from my table. I felt justified in this decision, superior even, for I perceived oatmeal as a standard-american-diet peasant food; an easy but tasteless mound of sticky carbs, with little redeeming value beyond its ability to quickly fill up a hungry stomach.

But oh how benighted I was! I had no idea that instant oatmeal, and its slightly more respectable cousin, flaked or rolled oats, were but the tip of the breakfast iceberg. I had yet to learn about that which every self respecting British isles dweller has known intimately since birth: steel-cut oats.

In case you have never succumbed to curiosity and picked up one of those lovely tins of John McCann oats at Trader Joes, or poked into the bulk bins at a coop; steel cut oats (also known as Pinhead Oats, Irish Oats, or Coarse-cut Oats) are whole-grain goats (the inner portion of the oat kernel ) which have been cut into pieces by steel rather than rolled. In other words, they are minimally processed. They take a bit longer to cook because of this (about 15-20min longer), but the result is a chewy, nutty delectable porridge that bears little resemblance to what I ate as a child. Steel cut oats also have a lower glycemic index than instant oatmeal, which can be a boon for those of us that have difficulty controlling our blood sugar levels.

The extra cooking time is worth it, but if you want to save yourself some labor you can soak the oats overnight in warm water. This will greatly decrease the cooking time and will also neutralize most of the phytic acid that the whole grains contain. Phytic acid is an organic acid found in the outer layer or bran of grains which many nutritionists caution can combine with minerals in the intestinal tract and inhibit their absorption. Thus, eating large amounts of untreated whole grains can lead to mineral deficiencies and bone loss. However, some sources suggest that phytic acid also binds to heavy metals and thus could have an antioxidant or detoxifying effect on the body.

It sounds to me like yet another case of moderation being the best tactic. Untreated grains are fine now and then, but if you have a diet that is very high in whole grains, you might want to think about putting the extra effort into preparing them properly for at least the majority of the time. For more information on the practice and benefits of soaking grains, check out this link or this

Anyway I digress as usual, you probably want to hear about the recipe portion of this posting, not continue to listen to my musings.

For a tasty breakfast for two you will need 1 cup of steel-cut oats*, 2 1/2 cups of water, and a 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used the fresh puree that I had leftover from when I made my pumpkin pie- yay recycling!).

Bring the water to a boil and add the oats. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook until the oats are al dente but not overly chewy-about 20min. Add the pumpkin (and whatever spices you might like) a few minutes before the oats are done.

Season with brown or musovado sugar and cream, and voila- peasant food fit for a king!

* If you wish to soak your oats the night before, add one cup oats to 1 1/2 cups of warm filtered water and 2 tbs of lemon juice or whey. Cover, place in a warm place, and let sit for at least 7hrs. The next morning, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add the water/oat slurry. This will only take about 10-15min to cook.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How to kick the can: Making Pumpkin Pie from scratch

Halloween is over and all of the jack-o-lanterns are moldering (In my neighborhood they are also being devoured by giant slugs). It amuses me that most of us have had intimate knowledge of the innards of a pumpkin at one time or another, that we are quite comfortable vivissecting these symbols of autumn for halloween, or eating them in a pie at thanksgiving, and yet very few of us (myself included) have ever followed one all the way from its natural state to the dinner table. I have cooked pumpkin in various incarnations over the years but that main ingredient always came from a can-even when its jack-o-lantern brother was staring me right in the face nearby! Its not that I never made the connection, it just always seemed like too much work and afterall, the ingredients on the can just say "pumpkin", there are no additives to be frightened of, its pretty damn close to scratch right?

Well...those of you that are interested in nutrition might be surprised to learn that because of the high heat, etc required by industrial canning processes, the food being preserved is in danger of being denatured. In other words canned foods can have significantly less of the vitamins and enzymes that we require. Pumpkin and other squashes are a wonderful source of carotenes, which the body uses to produce vitamin A, but when they are eaten in processed form, you may not be getting the full dose that you expect. So due to this, and the fact that I wanted to finally be able to say that I had cooked the elusive from-scratch pumpkin pie, I ditched the can and bought myself a sugar pumpkin.

* Fun pumpkin fact: Pumpkins are believed to have originated in the Americas and seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 BC.

The type of pumpkins that we love to carve are mostly unsuitable for cooking. They are bred for the quality of their shells, not their flesh, and they can be rather stringy and dull in flavor. Sugar pumpkins are smaller, deeper in color, and contain a much larger amount of flesh in proportion to their shells. They are also extremely easy to peel and, as I soon found, relatively easy to prepare.

Cut off the top and bottom of your pumpkin and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and peel with a vegetable peeler.

Cut the pumpkin into 2in chunks and place in a steamer basket over 2in of boiling water. Cover and steam for 15min.

Let the pumpkin cool and then puree in a food processor or blender. The result was just as smooth as the canned version but significantly brighter in color. The pumpkin I used made about 2 and 1/2 cups of puree.

From what I have read, culinary historians have discovered recipes for pumpkin pie dating back as far as the middle ages. Now days you can find a simple recipe on the back on any can of pumpkin, but since I was kicking the can, I decided to adapt Sally Fallon's recipe from her book Nourishing Traditions. This recipe omits several processes ingredients that I have been trying to avoid such as condensed milk and large amounts of refined sugar.

1 batch pate brisee
2 Cups pumpkin puree
3 pastured eggs
3/4 cup Turbinado sugar
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Cup sour cream or creme fraiche (I used Zoe's organic cultured sour cream)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a 9-inch pan with pate brisee and pinch edge to make a border. Cream eggs with sugar and gradually blend in other ingredients. Pour into pie shell and bake for 35-45min.