May 30, 2012

eating and drinking a large bouquet of small flowers...

It all started a year ago.

Or perhaps two years ago, when I got a bunch of fresh chamomile and played around with it, making fresh chamomile tea and some sweets. I had great fun doing it, and I wanted to do it again last year so tried to get my hand on some fresh chamomile... unsuccessfully. This being deep in the countryside where you'd find a lot of herbs and stuff, I didn't expect it to be so difficult to find it, but clearly I was wrong. Or perhaps I was a little too late in the season to find the fresh flower (it was early June).

In any way, my attempt to hunt down fresh chamomile ended in vein, and I was left feeling disappointed - even more so when my mom told me someone she knows happened to have chamomile bush at the corner of their vegetable patch. This, coming after we'd run around the places to get some, was a bit of unfortunate news in a way. The good news was, we now knew exactly who to turn to next time the flowers come to bloom.

And so it happened early last week: "they are in bloom", the said friend of my mom's notified us, so we headed their way, very excited (mostly me).
And there we were, treated to some gorgeous chamomile bush - and we left with a large bunch of flowers with us.

I mean, a huge bunch.
Large enough to satisfy my two years' worth of craving for fresh chamomile. I was so happy I could dance!

Back home, I put most of them in the water.
Ideally, I should have used them for whatever I wanted to use them for straight away, but I didn't have time for that that day. (More ideally, I really should have a healthy bunch of chamomile growing in our yard and pick the flowers as I need. Will need to work on it.)

But I did make myself a cup of chamomile tea first thing, and got instantly reminded of why I loved fresh chamomile so much... clean and sweet, light and soothing.
I enjoy plain chamomile infusion a lot, but I also like to pop a few flowers in my cup of green tea (sencha) as well. And as I mentioned before, I do love chamomile tea made with milk, too, with or without a bit of honey added to it.

And well, those things pictured alongside the tea?

May 12, 2012

a not-so-special cake with a special place in my heart...

I made a cake.
Not a special cake in many ways, but a very special one for many of us here.

Today you can find a huge variety of fine, exquisite patisserie in Japan, but it wasn't always like that. When I was little, cakes in general were mostly a special-day thing. A treat. They were something you'd get for an occasion, such as birthday or Christmas. There would be a decent array of cakes for you to choose from, but the one that was the most common was strawberry shortcake, which you'd find virtually every cake shop in the country.

When I say "strawberry shortcake", many of you may probably think of the kind that consists of biscuit-like thing, served with fresh strawberries whipped cream. And I enjoy it myself, yet the strawberry shortcake for us Japanese in general is actually a layer cake - often large, round sponge filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.