Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Pizza with arugula, chanterelles and oyster mushrooms

Whatever is affecting my sleeping pattern and energy level bit me hard last night. Fortunately I had a light workload, so I decided to do some cleaning at home, which I’ve neglected a lot since I moved to my current apartment, so there’s always something out of order.

I’m in a bit of a comfort food mode recently, but tonight I balanced my need for something comforting (lentil vegetable soup with some tarragon) with something a little more drama. The mushroom season is in full swing, so I got a few chanterelles again, and some oyster mushrooms, which I briefly sweated with a hint of thyme and a dash of salt in olive oil. I didn’t feel like making any sort of sauce or pesto, so I just rubbed garlic and olive oil on my pizza dough, added a bit of mozzarella and parmesan, and baked the pie with the mushrooms. Upon finishing, I sprinkled some arugula on top.

Pizza with mushrooms and arugula

 

Insanity, sado, comfort food

I don’t know how I got so busy today, but a huge number of Internet orders came in last night, and I also had to rush off an order to a special event on the East Coast. A company picked up my green tea white chocolate enrobed fortune cookies (made with matcha) for a film premiere.

It didn’t help that I had a bit of an office supply shortage. Yesterday I ran out of ordinary paper and started printing invoices and shipping labels on bright yellow paper. This meant that at some point today I also needed to make a trip to get more paper.

After making my final dropoff, I met up with a friend who is attending classes with Urasenke Seattle, and I played the role of clueless guest at one of their Thursday night classes. In Japan I usually consumed matcha in tea shops, not tea ceremony, so I have a lot to learn even just to be a properly dignified guest. Fortunately, the instructors are both patient and informative. Since I had a fresh batch of cookies, I left some behind for other people to enjoy.

Of course, I got home quite late, and dinner was ready around 9:30 pm. I was in the mood for comfort food, though I suppose something Spanish would have been appropriate considering the hour.

I made a quick macaroni and cheese, using pennette instead of elbow macaroni, and topped with buttered panko. I snuck a little bit of wasabi in there because I was out of regular horseradish.

Mac & cheese out of the oven

Mac & cheese plated

Kabocha curry with atsuage

I am not a big fan of Japanese-style curries. They usually aren’t vegetarian, anyway, since they are usually made with beef fat and bits of various animals, and the “vegetable” curries are usually some unmemorable hodgepodge. In a pinch, though, I’ve been known to take the vegetable curry when handed a hotel food voucher, or when lacking other options at some roadside “service area” along the highway in Japan. My preference at such places is just to get a snack like O-yaki or some taiyaki or dango.

I was trying to make use of ingredients that were on hand tonight, and my initial impulse was to make some kind of squash soup, and then I was at a loss on what to do with a bunch of fried tofu (atsuage) I got on the weekend.

Finally, I decided to make some sort of spicy vegetable dish, and I used a base of ghee, garam masala, some cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cloves, a little amchur powder, mustard seeds, fresh chillies, and possibly some other spices… I sauteed onions and created a roux, which I usually do not do when making Indian style dishes. This turns the dish into a more Japanese-style curry; roux is really the defining feature.

I added raw ginger and some liquid, brought the sauce to a boil to thicken, and simmered kabocha and atsuage until the kabocha was soft. I had to adjust salt and seasoning a bit. I guess it was moderately comforting, but not very exciting for me.

Kabocha tofu curry

Lining up things, figuring out balance

I’m trying to juggle the various competing pressures of my work and I’ve realized my wholesale sales efforts have been inadequate of late, so I’m trying to make sure I spend a bit more time each day focusing on developing new accounts.

Most of my larger existing customers have been seeing good sales results and have been increasing their order amounts, but I need a more substantial client base to get to a level of survival. I’m getting better at what I’m doing, and a fair amount of growth in my sales brokerage end has made me more optimistic, but my available resources are still getting smaller.

I’ve been thinking about doing some side work to help increase my survival chances. But I need to do build up my business at the same time, because my goal isn’t to work for someone else; I want to make my concept work.

I’m not sure how much I’ve said about it on my blog, but one of my objectives as I started plotting my Microsoft exit strategy was to build a restaurant project. I did the math on that and decided it wasn’t going to be the right time for me when I decided I needed to move on from Microsoft, but I did think that doing some work in a restaurant work as I was building my import business would have been valuable experience to work toward that.

So I’ve long considered doing side work, I’ve been kind of torn between the idea of doing some potentially more lucrative but very intellectually draining short term software gigs, and the idea of doing some for me more interesting, but certainly not particularly well-paying, work in restaurants. I do look rather strange when I show my resume to most restaurants, though, so most don’t know what to make of me.

But actually, my first priority should be to generate new wholesale accounts, and my second priority should be to build up my internet sales levels. The jump from where I am now to where I need to be to assure basic survival isn’t that far out of reach.

I’m really happy to have been able to have built the audience I have so far. I think people are really starting to respond to my work to expose people to contemporary Asian style. But like a lot of people who start businesses, I surely underestimated what I needed to start with to get from nowhere to somewhere.

Stupidly overstuffed

It’s not been my habit to overeat for the last few years… I tend to indulge in things that, if eaten in excess, are not terribly healthy, but tonight, in spite of not feeling terribly hungry, I managed to eat a little bit more than I would normally consider natural when dining at Bamiyan in Gilman Village. We stayed firmly in the Afghan side of their dual Afghan/Persian menu, and the food was mostly quite well executed and tasty, but the portions were unnaturally large and we ordered too much for three and a half diners.

I kept eating, even though I wasn’t really hungry.

It’s not really my style. I tend to like eating more modest portions of things… six bites or so and I start to become bored of a dish, generally speaking, and would like to move on to something else.

Maybe it’s just stress or nerves, but I just kept nibbling. The food was, after all, still in front of me.

The primary impetus for this adventure was to see Once On This Island, a beautifully staged contemporary musical at the Village Theatre on Front Street in Issaquah, for which a friend of mine was running audio.

I overspent. This isn’t a good time to be self-indulgent. I think my entertainment budget for the next 4 weeks has been busted with today’s and yesterday’s excitement.

Maybe I need to be doing some more sales work…

Somehow I managed to work relatively efficiently

This afternoon I processed all of my internet orders without too much chaos or distraction, which was a bit surprising, since I often run around a bit. I noticed today that I missed delivery of a bunch of cardboard boxes and packing materials, which probably came yesterday when I was busy debugging SQL code.

Before noon and actually again in the evening, I met up with some other folks who participate in eGullet and Mouthfuls, which are food-focused community sites. It was nice to see some faces associated previously only with online personas. I also got to try Zigzag, is below the Pike Place Market near Procopio Gelato. They have a lot of interesting signature cocktails. I think Sambar remains my favorite drink spot in town, but the peach bitters-enhanced “Trident” was very nice.

This weekend my demo schedule is a little lighter, so I’m going to try to take advantage of that. I am dropping in to a matcha class at Blue Dog in U-District tomorrow, and Sunday I’ll be at Uwajimaya in Bellevue.

Sleep is not my strong point, but I can make potatoes

I’ve really not been getting enough sleep recently… it’s impacting my work a bit. I sent off a bunch of internet orders in record time this afternoon, but I had a hard time doing everything else I had planned for the day.

After shipping everything I wanted to go to the Isamu Noguchi exhibit at SAM. It’s the last chance for me, since the show closes around September 5. It should have taken 10–15 minutes to get down there from Ballard, but some stalled truck awaiting a tow and an unrelated SUV-Taxi collision turned the Queen Anne leg of my trip into a crawl. I think it took me about 40 minutes from the Ballard post office to the time I parked my car downtown.

I got home later than I expected… remembering I was out of everything vaguely vegetable-like except some salad greens, I wanted to get a few more items. Among other things, I got a decent, heirloom tomato, which I devoured before I had a chance to photograph it; it was surprisingly lacking in seeds and water; very fleshy. I squeezed a little lime juice and pico di gallo seasoning (salt, chilies, cumin, I think). I had a little mixed greens salad with my usual dressing but with a handful of roasted pepitas.

While I ate the greens and tomatoes, I roasted some slices of potatoes, which in this case are seasoned with the same pico di gallo seasoning and a little extra salt; I topped with bits of raclette cheese just a few minutes before I finished baking, and ground some pepper on the potatoes just after they came out of the oven.

Raclette potatoes with pico di gallo chili seasoning

 

Matcha flan

I’m off in demoland this weekend, as usual. I can already see my Monday will be full based on incoming internet orders, but I’ll try to take care of them quickly.

I was hoping to make this nice matcha flan in time for Sugar High Friday, but alas, I didn’t get started on it until Friday night, and it didn’t have enough time to set before it was way past a reasonable hour to be serving sweets. So it turned out to be a very indulgent breakfast, and aside from a brief mention yesterday on my blog, mostly theoretical. But you can see the other participants on Simply Recipes. (Edited 19 September 2005: Note: Elise was kind enough to include my belated entry in the list in spite of my tardiness).

When I made the matcha flan, I used about a cup each of cream and milk, about 4 egg yolks, maybe 1/3 cup of sugar, a tiny bit of vanilla, and 2 slightly heaping teaspoons of matcha for cooking. I chose to oven-bake this flan, which may explain the slighly odd-looking texture, compared to a steamed one, but it did taste fairly creamy.

I served it with some tsubu-an, which is simply sweetened smashed red beans, and a little powdered sencha.

Matcha Flan

 

Okonomiyaki

In spite of occasional binges cooking okonomiyaki, I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to photograph the results.

I have two or three variations of vegetarian okonomiyaki that I cycle through… Later this fall, I’ll probably start making some with kabocha, and I sometimes like to make it with kimchi and cheese. I probably should have done something with corn this summer, but I only started to think of making okonomiyaki when I saw a great deal on nagaimo recently… it was $3/lb, instead of the usual $6–9.

In this case, I’ve made a mochi cheese okonomiyaki, with a healthy dose of grated nagaimo, kizami shouga, and tenkasu. The mochi I purchased frozen, so they aren’t quite as dry as the kirimochi that are sold vacuum-sealed; they required no special consideration except for a few minutes of thawing before being cut into small pieces.

Tenkasu are small fried balls of tempura batter, which were originally merely side effects of deep-frying foods but now are produced as a carefully manufactured, predictable product. They add a little crunch to okonomiyaki, but the texture disappears quickly since okonomiyaki takes about 10–15 minutes to cook and steam will often soften much of the tenkasu.

Okonomiyaki

In the last minute or so of cooking, I add Japanese-style mayonnaise, okonomi sauce, and some aonori (unseasoned gren nori flakes).

I did do some actual work today and met with a whole bunch of people, most of which were productive, though nothing I can quite reveal yet. I was running around but not really overwhelmed.

Sullen

The day started out rainy, which wouldn’t ordinarily be shocking in Seattle, but it made me less excited about doing all of the things that I really needed to do this morning. I went to my office to prepare some things for today’s grocery store demo, and I did these things quickly, but rather than rush off and be a happy demo guy, I directed my attention to preparing web orders for shipping, even though none of them can ship until Monday.

I made it to my demo, a little behind my original planned timeframe, and it went as well as usual, I think. My mind wasn’t quite on task, but things mostly worked out.

When I got home I got very frustrated about something personal and I lost all of my energy. I ate some cake I made late last night, and even the sugar didn’t create the usual rush of endorphines. I just felt hopeless.  I got doubly irritated when I tried to fight with my freezer, putting in uncooperative ice packs that I used to keep milk and candy cold for store demos, and watching them fall out, or finding out that something in the freezer shifted and kept the door from closing. I must have looked a mess when I went to run a quick work-related errand, and I am probably in worse shape now. When I got home, someone parked in my parking space, and I was so irritated I blocked them in. I’m in a mood not much different than when I felt some slight, real or imagined, from my parents when I was a moody teenager. It often took a few days or weeks to recover.

I hope I’m not that bad as an adult. It will ruin me.

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