Friday, October 8, 2010

Tofu No Hi (Tofu Day) - Japan

Happy Tofu No Hi! The Japanese love for Tofu is so great that they gave it it's own holiday. Every October 8th Tofu is celebrated! 

Tofu is SO popular in Japan that it has it's own following, the Japan Tofu Association as well as hundreds of merchandise items, anime characters, costumes and more!

The making and ingestion of tofu in Japan is a revered tradition. Tofu, imported from China, has been part of monastery life in Japan for more than 1,000 years. It is an exalted food that could be compared to the Catholic Communion wafer.

 Tofu originated in ancient China although little else is known about the exact historic origins of tofu and its method of production. While there are many theories regarding tofu's origins, historical information is scarce enough as to relegate the status of most theories to either speculation or legend. Like the origins of cheese and butter, the exact origin of tofu production may never be known or proven.

 What is known is that tofu production is an ancient technique. Tofu was widely consumed in ancient China, and techniques for its production and preparation were eventually spread to many other parts of Asia.

 A delegation studying Buddhism in China brought tofu back to Japan, where it was eaten exclusively by the upper classes and clergy for almost 500 years. The ancient method of requiring dried soy beans to be mashed by hand was too labor-intensive
for most households.
 It's no wonder the masses took to tofu - it is a most nutritious food, packed with protein, minerals in addition to being low in calories and cholesterol.
 Places specializing in tofu dishes make it fresh with artisans starting early in the morning to soak, ground, strain, boil, curdle, press, cool and package the soybeans. Some tofu masters are exceptionally gentle with how they make tofu – creating special salt rooms for their tofu-making processes. The humidity, salt and hemp bindings are carefully calibrated to produce divine tofu.

Tofu comes in a wide variety of forms and its production has been at the heart of Japanese culture. 

 In Kyoto, you can eat a restaurant that has existed for 400 years – Okutan – where guests are invited to dine in a calm, garden setting.

 Tofu makers are also careful to cultivate their product using beans from unpolluted areas of Japan and making sure they are picked as late as possible.

In Kyoto, tofu is a delicate handmade food, produced every morning in small shops and large industrial kitchens throughout the country. Each region makes its own styles of tofu, but Kyoto is to tofu what Naples is to pizza, New York to bagels. The Kyoto variety—perfected over centuries by Buddhist monks, in imperial kitchens, and in neighborhood shops like this one—is the accepted standard; it is regarded as the best in Japan and thus the world. 

 So, Happy Tofu No Hi!

And don't forget to eat your curds!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Greatest Gruesome Toys

Just in time for Halloween! My first toy installment, yes, the gory, the gruesome, the gross and the flat out bizarre. Found some of these while perusing some of my crazy toy books and I thought I'd share.

Love the roadkill toys. Nothing says fun like a pile of guts! You'd think this might be geared more towards adults but the smiling child's face on the label says it all. Classic.

Pranksters who crave truly original tricks will be pleased with this ‘Baby in a Microwave’ toy. Now when you find yourself bored at home you can spend hours of endless enjoyment with your very own microwaved baby! 

 This grotesque toy depicting an impaled woman is possibly intended for fans of tentacle-related manga. Failing that, these toys are probably traps intended to pinpoint the Patrick Bateman types of the world.

This toy, consisting of several dismembered body parts, caters to the folks who dream about creating their own zombie toy. Collect all 11 pieces today!

One of my favorites, possibly the oldest bizarre toys I've ever come across, and of course it's Japanese.In the 18th and 19th centuries, sideshow carnivals known as misemono were a popular form of entertainment for the sophisticated residents of Ed. The sideshows featured a myriad of educational and entertaining attractions designed to evoke a sense of wonder and satisfy a deep curiosity for the mysteries of life. One popular attraction was the pregnant doll. Although it is commonly believed that these dolls were created primarily to teach midwives how to deliver babies, evidence suggests they were also used for entertainment purposes.

Playmobil makes little figurines in the shape of hundreds of different professions, but only the Hazmat disposal crew provides children with the stark reminder that mankind's excesses will eventually doom us all.

 These dolls from Russia quite clearly have both male genitalia and the long flowing hair typically associated with females. Talk about sexual identity crisis! 

This Michael Jackson Doll is terrifying.  Picture yourself in a dark room, the only light a dim glow from the window.  Scary Michael Jackson is sitting in a rocking chair, staring at you.

Edible animal toys. Okay, so they're not so scary.  But they are bizarre.  While only the cow is pictured, there are many different animals available including monkeys, fish, and bears.  And each one comes with insanely detailed instructions concerning which cut of flesh you are eating.

 Apparently in Japan there’s a common desire to train your children to take razor blades to toddlers and newborns, in an attempt to cleanse them of their hirsute qualities. Your child will be fascinated by the random and extensive patches of hair that cover portions of this doll. Sadly, the hair can’t grow back.

The Laugh a Lot doll is mostly terrifying because of its commercial, directed by someone who must have had a long and prosperous career making horror flicks. The commercial’s fast cuts and maniacal laughter don’t elicit the desired response, instead causing the audience to cringe in terror and confusion.
You have to see it to believe it!

It’s easy to see the reasoning behind dolls that are handicapped, but it’s still a bit shocking to see a childhood item that usually exemplifies ideals of beauty and turns them into a much more realistic depiction of the tragedy that befalls too many children.

Barbie has always been a role model for young girls, as the ambitious career woman who becomes anything from a Doctor to a Veterinarian, and now, a mother. I’m highly doubtful that this toy helps clear up a child’s confusion about childbirth, so please, purchase with caution.

Well, that's it for this toy installment,
but don't worry plenty remains for the following installments.