Sunday, August 23, 2009


Last week when I was down and out one of the neighboring farmers had handed Tetsu a bag full of cucumbers and eggplant and okra and had been worried about my back. This morning I went over to say thank you and let him know I was back in commission. He was picking grapes! I didn't know he had a grape arbor (see how much I know about grapes). He is actually a leek farmer and has twenty or thirty leek hot houses and here and there he and is wife grow rice and lotus roots and various vegetables for his family. And grapes!

There are many different types of grapes in Japan. Some big almost black ones. Some smaller green ones. Just recently we are getting seedless grapes, but usually we have to spit out all the seeds. Grape skins too are rather tough and so for the larger ones we will peel them like a banana, and with most other types one just squeezes the grape pulp into your mouth and leave the skin in a little pile on the plate.

I remember when my mother visited Japan the first time she was served a bunch of grapes and was surprised to find skins so tough but trying to be a polite guest, she said nothing and swallowed them all down. She said she was very embarrassed to later see everyone else's little mountain of grape skins piled by their plates and hers was the only one obviously bare!

My farmer friend was very apologetic about the grapes.

"I'm so sorry about the number. Please think of this as two for you and two for your husband."

Four is considered bad luck in Japan and so one normally doesn't give things in groups of four. In Japanese, the word is "shi" which is the same pronunciation as the word "die" so people avoid using four as much as possible. Dishes will be sold 5 to a set and hospitals will skip room number four completely.

Two, four. Whatever, the freshly picked grapes for breakfast were delicious!

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