In the early ’30s, Mama managed a small Mom-and-Pop fruit and vegetable stand, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Papa would rise in the morning about 3 a.m., go to the marketplace in order to replenish the fruits and vegetables.
(NOTE: In the Rafu Shimpo edition of April 6, 2011, in an Ochazuke column, I wrote about this under “Love Thy Neighbor”).
CONCORD and MUSCATEL GRAPES: These two varieties of GRAPES have an unusual sweetness to them and are most refreshing. They make a wonderful snack and a lunch box/bag addition. It is too bad that they are so rarely sold in our grocery stores today. They were always on hand at Mama’s stand back in the early ’30s. Of course, there are different kinds of grapes today, but it ain’t the same.
PEACHES: Sliced PEACHES in cereal and over vanilla ice cream are sooooo delicious. During the summer (peach season), we always had a peach packed in our lunch bag. To bite into the juicy peach was a delight to end lunch at school. I prefer the CLING and FREESTONE varieties.
APPLES: Mama always had WINESAP apples on hand. It is regrettable there seems to be none today. The apples had a pure white, crunchy meat and would actually “snap” at the first bite. The skin was bright red, the color of Burgundy wine. There is such a variety of apples today, but none can surpass the taste of the WINESAP apple.
STRAWBERRIES: Of course, strawberries are a favorite of many and can be used in jam, jelly, ice cream, cakes, etc. You know, it just dawned upon me that I have NEVER seen or heard of a strawberry pie! Strawberries sliced over vanilla ice cream sprinkled with nuts make a heavenly dessert just as peaches do.
APRICOTS and PLUMS: I love the hardness and sweetness of the JAPANESE SATSUMA PLUMS. They are a refreshing snack and a “pick-me-up” fruit. I just HAVE to have two.
When I was a little girl, our neighbor had an APRICOT tree and we used to climb the tree and “steal” apricots. I recently bought a jar of apricot preserves and spread a teaspoon on a Belgian waffle, and it was “not bad.”
BANANAS and ORANGES: BANANAS are such a handy food and act as “quick pick-me-up” fruit. I don’t think anyone could do without bananas.
(When I was attending junior high school, I had gained so much weight that after a physical, the doctor told me I must lose 20 pounds. It was a difficult task, but after two months I lost it. You won’t believe what I did after the doctor’s visit. I went to the drug store fountain and had a BANANA SPLIT! It was SO GOOD!)
I prefer to have the ORANGE itself rather than drink orange juice.
Within the past two years, I have discovered a tangerine-like and/or mandarin orange fruit, labeled as “CUTIES,” sold at RALPHS and SMART & FINAL. They have such a wonderful sweetness to them and are so easy to peel that I have been buying them instead of oranges. They are so small in size, I eat two at a time. They come in a “net” bag with about 20, so I am able to share with my friends.
ASPARAGUS and BROCCOLI: I love ASPARAGUS and BROCCOLI. They can be prepared in any way. They make a delicious addition for a vegetable in tempura and/or boiled with added butter or melted cheese.
Try this: Boil the ASPARAGUS. Place in a serving plate. Heat a can of cream of asparagus soup or cream of mushroom soup and pour over the asparagus. It makes an attractive and festive dish to serve on special occasions.
Instead of frying yaki-soba, I boil it like noodles and add three of four BROCCOLI florets, along with slices of kamaboko or pieces of chicken or meat, and boil until the noodles are done. It makes a delicious meal.
(NOTE: The sauce comes with the package of the yaki-soba).
EGGPLANT: EGGPLANT is delicious in any shape or form as in tempura or just plainly fried, boiled, etc. Do try the two following:
Would you believe by spreading one slice of bread with mayonnaise and adding a slice of fried eggplant and lettuce, you’ll have a delicious sandwich? Honest!
For a tasty side dish: Cut the eggplant into “bite” size, add a “handful” of bean sprouts (moyashi) and a heaping TABLESPOON of AKA miso into a frying pan with some oil and stir until miso is completely dissolved.
STRING BEANS: Mama used to grow STRING BEANS in the backyard of our house. She added string beans in making tempura and also added string beans to buta-dofu and sukiyaki.
In making a BEAN SALAD, to the kidney beans and other beans used, add string beans, which makes a colorful salad.
CUCUMBERS, LETTUCE and TOMATOES are a “standby” and necessary vegetables as well as POTATOES and ONIONS. These should be staples at all times.
I purchase the HOTHOUSE CUCUMBERS or “ English” or “Persian” cucumbers because they are more crunchy and have fewer seeds. After I peel the skin and slice them, I place them in a plastic container and spread PICKLE RELISH over the cucumbers. This keeps the cucumber from “drying” and adds flavor.
I do NOT like artichokes, Brussels sprouts or squash.
One should have at least THREE VEGETABLES and TWO FRUITS in their daily diet. Just because you are a vegetarian, that doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. One needs protein in their diet, which is found in meat and poultry along with other food supplements.
Make sure you have fruits and vegetables in your diet and you’ll live to be 90! Ha!
Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist and can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.