Andy Warhol, kokeshi dolls, and oden

    Togamis-dinner-portion-for-one

    In Europe the royalty and the aristocracy used to eat a lot better than the peasants – they weren’t eating the same things at all. It was either partridge or porridge, and each class stuck to its own food. But when Queen Elizabeth came here and President Eisenhower bought her a hot dog I’m sure he felt confident that she couldn’t have had delivered to Buckingham Palace a better hot dog than that one he bought for her for maybe twenty cents at the ballpark. Because there is no better hot dog than a ballpark hot dog. Not for a dollar, not for ten dollars, not for a hundred thousand dollars could she get a better hot dog. She could get one for twenty cents and so could anybody else.
    – Andy Warhol

    Why is that ballpark hot dog the best hot dog? Because the ballpark hot dog seller sells nothing but hot dogs. You can’t beat someone who does it day in and day out, a thousand times and another thousand times more often than you.

    Every time I look at Nancy Togami’s collection of hundreds of kokeshi, I’m reminded of this championship of experience. Each kokeshi artist carves the same shape, paints the same eyebrows, creates the same facial expression for one doll after another. After each doll, he’s one step closer to perfecting it.

    After each oden, Nancy is one step closer to perfecting her oden. And umeboshi. And seared tuna with avocado, frisée, enoki, daikon and tobiko.

    Togamis-dinner-table-is-set
    Togamis-dinner-table-is-set-2

    Three yixing teapots for three kinds of tea.  We started off with Buddha's Hand and Tung Ting Cold Summit, then finished with Medium Roast Tieguanyin. The Tung Ting was surprisingly long-lasting even after the fifth infusion.

    Three yixing teapots for three kinds of tea.
    We started off with Buddha’s Hand and Tung Ting Cold Summit, then finished with Medium Roast Tieguanyin. The Tung Ting was surprisingly long-lasting even after the fifth infusion.

    Seaweed salad and Nancy's homemade umeboshi in the middle. Tsukemono (clockwise from the pink ginger): pickled ginger, pickled cucumber, lotus root, takuan, miso-pickled garlic, and cured garlic (also pink). " src="http://flavorboulevard.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Togamis-dinner-umeboshi-and-other-tsukemono-600x450.jpg" width="600" height="450" /> Seaweed salad and Nancy's homemade umeboshi in the middle. Tsukemono (clockwise from the pink ginger): pickled ginger, pickled cucumber, lotus root, takuan, miso-pickled garlic, and cured garlic (also pink)

    Seaweed salad and Nancy’s homemade umeboshi in the middle. Tsukemono (clockwise from the pink ginger): pickled ginger, pickled cucumber, lotus root, takuan, miso-pickled garlic, and salt-cured garlic (also pink).

    More side dishes. "Red and White" carrot and daikon (salted and seasoned with sweet rice vinegar), abalone salad with tobiko, burdock root and carrot kimpira, and black beans.

    More side dishes. “Red and White” carrot and daikon (salted and seasoned with sweet rice vinegar), abalone salad with tobiko, burdock root and carrot kimpira, and black beans.
    The Buddha’s Hand oolong made a nice pairing with the pickled vegetables, as it emphasizes the vegetal freshness and floralized the aroma.

    Seared tuna salad, with frisee, enoki, avocado, yuzu tobiko (yellow) and wasabi tobiko (green)

    Seared tuna salad, with frisee, enoki, avocado, daikon, yuzu tobiko (yellow) and wasabi tobiko (green)

    Oden - with spiral kamaboko and satsuma age (balls and rectangles), shrimp, chicken thighs, quail eggs, lotus root, carrot, kombu, tofu, and Nancy's years of making oden.

    Oden – with spiral kamaboko and satsuma age (balls and rectangles), shrimp, chicken thighs, quail eggs, lotus roots, green onions, carrots, kombu, tofu, konnyaku, and Nancy’s years of making oden.
    Among the three teas that we tried, Tung Ting was the best match with this soup. “Comforting” sums up everything.

    Rice by Kenji san, i.e. Mr. Togami.

    Rice by Kenji san, i.e., Mr. Togami. Perfect with a sprinkle of furikake.

    Ice cream, mango and cookie to pair with unknown but delicious oolong.

    Lychee gelato, mango and ginger cookie to pair with anonymous but delicious oolong.

    Cheesecake from La Farine, Fiorello's raspberry gelato and balsamic caramel ice cream.  Per Nancy's advice, we sprinkled our balsamic caramel ice cream with some Iburi Jyo cherry-wood-smoked sea salt from Oga Peninsula of the Akita Prefecture, Japan.  The salt's aroma is smoky yet sweet. It tastes as expensive as it costs.

    Cheesecake from La Farine, Fiorello’s raspberry gelato and balsamic caramel ice cream. Paired with the dry Medium Roast Tieguanyin, this dessert combination gives an intense finish that Nancy describes as citrus like grapefruit, while I find it more nutty and cocoa-y. 
    Per Nancy’s advice, we sprinkled our balsamic caramel ice cream with some Iburi Jyo cherry-wood-smoked sea salt from Oga Peninsula of the Akita Prefecture, Japan.
    The salt’s aroma is smoky yet sweet. It tastes as expensive as it costs.

    The pictures speak for themselves better than I can. This American lady embraces Japanese tradition, cuisine and visual art and incorporates them into her daily lifestyle with so much fine details that humble my experience at any Japanese restaurant I have tried in America. Because they are restaurants. Nancy’s homemade oden is the ballpark hot dog that triumphs over any other hot dog, in the same way that our mothers’ homemade dinners are the best ballpark hot dogs, except they’re the hot dogs that only a handful of lucky people can get. 😉

    The meal was so inspiring I felt like I could speak Japanese afterwards.

    A very small part of Nancy's kokeshi collection. Click on the image to see better details.

    A very small part of Nancy’s kokeshi collection. Click on the image to see better details.

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    4 comments to Andy Warhol, kokeshi dolls, and oden

    • Bob

      That is a stunning oden, love the care and attention given to each dish.

    • Mai

      Yes, it is! Her homemade oden sets an incredibly high standard for me now, and its taste was so natural, unadulterated too!

    • how wonderful and fortunate you are to know Nancy personally. And how good it is she is appreciated! Great photos.

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