Monday, October 08, 2012

The freaky chocolate children of Moscow

Before I moved to France I was told the French were rude, wore berets, and walked down the streets with their noses as high as their baguettes.

Before I moved to the UK people told me the English loved tea and scones and that everyone sounded like they were on the BBC.

And before I moved to Spain I was told there would be gypsies and flamenco dancers and that I should take a lot of maxi pads because Spanish women didn't know how to manage their periods.

As you'd expect, and as is often the case with stereotypes and cliches, most of what I was told turned out to be untrue or half-baked (the reason you can't find maxi pads in Spain is simply because Spanish women don't menstruate). Which made me wonder about my latest city: Moscow. All I really had to go on before coming here were Cold War action movies and a crazy company I worked for whose Russian owner was always telling me he wanted to be a "sex hero" and once tried to convince me that we should change the app into an anonymous sex club. So I didn't really know what to think of Russia.

Now I could write to you about how, four weeks into our new adventure, I think Moscow is a fantastic city. But none of you are coming to visit me, so I'm not going to bother with that. Let's instead talk about what no one talks about when they talk about Russia: freaky children.

Freaky children are everywhere here--particularly on the covers of chocolate bars and in department store windows (the one near my house has them wrapped up in theatrical cobwebs). Why? Why?

I should have expected this. After all, I encountered one of them on my first work trip to Russia years ago.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The long walk home

Many a novel has been written about the heartbreak and beauty of returning home. So many sighs. So many landscape descriptions. So much rain.

Picture: a man observes his town from the window of an approaching train. You can read the nervous energy on his face--tense but expressionless. The desolate view is both familiar and alien.

He watches someone walking by, possibly an old person--the figure a metaphor (just in case this isn't sufficiently heavy handed for you) for all that has happened during his absence. The man then attempts to eat/sleep/speak, but to no avail--he is no longer of that place. He no longer knows its ways.

That same sort of poetic melancholy hit me today as I rentered Tesco, the UK's premier bad supermarket. I was away from London for less than two years, and yet all that has changed--and has not changed--in this country was reflected off Tesco's shiny, slightly dirt-specked surfaces. I stared at the lines on my hands and realized: This. is. England.

I mean, seriously, not a single new candy in two years? How is that even possible?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Love birds

What could be inside this pretty little box??

Oh! Little birds!! Aren't they cute?!? You just want to raise them as pets, don't you?

..or bite their heads off and eat the gooey bean paste within.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One of those things that seemed like a great idea

I came back from a recent trip to California bearing a box of Sees, a whole bunch of Jell-O pudding, and a bag of one of my favorite annual treats, Brach's jelly beans. Patience has never been my strong suit, so I opened the jelly beans while I was still in the bus back to Tokyo. By the time I arrived, there were only the black and purple ones left and I was feeling a bit nauseous.

So when I got to my apartment I had the brilliant idea that I would scatter the jelly beans around my rug, then go on an Easter egg hunt for them. I figured that that would at least buy my stomach 20 minutes before it received another sugar rush.

Well, for those of you thinking you might try this at home, let me offer one big tip: don't do this if you have a dark week later and I have had a few early morning surprises of jelly beans popping up between my toes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Berry delicious

Berry Cafe on Aoyama Dori, near my house. It was berry delicious!!

...well, not really. It's all gross whipped cream underneath the berries. See?

But the store front itself was very attractive. It's like a 50s diner meets a Southern pie factory!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sad, sad panda

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows, but Jesus...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Moko Eats Away the Chance of Love for Tokyo Singles

And here's how I did it.

This past Saturday my friend Yuki dragged me along to be her "wing woman" at a Valentine's singles party here in Tokyo. I kept my ring on my finger out of allegiance to my beloved L. but I did throw on a few extra rings for good measure as I didn't want to pay the extra entrance fee for being married. (L.--if you're reading this, no that does not mean that I value our marriage less than 1000 just means I wanted to save money for the large house and twenty children we will one day have.)

Anyway, the party organizers had the creative idea of encouraging mixing by putting different kinds of free food and drink where people were sitting. So some tables had pizzas; others had shots; and mine--and only mine--had a big big box of Krispy Kremes.

The organizers had intended this to act as a natural conversation starter, and I'm sure everything would have gone fine had the Moko not been around. But the moment the Krispy Kremes hit our table I was all over them, and when the first set of guys came over to talk to us, I glared at one of them as he tried to take a donut. The moment they left (boys will do that if you don't talk to them) I lay both arms parallel to the sides of the box, and made it clear no one was to come near them.

While I don't think my single friends appreciated this, I thought it taught them an important lesson: if they really want to snag a man, they shouldn't count on a married woman's donuts to do so. (I don't entirely know what I mean by that, but it's 1am and after a lot of donuts and alcohol it sounds like a very true statement.)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Colonoscopies - the best excuse ever to eat candy

Hollywood types and readers of Gwyneth's GOOP love their enema and detox diets, but for most of us regular folks, the idea of laxatives, colonoscopies, and enemas is rather distasteful--and certainly not something you'd bring up at the dinner table, in your newsletter, or on your blog.

Until now. Because, ladies and gentlemen, I have seen the light at the end of my large intestine and I'm a colonoscopy convert!

First, and most importantly, there's the drink. Now everyone had told me the colonoscopy drink is the most disgusting thing ever--viscuous and slimy all at once. But really it was like liquid sugar. I loved every minute of it.

Second, you get to eats tons of candy. You're not allowed to eat anything substantive before a colonoscopy, and the doctor's instructions specifically say, "only tea, water, sports drinks." It's the only time any doctor's going to tell you to eat candy, so you really have to make the most of it. And I did.

And finally, there's the anaesthesia, which floats you right on up to happy land. I was in such a good mood that it didn't even bother me when I heard the nurses whispering that they weren't quite sure how to best arrange me on the examination table because my "foreign butt" was so large. (I thought about providing a picture of my backside to prove to you all that my butt is really not large by anything but Japanese standards, but I think this post is already pushing it as it is...)

Now if America could just get their health care sorted out, you too could enjoy this experience for free!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Das schmeckt (and sounds) gut

I was pretty unimpressed with this German chocolate man until the last 20 seconds of this clip. When I was little I tried to build a record (and a brick house, and a robot, and...) but I never quite figured out how to get those nifty sounds to come out.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Year, New Country, New Husband, New Candy

Hi everyone. I know it's been a very, very long time since I last wrote. But I have plenty of good excuses...

First, I got hitched. The ceremony was wonderful, the husband was/is wonderful, etc etc...but the thing you really need to see is my wedding cake, which was certainly the most ridiculously wonderful waste of money in which I've ever indulged. I actually cut a bunch of things from my wedding to pay for this thing, which had three flavors (chocolate chocolate, pistachio and strawberries, and carrot cake). Usually, wedding cake isn't very good, but I must humbly say that mine was delicious.
I agonized over what I wanted for a cake, as I knew I didn't want some frilly white flower number. As my future husband heard me (day after day) going through my various ideas (at one point we were having a giant Buddha cake), he finally (and perhaps with some exasperation) said: "why don't you just do an enormous cupcake?" And that's when I knew that I was marrying the right man.

Anyway, after the wedding, I became English, which involved enduring months of paperwork and a 2-hour ceremony (played to Beatles music) in which I pledged allegiance to the queen and promised I would never complain about the weather again.

Then I had to go to Paris for work, and was super excited to see my book selling at Shakespeare & Co., where I used to go to feel young and literary and tragic back when I lived in la Ville-lumière.
Then it was off to the US for Christmas cookies at my brother's place in Portland. Why do so many people in Portland look like the Unibomber?
Then, we moved to Tokyo, which is where I'm writing from today. I actually like Tokyo even better the second time around. I'm able to walk to work, the sun is out even in the winter, and the food, the food...
Me and my Japanese sweet gazing out our hotel window

So there you have it. Given that I'm back in the land of all things delicious I'm sure I'll start blogging more frequently. Hopefully. ;-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Turron for the holidays

I was introduced to the Spanish nougat-y treat called turron back when I lived in Madrid many, many years ago. At the time I didn't really get it: nougat and nuts (one of my top five worst things in the world) do not an elegant delicacy make. In fact, the Internet has proof that I really found turron to be quite unexceptional.

But I've since come around to liking turron--as is clearly reflected in my choice to pose this delicate package on top of my sophisticated fireplace grill. Why the change? Well...I think I've just become more tolerant in my old age, and have decided that sugar, in almost any form, and even when involving nuts, is a good thing. I guess that is what they mean about the wisdom of old folks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Counting down the days with Chrome

When I was a kid I envied the teenagers who got to drive around with branded cars that had the name of a pizza place or a blow-up animal on the roof. Whether or not this was actually effective marketing never really crossed my mind, but I will say that in the 15+ years since seeing my first-ever Red Bull car, I've never managed to work for a company who's done flashy marketing or has let me drive a neon-colored car.

...particularly now, as I work for a tech company that rarely does any offline marketing or fancy promos. Until, until, until, dear readers, they came up with this: the Chrome advent calendar. I was so excited when I saw this that I tried to sweet talk several colleagues into donating their calendars to moi. Inside each box is a chocolate Chrome icon.

Now, to the degree I can be objective about these things, I do think Chrome is the fastest browser out there. But the fact that it now comes equipped with a chocolate advent calendar makes it 100% clear that this is the best browser in the world! (P.S. Why can't all tech products be rendered in'd certainly be better than chocolate trying to be tech!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fauchon en France

See the shiny floor? Bet your bathroom floor's not that shiny. Mine certainly isn't.

What you're looking at is the floor of Le Meurice in Paris, where the floors gleam so much that it makes perfect sense to put your fancy Fauchon jelly and marmalade stand directly on top of them and take a picture, fully confident that even if your stand fell over, and all the jellies spilled on to the floor, it would be so clean that you could just lick everything up!

Or at least that was my interpretation.

The point of the post, however, was to sing the virtues of confiture de lait. Despite having once lived in Paris, I had never come across it before. It's sorta like milk meets other words, a lot like dulce de leche, but I think the latter is a wee bit tastier. A bit too sweet for me for breakfast, but it'd be great on a croissant in the middle of the day.

Monday, December 07, 2009

5 Things

My dad, a doctormologist, was telling me tonight that back in med school the classic drinking game they'd all play was, 'What 5 medicines would you bring to a desert island?"

Sounds wild.

In any case, it got me thinking about what kind of sweets I would bring...

1. Cookie dough batter

2. Cheap, American supermarket icing (that would double as insect bait so that I could also get my protein)

3. Cotton Candy (which I could also use as a cocoon to keep warm at night)

4. Chocolate caramel fudge sundae (hey, if I can transport an infinite number of sundaes I can certainly figure out how to keep the sun from melting them)

5. Haribo strawberries (also to track my trails and not get lost)

Your turn! What would you bring?

...btw, in case you're interested in the top medicines, they apparently are an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and a pain pill...considering that pretty much any doctor should be able to figure that out I'm not quite sure where the drinking game part came in!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lessons from Thanksgiving

Hello Moko-ites,

I had all my Irish family over for Thanksgiving this weekend, and in making my first-ever Thanksgiving meal I learned a whole bunch of things I'm passing on to the troops in the hopes that it can be of use for Xmas:

1. Turkey is negotiable. I always assumed everyone loved turkey. But when I suggested we have a Moko-friendly Thanksgiving by skipping it this year I was surprised by the number of people who came out of the woodwork to confess how much they dislike the "dry," "gamey," bird, which "makes you fall asleep before you even get to the end of the meal." (Separate note: wouldn't it be great if Zagat would extend their empire beyond restaurant reviews? I'd love to read their company or government guides....'Wacky living' meets 'oppressive regime' in Turkmenistan, where the king 'names the month and breakfast cereals after himself'.' Some say it's 'stifling to the point you want to kill yourself', but most 'love the food and all-night laundromats.')

2. Cranberries are the easiest things to make in the world. Seriously: cranberries, sugar, boil them in water. Done. I threw in some orange peel just to make it seem like these had taken me longer.

3. Carnivores can be fooled. My vegan nut roast was the hit of the evening, and on first taste many people thought it had the touch of bloody flesh. Triumph!

4. Making your own pie crust is super simple and tastes way better. Here we go: 1 cup flour, half stick of butter, kneed kneed kneed till it's crumbling, then mix in the egg, fridge for 20 minutes, roll out, then bake for 35 minutes.

5. Could candy duplicate the flavor of buttery mashed potatoes. Maybe a Jelly Belly flavor?

6. Candles make all meals look more presentable.

7. Boo to whipping cream (meaning, cream you buy on the Old Continent that is called whipping cream, but it really is cream-to-be-whipped and not wonderfully sugary Cool Whip) not worth anyone's time.

8. Double the spice in your pumpkin pie recipe. Whatever recipe it may be, doubling the spice makes it that much better. That's a tricky I learned from my mumsy.

9. If you're the one cooking, only invite your side of the family to your house. That way, your spouse/partner will inevitably get bored at some point and will voluntarily take to the kitchen to do the dishes for you.

10. Skip the veggies. They just take up more time, no one really eats that many...Thanksgiving is about heartiness, not vegetables!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Moko Breaks her Silence

From the mess halls of East Coast prep schools to the peaks of Kilamanjaro; from the intersection at Shibuya station, the temples of Tibet, and the set of Gossip Girl...the big question on everyone's lips for the past three months has been, "where is Moko?"

It's true: I vanished without a trace in August, leaving you all with a Miette candy posting and no warning that I would be leaving you sugarless for the fall. The truth is, I was travelling a lot for work in August and September, and then went off and got myself hitched, so inbetween it all I found it difficult to post...not to mention that I was still officially practicing sugar sobriety, so I didn't have as much "raw material" to work with.

But if there's anything that married life has taught me, it's that old habits die hard. I'll never get him to put the toilet seat down, and he'll never to manage to break me free of sugar's grasp. (A more realistic goal would simply be to try to get our relationship to the point where, if both of us were on a sinking ship with a life-sized bag of sugar and only two lifejackets, it would not take me too long to make the right decision.)

So here I am...rock you like a hurricane.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Moko is back!!!!

...and this is what she's just made---christmas November!!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

miette candy tasting

The worst thing about planning a wedding is, well, the planning part. But whenever there's a worst thing there has to be a best thing, and that's clearly the fun stuff along the way that you weren't even expecting. Two great examples:

1. The man at the corner store gave me a free pack of Orbit gum tonight when he saw my engagement ring--and he gave me 20p off on the second pack I purchased. What a bargain!

2. The Baron--paragon of good taste, and one of the early inspirations for this blog--threw me a wonderful candy tasting/ bachelorette party at a pretty candy shop in San Francisco called Miette.

Now when The Baron first mentioned her idea to me, I have to admit I had a little laugh inside the mean part of my brain. How could the Moko possibly have anything more to learn about candy? It ain't wine, after all: in my book there's basically sweet, sweeter, and sweetest, with subcategories of sour, liquid, fluff, and stale.

Nevertheless, I thought it was an excellent excuse to break my candy fast and spend the day in Miette, the decor of which, in floor-to-ceiling technicolor gumballs, is like complete Mokoporn.

We started out with grapefruit "infused" cotton candy. I would have been content to eat just that the whole day.

Then came the sugary candies (below). This was heavy on dainty French cuteness (yes, those are Carambars you see on the far right), and all quite tasty--particularly the lone Italian sugar fondant, which is my new favorite thing ever. My only wish was that they could have added in some sugary Haribo numbers, letting the German octane offset the flirty pouts of the French flowers....I swear it's like candy that will try to steal your boyfriend.
Next came the caramels, which I have not included a picture of here because I feel that caramels are a bit like brownies in their wholesome boringness. (Well, that and the fact that I've left that photo on my camera and it's in another room...) That said, the Miette ones rated really highly in our group, as did the chocolates, which included tasty London-based Rococo, reliable Gianduja, and a challenging, crusty number that made me feel like I had been asked to appreciate contemporary art.

Finally, the Miette ladies broke out loads of salty licorice. These things tested even the bravest of my friends. I warned everyone off the Nordic ones--since it's a proven fact that they lead to suicide--but I was surprised to discover that the chocolate licorice (bottom right hand) was actually quite addictive.

A big thanks to The Baron for organizing the most perfect day for the Moko!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On globalization, architecture, and chocolate

Greetings from Prague, Mokoites!

I actually meant to post something last week, but I was in Milan and utterly uninspired...who would've thunk that Italy could make an ugly city? Duomo aside, the highlight of my trip was a motorcycle tour of fascist architecture in public transport structures. And that was as interesting for about as long as it took me to write that sentence.

But Prague, oh Prague! Prague is all things to all people. The romantics among us love it for its historic cobblestone and charming buildings; the English for its reputation as a cheap place to get drunk; and for Moko as the home of many heavy pastries that remind her of the Prussian Empire.

...but that actually wasn't the point of this post.

The point, of course, was that I've now been able to find Thomas-themed Pocky in three countries - UK, Japan, and Czech Republic.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More proof that sugar is bad for you

According to this BBC story, a New Jersey chocolate factory worker died after falling into a vat of chocolate. I always thought this could be an ok way to go, but I think the chocolate was so hot in this case that it would just have been painful.

But given my tasteless title and picture for this post, I can at least now prove to the mysterious Purple People Eater that I'm just as dismissive of human life as animal life when it comes to death by chocolate!