Friday, May 21, 2010

Once in Every Lifetime

Hello chicadees! I apologize! It's been quite a while since I've caught up with things on here. Life has been extremely busy. I'm now working nearly 40 hours a week at two different jobs.

As a filler, I've decided to crosspost this entry from my last blogging venture Eating Cultures

(I dated this gentleman, and later ended the relationship due to mutual agreement from both parties. A fiasco ensue and we are no longer friends. However, I do hope that he is well and has learned to make friends.)


Two things inspired me for today's post:
  1. I met up with an old crush the other day (which was what reminded me of this phrase).
  2. I remembered why I am a tea only person.
My biggest facination with the country of Japan is their cooking style (ahem... you are reading the blog of a foodie), particularly that of cha-kaiseki. This is the meal that accompanies a longer tea ceremony and it highlights the current season and the tea that follows. Asthetics are valued over taste (although taste is exremely important as well) and the presentation of the food tells a story.

If, no excuse me, when I stay in Japan, I hope to study this art form. (Actually, aside from governmental work, it is the whole reason I want to be in Japan.) But that's enough on that, I need to finish my story.

The boy I met with is a precious friend, and he could have been more than that. During our lunch meal I realized that any chance of a deeper relationship had fallen. A year ago, even at the beginning of the meeting that day, I would have considered him as a possible life mate. (Unlike most students, I do not think of relationships as a trivial matter. They are to be taken with the utmost sincerity ~ playing with hearts is not my style.) However, at the end, my mind had captured a phrase and would not release it: "Ichigo, Ichie."

"Ichigo, Ichie" translates to "One encounter, one chance."
The tea ceremony is a spiritual meeting. The participants as well as the tea master realize that, "ichigo, ichie," there will never be another encounter like this one. The zen philosophy calls to memory that every moment is a precious thing, and not to be wasted. (The kaiseki also follows this principle. Everything is consumned, including the rice burnt on the bottom of the pan ~ don't worry. It's served in a miso broth.)

Even for Christians, "ichigo, ichie" is an excellent philosophy. Each moment is precious; there will never be another like it. Life life to its fullest. Don't let the little things ruin your attitude. If we each savored every second, what would our outlook be like?

Tea Time
As for why I am a tea person? Coffee makes me dizzy and nauseated (even when watered down). My morning's aren't considered morning without my standard tea. While this varies daily, my current favorite being an herbal peppermint, in honor of the tea ceremony I will talk about green tea.

Matcha (ground green tea leaves) is served at all ceremonies, but the type varies: thin (usu-cha), and less common thick (koi-cha). Oddly, usucha is more bitter than its counterpart and is less expensive. If you have had any experience with green tea ice cream, than you have had a [super] sweetend form.

As matcha is supurbly expensive, I'll focus a little more on avaliable green teas. Essentially green tea is the same as black. They both come from the plant camillia sinensis. The most common is sen-cha (the typical grocery stores carry a lesser version of this form called ban-cha), and it is rolled and steamed when picked. The next type is matcha *points to previous paragraph*. Then you have blends. The two blends that are considered "true" green tea are genmai-cha and jasmine. Jasmine is a blend of green teas and, of course, jasmine flowers. Genmai-cha is sen-cha blended with toasted brown rice. Out of all the green teas, this one is my favorite as it has an earthy toasted flavor.

How to prepare a cup of green tea
Suprisingly, many do not know the difference in preparing a green vs. black tea. Believe me, it does make a notable difference.

2 tsp. - 1 1/3 tbsp of your favorite green tea (depending on how strong you want it to be)
1 c. of boiling water
  1. Boil the water in a kettle, or in a microwavable cup.
  2. Place the tea bag or strainer into the cup. Allow to soak for thirty seconds to a minute.
  3. As you enjoy your tea, contemplate the meaning of "Ichigo, Ichie." :)
If you would like more information on the tea ceremony, I suggest checking out Untangeling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. She is an American who moved to Japan (with no language experience) to learn the art of cha-kaiseki.
Calligraphy of "Ichigo, Ichie."

First image courtesy of  ohihides on flickr.
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