Grocery Item Deathwatch

My local grocery store tends to quit selling products my wife and I like. We occasionally ask the store employees about this pattern, and they say the disappearance of even popular items is noted by both employees and customers alike. Here is our growing disappearance list:

  1. Marie Callender's Key Lime Pie: This disappeared from our grocery store for almost a year. The next closest grocery is a Safeway, which continued to sell it. Some weeks after complaining to a store manager, this item returned.
  1. Private Selection Black Bean and Corn Salsa: This delicious salsa was a slo-mo disappearance. It would disappear from the shelves, then return in a few weeks, but always in ever smaller quantities. In its stead appeared a new similar product with a name like Black Bean and Corn Salsa with Smoky Taste, which I bought by mistake, to my regret, as it was strongly reminiscent of bile. Since Private Selection is Kroger's own brand, I wrote them a letter, which yielded a
  1. Tillamook Cinnamon Horchata ice cream: The best ice cream we have ever eaten, such that I wrote the company a letter praising the flavor and asking that they make sure to keep selling it; the next week it was gone and my step-brother encountered a Tillamook stocker who said the company had terminated that flavor.
  1. Lundgren Butternut Squash Risotto: This tasty risotto is still sold by Lundgren's, but no longer stocked at our grocery.
  2. El Mexicano yogurt drinks, individual: These have been sold out and had their shelf size reduced, which suggests they are trending toward deletion. Our grocery never stocked the piña colada; our Walmart primarily stocks the piña colada and the strawberry, with occasional mango, so we'll buy them there.

No Pecan Nuts to Brazil

Around Christmas 2018, I mailed a one-pound bag of pecans, harvested from local groves, to a Brazilian friend, since he didn't know what pecans are. His wife does, but she acknowledged they are rare and costly, certainly in the country's northeast. Surely they would enjoy a bag of pecans, I thought.

Mail to Brazil is slow, often a few weeks, but my friend says the Brazilian postal system is reliable, if slow. He says they have never lost or stolen anything. I expected delays because of Christmas and other seasonal holidays as well as a Brazilian postal workers' strike. But March came without the pecans showing up, so we gave up.

Around May 1st, almost a half year later, the pecans returned to me. They bag had been opened for inspection and a pamphlet inserted, written in Spanish, about what is prohibited entry into Brazil by Vigiagro, Vigilância Agropecuária Internacional. I had checked with the USPS about whether nuts could be sent to Brazil and got a definite maybe, so I decided, Why not? And now I know.

What I found particularly interesting is the forbidden items pamphlet in Spanish, not English, the international language of business. I find it odd that Brazil's Vigiagro has no English forms; however, since Brazil's neighbors and, probably, majority trading partners are nearly all Spanish-speaking, maybe there is no real reason for such forms in English.

Next time, like Ghostbusters, I'll know who to call.

IUPUI Microwave Ovens

There are a limited number of microwave ovens at IUPUI, which can lead to awkward queues. Here are the places where I have found ovens for students to use:

  1. SL building, 2F lounge. This is in the passageway between the SL and LD buildings. It is often rather crowded at lunch.
  2. Campus Center, 2F, near Caribou Coffee. This area is also crowded at lunch.
  3. Campus Center, 1F, near the eateries. There are at least two ovens here.
  4. UC, 1F, in the small area with vending machines near the various multicultural centers.

Until last semester, there had been a very handy microwave in ET 2F near the two stairwells, in the vending machine area. It has since disappeared.

    Sushi Class

    Yesterday I spent almost two hours learning about and making sushi. Despite my years in Japan, I learned to make little besides soba, which I ate frequently. When JASI offered the course at Ocean World in Indianapolis, I signed up immediately.

    There were 6 or 7 people in attendance, in addition to the JASI representative and a young Japanese woman who had recently graduated from Ball State University in Muncie. The chef, Mr. Odagaki, walked us through rice selection and cooking, vinegar and sugar mixing, and doping the rice with the sushi vinegar. Then we watched him go through various sushi forms, but my focus was hosomaki, seaweed on the outside.

    Demonstration over, we all donned gloves and began making the different forms. I have a tendency not to run my rice to the opposite ends of the nori sheet, but I do keep enough clear along the long edges so I can seal each roll. I made a bunch then asked about umeshiso, which is a personal favorite. Mr. Odagaki laughed because it is on the menu but nobody ever orders it; he gave me some sliced cucumber to roll with it. Slicing the sushi was more difficult than rolling it, because I was overly careful with cutlery and thus didn't slice through properly. We all received sushi certificates, which was a nice touch.

    A key thing about the whole process is keeping your hands moist so the rice doesn't cling to them and moistening the knife, which would otherwise tear the nori. It is also a good idea to wrap the makisu bamboo sheet in plastic film. If you don't, it will clog with rice that will dry to it and become a nuisance.

    Since makisu are not very costly, I will buy one this coming week. That will require stocking up on sushi nori, which is fine by me!

    Saraga

    Yesterday I made my first trip to Saraga, massive international grocery in northwest Indianapolis. It was recommended to me by a Japanese friend as having the best prices he's seen though there's little room to improve on costly Japanese imports. That said, I did buy an oden set that was pretty nice and a good daikon for $0.99.

    One of Saraga's charm points is its massive produce section. There were some unusual items, including more types of pears than I have seen before.

    Another is the sheer range of stuff. The Middle Eastern section in particular was quite large, but I couldn't find any laban or leb'n, a yogurt-like drink that works wonderfully with dates. There were some interesting African foodstuffs too.

    The next time I go, I do plan to try mate tea soda. It does not sound that thrilling though I like mate tea. However, I am quite curious about the soda's taste.

    Nostalgic Kelp Tea

    Some while back I bought some kelp tea, sold as a powder in a small tin with a tiny measuring spoon, at One World Market in Castleton. I recommend visiting the store if you like Japanese food and groceries.

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    Kelp tea, konbucha, 昆布茶, is a popular winter drink. Kelp reportedly thickens and darkens hair. That is what many Japanese told me, although whether "hair" meant on the scalp or everywhere, people hedged.

    Serving size is one included spoonful to 100cc (about 1/3 a soda can) of hot water. It smells of kelp, tastes like soup broth, and brings back memories of Hokkaido.

    One World Market

    Although the number of Japanese in Indianapolis is perhaps small, there is a good Japanese market and eatery in Castleton called One World Market. I had visited it to buy certain Japanese items, like the yuzu ponzu, the best brand of which they carry: 馬路村柚子ポン酢. However, it was only this week that I finally ate there.

    The menu is a solid list of normal Japanese fare, the types of things common Japanese eat. It's not high-falutin' stuff: It's the real deal. A few days ago I had the katsudon, a breaded pork cutlet topped with egg and onion and a mildly sweetened sauce, with some pickled stuff (they provide a palate-cleansing zip), on a bed of rice, with a bowl of miso soup for $9. The only thing missing is help-yourself tea and water. It was pretty good, very worth the price, and had me feeling nostalgic for the buying katsudon in the basement of Takashimaya in Tachikawa.

    The other day I returned to order kakesoba, which wasn't bad for $6. However, that's pretty easily made at home, if you have the ingredients. Buy something like the tempura set, which is a real nuisance to make yourself.

    A Japanese friend notes that the takeout sushi gets discounted by half about 30 minutes before closing, a common Japanese practice and one worth taking advantage of. You'll see some Japanese customers coming in about that time for that very reason.

    Brazil Nuts

    The other day I did some shopping in the nearby Walmart and happened on bags of nuts. I was rather excited to see Brazil nuts, from Peru and Bolivia, especially since I was never able to track any down in Japan; not even Brazilians and Brazilian-Japanese could get hold of them.

    But here they are, in photo taken with my iPod then simply tweaked in Vintique: