Spring is about growth and renewal. Are we growing too?

I was in the park watching the brown leaves from last autumn cling onto the branches of a tree. I wondered how had the leaves hung on through the fierce snowstorms, crushing ice pellets and high winds?

As the wind went through the trees, they made a beautiful sound. Crispy, fluttering, like they were waiting to fall. Were they happy they had made it this far?

I feel like these leaves are us. We are resilient, making it through the harsh winter with strict pandemic restrictions.

But when is it…

What’s love got to do with it?

Everything! Where did love get such a bad rap in business? The contagion we need now more than ever is love in life and business and working together than apart. We’re in this together. No one gets a get-out-of-coronavirus-for-free card, no matter what their status, riches or where they are.

The following started out as an email I wrote to people who have supported me through the years as a chef, writer, teacher and friend. I started by asking people to come to my dinner, and it turned into a letter of love…

I’m in quarantine for two weeks. I have no yard or balcony, I am alone and can’t go outside.

I’m in a small apartment I have rented in Ottawa, Canada. I mark down the days that are left until I am free, like being in prison.

I like the term “Avenue Q” for being in quarantine. I know others around the world are on Avenue Q too.

Avenue Q is the longest street in the world. It stretches from here to the other side of the world and comes back to me in this small apartment, wondering if there are…

This is a story about my reflections on life, loss, and tofu. It is dedicated to many of my friends who have recently lost someone they deeply loved, whether a parent, best friend or beloved pet.

It also honours our collective grief. The life we knew before COVID-19 may never come back as we knew it. It’s a loss of different grades and shades, and life itself. My heart breaks wide open from these stories of sadness, grief, and loss. From this place, arose this piece. …

OCHI, Japan — I love mochi. What’s not to love about this soft, squishy pillow of deliciousness? I know I am not alone. What is it about mochi that people love so much?

I’ve had a lifelong passion for food. I was born into it, with a mother and father who loved food. My mother was an excellent home cook, who made delicious Japanese food. My father’s experience as a short-order cook when he was young made him very quick at making breakfast.

Sitting down at the kitchen table in the morning, out would come a complete breakfast with eggs…

There is the sweet scent of Jasmine in the room as I write this morning. I love the smell. When I went out early this morning to bring out my garbage down the street, I brought back a piece of Jasmine hanging outside an old building. There are many wildflowers in the rural countryside where I live on Shikoku Island, Japan.

I first noticed the smell of Jasmine when I was in the Little India area of Singapore. There was Jasmine everywhere. It was part of their ceremonies, temples, and culture. …

Favourite taste memories, starting from left to right: kinkan bite-size citrus fruit and fresh ginger (Kochi is the largest producer in Japan); making fresh konnyaku (jelly made from devil’s tongue potatoes) with primary school students; gobo (burdock root); watermelon daikon radish and other vegetables; spring tempura; kaki (persimmon); inakazushi (countryside sushi) with mountain vegetables; sakuramochi (sweet rice cake with a red bean filling, wrapped with a pickled cherry blossom leaf and topped with a salted sakura), only available during the sakura season, and yomogi daifukumochi (mugwort rice cake with red bean filling) and sakuramochi, because you can never have enough mochi!

This story was published in the Nikkei Voice Japanese-Canadian newspaper in March. It’s about my perceptions about my rural mountain town in Japan after six months. I thought it might be too late to share with you. I wrote it in February when it was still winter and colder, and before coronavirus became a global pandemic. It’s warmer now, and soon it will be too hot and humid here, and people will complain about this. But this is a story that is less about weather and more about being happy with where you are at, even if it’s not what…

The sakura (cherry blossoms) are almost gone in my rural town on Shikoku Island, Japan.

Sakura bloom at different times in Japan from mid-March to the end of April, with over 100 varieties.

The sakura blossoms are deeply respected in Japan. Their fleeting lives remind us to remember that life is short, and we must make the most of it. And the Japanese philosophy of “mono-no-aware” is about appreciating the transitory nature of things like sakura while it is here.

The last sakura to bloom are “yaezakura” and is a multi-layered cherry blossom, with up to 50 petals per flower…

I am learning much from sakura while living in rural Japan

How do we keep our glasses half full during the COVID-19 crisis? How do we stay positive?

I keep on returning to the sakura (cherry blossoms) for answers. The sakura are starting to bloom all over my town in Japan. They remind me that life continues despite the coronavirus pandemic, and I will get through this.

I woke up late because I got stuck watching the news and couldn’t stop. I kept on going down the rabbit hole. I looked at a news story about the number of deaths from COVID-19, then I compared regions, countries, and the world. …

Small ojizosmaa statues at temples and along roads are believed to protect children and travellers

In the wake of the coronavirus, I’ve been exchanging more messages with friends who are frustrated, depressed and worried about the future. It is heartbreaking, and I feel their pain and loss.

With the mounting fears in our cities, countries and the world, are we creating an enormous ball of fear and sadness?

Everything in our world right now is shaky and uncertain. Many people don’t know what there is to live for and how they will go on. If this is not a suicidal cry for help, then I don’t know what is.

We need a coming together more…

Caroline Ishii

Award-winning chef, author of the The Accidental Chef: Lessons Learned In and Out of the Kitchen on Amazon http://amzn.to/i8SIXuZ www.carolineishii.com

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