Holiday Food

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Latimer: After my study woes, I’m at last contemplating a holiday – and what’s one of the first things I dream about when I think of a holiday? Food, oh food; I am such a fan of food.

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I’m not a good cook, I try sometimes and I make a mean Kedgeree if I do say so myself, but I don’t try often enough to be considered ‘a good cook’.

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So it’s always a big thing for me, going on holidays and looking forward to eating some nice food!

When Ridley and I went to Tokyo, I was always putting out my hand before she could eat; “WAIT! I need to take a picture!” She got so used to this she’d actually wait sometimes, staring at me, holding her fork poised over the food… “Hurry up.”

I think the food-photo-taking started in Tokyo, but that trip was a major food event. There was so much yummy food to be had… and yes I have a food-porn collection as a result!  

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I also have nice photos of afternoon tea in London…

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I love taking my own photos of food (because it’s like you can then remember how tasty the food was) but I also like seeing other people’s food photos!

There is an amazing artist from deviantart (Jo aka cartoongirl7), that we now follow on Instagram and she takes some amazing food pictures – so amazing – check out her foody photos (she has seriously good taste mwhaha)! http://instagram.com/myrollingstar

Seriously, after the joy of actually going on holidays, food-joy is definitely next on my holiday joy list. I can’t wait to take lots of food photos on my next holiday 🙂

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Latimer watches… Shingeki no Kyojin

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Oh holy hell!

Latimer: I’m so behind the times! Like Ridley, I recently started watching Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan).Being a newbie to the show, I thought it’d be fun to document my initial thoughts as I watched the first 2 episodes!   

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Okay let’s go-go….!!

I just imagine the massive Titan looking over the wall and saying – “Hello dere!” All the Titans have faces that suggest they are about to say; “Hello dere!” instead of eating you. But in all seriousness, hell no would I still be alive in that world – as with zombie apocalypse I’m in the ‘first wave of non-survivors’!

HELLO DERE!
HELLO DERE!

I want one of the weapon rigs! Ah they’d be great – but I know I couldn’t use it properly!

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Well, I know it would all end badly for me!!

They have such a cool opening song!

This world looks very German, style-wise – I think it would be really cool to see this anime dubbed in German!

It really is suicide being a soldier in ‘Attack on Titan’!

Eren (the main character) said living behind the wall is like; “living like livestock for the Titans” – hmm, yup, that about sums it up all right!

Okay so there’s different soldier ‘corps’, with different crests – like Hogwarts houses… err… not really… well sort of; survey corps = Gryffindor (bravery); military police = Slytherin (smart, stay inside, let the Gryffindors do the hard graft :))… and garrison = Hufflepuff (who knows what you really do – who knows?!).

So the survey corps came back after their ‘trip’ (ha, their mini-break!) beyond the wall. There’s a guy with bandages around his mouth, ekk! Lots of soldiers were eaten; oh… one of the commanding officers is handing a bundle back to a crying mother…

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Jaysus… it’s…. an arm?! What…!

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God Eren, I’ve been here in your world 5 minutes and I don’t want to leave the walls (the outside world be damned I tell you, it’s not worth it! Sand and the sea, it’s not that impressive!). Why do you want to go outside Eren, you’re crazy!

Whooh, a big Titan just appeared (looking over the wall… ‘hello dere’)

Oh noo, he destroyed the wall, other Titans are coming in and eating people….. oh it’s on! IT’S ON!

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My immediate thought to describe Titans – “leering grins and naked arses!” I know all you people looked, they are giant naked people (where do your eyes go first?)!

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I love how in animes (this used to happen in Bleach too) there’s always cool-looking baddies (the big Colossal and Armoured Titans in this case; they are the important ones), and then there are the weirdest, oddest, bubble-headed, comical-looking strange ones, that you know the artist was like; “Bored now! Bring on the weird!”

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Hello dere!!
In all seriousness, you'd initially have to laugh if you saw this guy THEN scream and cry and run....
In all seriousness, you’d initially have to laugh if you saw this guy THEN scream and cry and run….

Ah, Eren’s house was crushed by stone from the wall – his mam is stuck under the house!

She told them to run away and save themselves (a Titan is coming!). I’d have asked them to kill me before they ran away – “I’m doing you guys a solid by letting you go; the least you could do is kill me before you run away!” (I don’t want to be eaten by a giant).

I wonder will Eren eventually befriend a Titan and that’ll be the turning point… – Oh holy hell… no he won’t!

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Hannes the soldier – running away from the Titan instead of engaging – I feel you Hannes, you’re a soldier, but you’re afraid. Of course I never would have become a soldier because I’m afraid. Just sayin’

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“Hurry if you don’t want to be eaten…” I never want to hear someone screaming those words at me. Ever.

All those people living in that city are traumatized. The gate’s closed, leaving them behind to die by Titan, that’s horrible. But, well, maybe it’s for the best; like everyone in Game of Thrones… maybe it’s better to go out now, happy one day, eaten the next! I mean the soldiers are happy, then traumatized, then eaten!

Hannes, the soldier, is screaming at Eren that his mother died because he’s weak. In fairness the mother’s not gone because anyone’s weak, she’s gone because a massive man-eating monster ate her!

Eren’s having all these flashbacks of his Dad injecting him with something (he’s been acting the maggot!). I wonder… that dark-haired titan I’ve seen around on pictures and tumblr… is he a genetically engineered titan – from Eren’s DNA?

And… end 🙂

Update: I finished the series, I won’t ruin anything – only to say it’s as good as everyone says it is!

I noticed that… well, a lot of the Titans run… a little like I do…? (the fat, or short ones, not the cool ones) it’s sad, disturbing, but true… I run like a Titan… wow, wow… ah geez…

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And then, Just to say, my favourite character is Jean Kirstein… and I leave you with this epic gif of him fighting a Titan…

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Giant Human-Gobbling Babies

biggerqRidley: I’ve been in the middle of an anime marathon, or maybe it’s an anime coma? I’m never certain which is more accurate to describe what I do. Basically when I find an anime series that is really good, I devour each episode over hours or days without pausing (it depends on how long I have free), watching until my eyes hate me and my body begs for sleep. This time the series was called Attack on Titan. It’s being hailed as the must see anime for 2013, obviously as it’s now January 2014, I didn’t get that early memo, but better late than never, eh?

Basically it’s about a world where humans have lived inside huge high walls, sealed off from the titans, which are giant creatures that devour humans, just for the fun of it.shingeki-no-kyojin-episode-10-pic6 (1)

It starts off with all the settlements within the walls having lived in relative safety and peace for 100 years, then a colossal titan smashes through the main gate of the outer most wall and all hell breaks loose.images

The outer settlement retreats behind an inner war, there’s turmoil, famine and now the threat of the titans is far more real than ever before. For us, the story centres around three friends, Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert.images (3)attack-on-titan-mikasa-punch shingeki-no-kyojin-episode-8-pic1

After they each endure horrific personal tragedy, they decide to train to become elite soldiers that will fight the Titans, using special Manoeuvre Equipment, which enables them to swing (though its more like they fly) through the air on metal harnesses that harpoon out and attach to builds. I think I’d love the ability to travel like that and to use the double swords like they do, but if given half a chance, I know I’d probably accidentally slice something off or smash into a wall at high speed within three minutes of putting the equipment on.attack-on-titan-video-game-featured

I must say the series is creepy, it’s weird, it’s quite gory, and it’s brilliant.  It doesn’t pull any punches, you really get a feeling no character, no matter how important, is safe. Titans can snatch up anyone and eat them, and you will see them being eaten.bigger

To me, the titans resembled large human-gobbling babies, and actually when they start running can be quite terrifying, (though this one running is kinda funny) but then you have to imagine this 15 meter giant barrelling down towards you is about to crush or eat you:

There’s so much in this series to keep you watching, with various ongoing mysteries, which keep you pressing play over and over, you are left questioning where the titans suddenly appeared from and why they eat humans when they don’t need food.vnIMuIA There’s also pure raw human emotions and individual reactions to the devastation wrought by the titans. The author has said that one of the main influences on the series was the inner feelings of people. This is a strong element throughout, we see characters dealing with their total terror and grief, of seeing things they never should have to witness. Some of the characters overcome their fear, and others don’t.  At one point, I did stop and think about what a world like that would really be like, how I would react, and I decided I can’t say I’d have ever had the courage to become a soldier and fight off the giants. I think I’d still like to have the uniform though…images (2)

The anime doesn’t finish as such, it’s left open ended, it’s like a long teaser to get you hooked on the world and the story, so that you’ll then start reading the manga, where hopefully all our burning questions will be answered. So…

To the manga!

Reading movies

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Latimer: I love watching TV series and movies in other languages. It really immerses you in the story and gives you a sense of that culture.

Having spent so much time watching anime and Asian dramas, I’m used to subtitles. Once you get into the swing of reading them, it becomes like second nature and it doesn’t distract you.

I usually have to go looking for the subtitled dramas or movies, but this week, one found me!

On Irish television I happened across the finale of a German TV miniseries called ‘Generation War’ (in German it’s called ‘Our Mothers, Our Fathers’).

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The series is a gritty Second World War series about 5 friends in Germany and their experiences during the war. It’s full of heart-wrenching moments (moments where you are shaking your head wondering how these things happen), and moments where you are screaming for one thing – just one thing to work out for someone…!

Watching this series reminded me of a few of the great foreign language series and movies I’d seen over the years. It resulted in me taking a little trip down memory lane.

Pans Labyrinth

This is quite simple a gorgeous, eerie movie; it has that supernatural gothic, dark element that I like. It also has this ambiguous feel to it; is the girl dreaming all this fantastical stuff, or is it real? Full of fairies and demonic creatures – Pan is one scary fawn it must be said! – this is one of those movies I could watch again and again. I still will randomly start humming that theme tune (epic)!

Joyeux Noël 

About a true event during the First World War where during Christmas time at the front there was a brief ceasefire, where all the men on all sides came together to celebrate Christmas. It’s in French, German and English. A very sad, but inspiring story.

Moving on from war, to romance… yeah, bit of a drop from drama to mindless fun…

My Princess

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A Korean drama that follows a girl who finds out she’s related to the defunct Korean monarchy. The story is about how a wealthy group in Korea want to re-instate the monarch with her as the Princess. Okay, it follows the typical girly love story, but – hey, that’s soul food to a fan-girl! It’s a fun series!

Hana Yori Dango

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Ah, this might well be our (Ridley and I) most favourite Japanese series! As a result of watching this series, Ridley and I knew all about the actor that plays the leading man – Matsumoto Jun (who’s in a band called ARASHI :)). And so, when we were in Tokyo and we saw some Japanese girls holding up a sign which said in English – ‘Foreigners, do you know who are ARASHI?’

Well, Ridley and I looked at each other, ‘Shall we?’.

And so we sidled up to the girls and said; ‘We know of ARASHI’. Then the girls asked us how; Ridley beamed, ‘Hana Yori Dango’. Then all of us, across language barriers smiled and started laughing (ah, fan-girls unite!).

Trollhunter

A Norwegian film about… a Troll Hunter. I now have a greater respect for Norwegian folklore about trolls and love saying the Norwegian word for bear (bjørn)!

And finally… Ros na Rún

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Okay, this is not technically ‘foreign’ language – it’s Irish – but it is subtitled (sometimes!)!

We have an Irish Language TV channel here called, Teilifís na Gaeilge (TnaG) (basically Irish TV).

When we were getting ready to do our ‘Irish oral and aural exams’ in school, our teacher made us watch Ros na Rún without the subtitles to practice. While I didn’t get the nuances of what was going on, I thought at the time that this was a great series (probably because there was a scandal involving a cute guy and a baby he may or may not have been the father of!).

Stephen Fry also did a cameo in it once (those two auld lads have been in the series for YEARS… and yet, they have not aged).

Plus Ros na Rún also had a cross-over with Cold Case (sort’a)!

“I told you I don’t understand English” – Daniel

“Where is this woman? Did you murder her?” – Lieutenant Stillman

“Do you understand now Daniel?” – Detective Rush

Yup, I think this post has made me want to re-watch some things! I do like me some subtitled stuff 🙂

I wonder what else is going on around the world that I should look into! Suggestions very welcome!

Manga and Me

I'm a manga nut and I'm okay!!
I’m a manga nut and I’m okay!!

Latimer: I’m a bit of a manga nut.

I really adore them. They are also the means through which I’ve developed, rightly or wrongly, my view of Japanese, and to some degree Korean, culture!

I’m a fangirl, so I love shoujo – the girly manga! I love the ones set in schools; the drama between the school president and the yankee, or the shy girl and the cool guy.

In Korean ‘shoujo’ manhwa there’s always (ALWAYS) a jjang (leader of the gang), in the story. Sometimes it’s the girl, and sometimes it’s the boy. So again, I know I’m misguided, but I just assume in every Korean high-school there are warring factions of gangs, and everyone can fight and kick-ass! And everyone is angry… so angry!

I wouldn’t be able to hide my disappointment if I turned up (very randomly) at a Korean high-school and I wasn’t caught in a show-down between two rival gangs from opposing schools. Even though I don’t speak the language, I’d know… I’d just know what was going on. I’d know the first jjang had kissed the other jjang’s sister, or belittled her… and I’d stand there fists waving in the air screaming.

“Oh it’s on! FIGHTING”

Then if I ended up at a Japanese high-school, I’d be looking for the yankee (the bad boy, delinquent) and the bookish girl – or the tsundere (initially cold character who shows their good side in time – a staple of the shoujo!) school president and the silly, but kind-hearted girl… and I’d be chuckling to myself thinking; “Oh how is this going to turn out!”

It's Yank-mee!! Nani TEME!!
It’s Yank-mee!! Nani TEME!!

Ah, manga (and manhwa), you really distort reality for me (but in a way that makes me so happy)! Reading them is a roller-coaster ride of emotions!

Pandora Hearts, confuses me, makes me gasp in awe, then confuses me again…

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Naruto always makes me emotional – it’s the best manga for making you empathize with the baddies, because they were good once… or they have these tear-inducing back-stories…

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Kamisama Hajimemashita makes my fangirl squee – such a lovely romance story! 

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Tomoe is a Kitsune (fox) demon – not a vampire (though it looks that way here!) …. Anyway, I’m off on Cloud Squee!

Anything by Minami Maki will make me laugh and wait desperately for the next chapter; her stories and artwork are sweet and cute and hilarious…

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Then, recently (and as it’s a week for pets!), I came across this webcomic (they seem to be v.popular in Korean – at least to my untrained eye). It’s called My Young Cat and My Old Dog (by Cho) and it is… wonderful…

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If you have a pet, it will make you cry.

At times the issue/episode/chapter is about the young playful pet and all the silly things they do. Then at times it’s about the old pet, who isn’t quite as fast as they used to be, or sleeps more than they used to. It’s those one’s that grab your heart and squeeze the feels out, leaving you gasping and in tears (I am an emotional being!).

I'm 16 years old 1 im 16 I'm 16 years old 2I have an old, old dog, and those episodes make me pause and think of him 🙁

Well, but there’s lots of joy to be had in the series too, things that make you remember how wonderful your pet is. How selfless and how they love you unconditionally; they love you for you, no other reason and we love them too..

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Ah, manga and manhwa, you give me so many different feelings – and I love you for it 🙂

Fantasy dining

Ridley: So the tagline for our holiday seems to have become ‘that’s so weird’, mainly because we’re actively seeking out things that are weird, strange and just something you’d never see at home. Interesting is the other word we could use, along with a raised eyebrow!

So with this in mind, we discovered fantasy dining in the Ginza district (I keep calling everything districts, it’s like the Hunger Games, or here, Battle Royal! Mwhaa…). Fantasy dining is where the restaurant is themed and the waiters/waitresses are dressed up. We don’t have this at home, as far as I’m aware (though if we did, it would be epic!), therefore it’s a definite novelty for us! We’ve gone to see both an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant and a Vampire café.

We first went to the Alice place-Latimer is a fan of all things Alice in Wonderland- it was brilliant and the staff were very friendly. They were mainly dressed up like Alice but there were also a few mad hatters wandering round. The entrance hall was lined with giant ‘pages’ from the book, inside the restaurant the walls were covered in man sized deck cards.there was a hanging light made of top hats over one table and in the middle of the room was a giant cup that was also a seating area. Latimer: Within the giant cup there was a group of people we named the ‘High Rollers’. All night they beckoned to the Alices and Hatters, ringing a bell to summon them for more beers or unusual cocktails. They were hidden inside the cup, away from prying eyes. I imagined them walking into the place in a wave of Yen and dollar signs; “we wish to be part of the atmosphere but not of them plebs. Put us on a step above them all… inside a large white cup, so that we may watch them, but not them us!”. Personally, I think the menu was the most unique thing about the place (and that’s saying something!). It was a box, like a big cube, where one side slid open (the menus were made up of this ‘wall’) to reveal a little diorama and it had a tiny battery operated lamp in it. Latimer: A very cool and novel way to sell the fantasy! Lewis Carroll would have been proud.No point to it really, but it was still fun. There was also a cocktail menu that opened up like a picture book into a glossy hat.

The food was decent too, though nothing spectacular. Though Latimer did get a cocktail with a rose in it and then when it arrived they sprayed perfume on it! Latimer: I don’t know what it added to the taste… but it did smell like perfume. The food didn’t sit well with me, pretty ‘blah’ pre-cooked stuff. Not nice, but you pay for the atmosphere and the fantasy, so I didn’t mind so much.

We’ve never seen such little roses with stunted growth, Latimer decided there must be plant battery farms all across Tokyo growing roses that are destined to be cruelly chopped down before their prime and used in our drinks… Latimer: Ah battery rose, of stunted growth, the casualty of fantasy dining.

We also got bread with a little dish of butter (that didn’t taste like butter, just looked like it) It was provided with a little instruction tag, ‘Eat me’. Just like in the books! All in all, I really liked this place. Latimer: When this dish arrived, Ridley thought it was her starter (garlic bread). Even though it didn’t taste like garlic. When her food arrived she looked confused. Ha.

The Vampire café was freaky, that’s the only word for it. We stepped out the lift and tiny little plastic skeleton heads to our left popped out and screamed at us. Then the hostess popped up, dressed in a black maid’s uniform with white make up and red eyes. Scary! It was the waiter though that was really unsettling….and in a weird strange way quite compelling too, for the half an hours we were there (possibly the bad boy attitude he had going on)…I wasn’t the only one, there were quite a number of giggling Japanese girls there, some dressed up too. He was about half a foot taller than me (I’m 5’10)-he had big platform boots on, so it was an artificial height-he had black eyes, black lips, white white make up, the red eyes and back-combed long hair. He was wearing a sort of robe thing, long flowing and swirled quite well when he moved. But I have to say he was quite abrupt. Maybe that was his appeal in a way, in a country that has smiling, unbelievably welcoming people, he was the exact opposite. Not rude exactly, just…like a superior vampire really…! Latimer: We were laughing our heads off during the whole experience, and maybe he didn’t like that. We weren’t taking it seriously, but as Ridley pointed out with a narrowing of her eyes, “HOW can you take a vampire café seriously?”. Haha. Anyway, in retrospect he was just plain rude.

The bathroom there,with free mouthwash!

We were shown to a little booth lined with red curtain (Latimer: It reminded me of how in Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine offers Elizabeth Bennett the chance to use her maids piano in her house. She says ‘you’ll be in no ones way in that part of the house’. Implying that Elizabeth should be hidden away from the eyes of the gentlemen and women. It felt like myself and Ridley were being treated the same way!), there was a giant coffin in the centre of the room with dripping red candles on it in a candelabra. And the hall floor was lit up showing pictures of red blood cells…very weird! Haha… The vampire boy didn’t even say goodbye when we were leaving (we said thanks and bye)! I think maybe there was a little bit too much laughing from our booth during our meal, we got a sense that we didn’t take the place seriously enough.

We only got ice cream and cocktails there. We ordered from a menu shaped like a coffin.

We’d already eaten in a very old authentic Japanese restaurant where we got to grill our own food. It was called Sometaro (2-2-2 Nishi-Asakusa, Taiyo-Ku) in Asakusa. Again google maps did not let us down, put the address in and you’ll find it. We got okonomiyaki (cabbage battered pancakes) there.

Now that was brilliant, if absolute sweltering (it was already 24 degrees out and then add in the heat from the grills)! The place was made of old dark wood, almost like a tavern, there was a real sense of history to the place. We got a lot of food there, we wanted to try everything we could, two pancake type dishes and yakisoba (noodle dish), we realised our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We had to take off our shoes and sit on the cushions beside a low table that had a large black hot plate/grill that was heated with gas underneath. For one of our pancake dishes, we picked eggs, cabbage, pork, little cuttle fish and onion, they were all mixed up together and cooked by us (well we got help, being the idiots we are!)

Latimer: This place was great. Felt very traditional. Really enjoyable food and atmosphere. As we search out food in Tokyo, I am gravitating back to ramen (my love). I want us to eat at the best ramen place in Tokyo… but where is it? Damn I wish I knew.

Our food journey continues daily…. ichiban (no.1) ramen…. we will find you!