Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Cultural Inspirations: Japanese Kodawari

I'm obsessed with learning centuries old wisdom and customs of diverse cultures and today I learned a really amazing Japanese concept that I wanted to share with y'all.

I was reading an old issue (March, 2018) of Food&Wine and they had a fantastic feature on a the origins of Dashi, a deceptively simple rich broth of dried bonito and kelp that's the foundation of Japanese cooking that's also slowly disappearing.

Chef Shinobu' Namae is incorporating the broth into his cooking techniques, replacing the veal stock that he has traditionally cooked with from his Western cooking training.

The crazy thing is that technically, this broth is just two ingredients: seaweed and dried bonito "unami broth".

Just two ingredients? Yes, just two ingredients.

So what makes this broth so rich, culturally important and worthy of a feature in an illustrious publication like Food&Wine?

It has to do with the patient and committed preparation method for those two ingredients, which is where the Japanese term Kodawari comes in to this post.

Kodawari: an obsessive attention the the fine, subtle detail of one's craft that any artisan who takes pride in their work must have

The Two Ingredients
* Seaweed: summarizing the Food&Wine article, there are people who forage for kombu and gather it one strand at a time. Since the region only has two summer months, the kombu is dried for three days AND then "...moved indoors for three years to refine and concentrate its natural glutamates." Artisans talk about Kombu like wine.

* Katsuobushi: summarizing the Food&Wine article, the stages of smoking, fermenting and drying the fish is a three to six month process!

So collectively, this broth is fairly easy to make (Food&Wine: "...as easy as making tea"), but the preparations and patience required to be able to get to the "simple" stage is one where Kodawari is required.

Living Kodawari
Of course, all this fantastic breakdown to produce this centuries old cultural Japanese broth got me to thinking about how Kodawari fits into modern living.

Or does it?

As I mentioned above, Chef Namae featured Dashi because it's a method that is becoming extinct in place of convenience of powdered equivalents.

But what about the fine art of being an artisan of a craft and the life satisfaction that comes from the obsession of pride in work?

I'm not saying I by any means have the answer to this million dollar question but I even remember what it was like growing up with grandparents who had a valuable craft and the pride of earning a living from it.

And your Kodawari doesn't necessarily have to be your earned profession.

I once knew a man that was a busy sales executive and so in his down time, to maintain a sense of purpose in life and to alleviate the high stress, high pressure aspects of his job he had a wood shed where he made hand made furniture for his family, friends and neighbors. Although he was repeatedly encouraged to open up a shop or to monetize his passion, he never did.

For him, his Kodawari did not require income (nor marketing, nor business plans). He was completely satisfied with a pride of work of making furniture that his family and friends passed down to generations.

Master Dashi Recipe
And with the upcoming colder weather and holidays, I thought you'd love this Dashi recipe Food&Wine also shared...may it remind you to incorporate Kodawari in your lifestyle.  You deserve to know what a pride in work as an artisan of a craft feels like...it's irreplaceable.

Ingredients
2 qt. room-temperature water
1 oz. kombu
1 oz. katsuobushi

Pour 2 quarts water into a medium sauce pan and add kombu. Let stand until kombu doubles in size, about 30 minutes. Cook over medium-low until water is steaming and tiny bubbles collect on surface of kombu. Adjust heat to maintain water temperature below a simmer, and let steep for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat, and add katsuobushi.  Allow katsuobushi to settle at the bottom of pot, about 2 minutes.

Pour liquid through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard solids.


And here are some of my favorite recipes using Dashi as a base broth...enjoy!


Dashi with Crab and Tofu (© Fredrika Stj√§rne)

Root Vegetables in Dashi (Eric Wolfinger)

Warm Soba Noodles with Pork, Shrimp & Cabbage  (© Tina Rupp)

Shop MM.Lafleur

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tabletop Level Up with Boxed Gifts

Picture Credit Meghan Hess (Instagram)
I have found that one of the most easiest and impactful ways to increase the overall aesthetic of your tabletop decor is using the power of a boxed gift.

I was inspired to write the post after seeing another Instagram post in which this easy tabletop secret was used for a lunch launch by the event planners and organizers for Megan Hess, famed fashion illustrator.

And this doesn't just work for launches.

This works just as well for mom midday meetups while the kids are at school and you need some adult time.

This works just as well for a nonprofit committee meetup in which you want to give a simple thank you gift to your hard working committee members or board.

This works just as well for a few busy friends meeting up to celebrate life and you want to make them feel special for their loyalty and friendship.

And you don't have to have a Chanel budget to achieve the same aesthetic.

Here are some gift ideas to make this easy for you and I purposefully selected ones that had gorgeous packaging or comes in classy boxes so that all you have to do is place at each place setting or my most preferred way: put a bow or tie a ribbon around it!

No Ka' Oi Quilted Pouches Made in Italy (only $32+) 


NEST Gift Boxes Available from Votive to Large Candles

S'well Gold Calcutta Traveler


Fortnum Teas Are the Best in the World


Sugarfina Corona Bento Box

Marble Mortar and Pestle



Friday, September 14, 2018

Bringing on Fall with Lips to Envy



As a blogger I bump into many beauty brands but one lipstick I keep coming back to is Estee Lauder's lipstick envy.

It has the duality of being moisturizing while also long lasting considering I talk a lot as apart of my job as a curator and influencer.

I though y'all might like to know that you literally can't go wrong with this brand and the color above is my favorite for fall.

The color shown is called Stronger and is a matte sculpting lipstick in a perfect berry with a hint of brown.

My skin tone is a medium dark brown and I wear this color from work to an evening out because being in the creative space, it helps me to present myself as someone who is not boring and who brings a bit of fun to everything I do!

Ha!