Saturday, January 3, 2009

Half Birthday Strawberry Shortcake

I’m back in Nice! And it’s our half birthday!

I say this a lot, but it’s worth repeating: thank you, thank you, thank you for your continuing support and for reading me. This blog began as a portfolio of writing samples and then it quickly morphed into more of a personal blog – I guess my inner narcissist took over. Who knew that anyone would find my life interesting but me? In just six months, over 1150 unique visitors have been here, from 44 different countries. I am stunned and grateful!

If I were still in Japan (*sigh!*), I’d celebrate the occasion with half of a strawberry shortcake from Capricciosa. Preferably all to myself.

You know how I said that no one makes toilets like the Japanese do? It’s more accurate to say that there are a LOT of things that no one makes like they do – including strawberry shortcake. Japan is all about quality over quantity. Everything is tiny (except produce and toilets), but the quality is top-notch. Things tend to be on the pricey side, but you know that you’re getting what you paid for.

Take this shortcake I keep bringing up. I sampled many during my trip, and I’d say that the average price for a slice was about 450 to 600 ¥, which at the time of writing this, is about $6.50-8.50 CAD – comparable to Canadian prices, especially at chicer places. However, the size would be equal to about a half to two thirds of a slice of cake in Canada. But it’s totally worth it.

I don’t know how they make cream in Japan, but from every establishment, without exception, it’s literally light as air. It just flutters on your palate, and it’s not too sweet. The cake part is unbelievably fluffy. And the strawberries! How do they cultivate the produce that they have in Japan?

All of their produce, their fruit in particular, are massive. Like, enormous, which is the opposite of the sizes of everything else. When I first saw the kiwis sitting on my aunt and uncle’s window sill, I thought they were fuzzy potatoes. The average size of an apple is the size of two of my fists put together. And every piece of fruit I had was very sweet. Admittedly, I probably just got what was in season, but I didn’t even really have to choose my produce, because every single fruit looks perfect. The strawberries, especially, are sold in little, clear-wrapped boxes, all perfectly lined up in a single layer, pointing upwards. They look so perfect and perfectly red, they almost look fake. And of course, they are all super sweet and packed with a strong, strawberry flavour.

I asked my uncle if all the produce in Japan are genetically-modified, because otherwise, how can they be so amazing? But he doesn’t think they are, because Japan has really strict laws about things like that, especially when health and safety are involved. My aunt, who is usually not so gung-ho about policies in Japan, agreed with him on this, and she thinks that the produce there is like that because scientists have put a lot of work into cross-fertilizing the best plants with the best plants to come up with a superior fruit, kind of like breeding animals. I don’t know how scientifically-sound that explanation is, but I wouldn’t write it off.

My favourite strawberry shortcake is the one from Capricciosa because, as you can see, there is an enormous wad of cream in it and on it, and it’s full of strawberries. It’s the perfect conclusion to a delicious spaghetti meal at that restaurant!

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