Had an interesting conversation with one of my german co-workers today. Having had a brief conversation in German, he remarked that he didn’t know my german level. He probably assumed that i was completely incompetent (where as the reality is that i’m simply mostly incompetent…)

Which is all very interesting, but contrast starkly with my experience in japanese, where i was absolutely comfortable making a fool of myself. The expectation that a foreigner could never hold a conversation in japanese, even at the level of a five year old, made everything easy. Zero expectations.

In europe, where i nominally identify, it’s much harder to be european (english… yes, ok, but i’m trying…) and talking a european language like a five year old. That feels much harder.

Some of this is english being a lingua franca for europe these days (also true in japan but if i’m a five year old in japanese…), but mostly it’s not wanting to make a fool of myself relative to my “native” language ability. It’s really something i want to get over – it’s the only way i’ll increase the rate that i’m picking up german.

Too old for all this.

Stir fried Cucumber

I wanted scampi. Big scampi, lightly battered, in a chinese sweet chilli sauce. We don’t have those things…

  • cucumber cut into 5cm sticks
  • cashew nuts
  • fried tofu
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • chilis (fresh or dried)
  • chili-bean paste (toubanjan, the ubiquitous lee kum kee!)
  • sake (or rice wine)
  • cornstarch
  • soya sauce

Toast cashew nuts in a pan / wok until they start to colour. Set aside. Stir fry ginger, garlic, and chilis in oil. Add tofu, cucumbers, cashews, and bean paste. Deglaze with sake, then add a splash of water. Cook for 30s to a minute – the tofu needs to get hot, then thicken with cornstarch. Soya sauce (shoyu, of course!) before serving.

Takes… meh, ten minutes including preparation time.

Millet Salad

Never been a huge fan of couscous, far too dry unless you slather it in olive oil… which isn’t great either. Millet (Hirse in german) is somehow better.

Cook a small amount of millet in twice as much water (by volume) for five minutes, and then let it sit with top on the pan for another five minutes. Meanwhile cook thinly sliced button mushrooms in a pan. when the are soft take them of the heat, cut them through, and stir into millet. Leave the top off the pan now, so it can cool.

In a large bowl, mix:

  • chopped tomatoes
  • black olives
  • capers
  • minced garlic
  • cooked green beans, cut into small (several millimetre length)

Let it all sit for a while, and prepare the following:

  • cucumber, chopped small
  • lettuce, shredded
  • bunch of fresh cilantro (parsley would be fine, some sort of tabbouleh!)

When the millet has cooled down, but is still warm… add it to the large bowl, along with the other ingredients, and dress it all with rape seed oil and lemon juice.

If i’d had a fresh green chilli…

7 a day (another)


  • salad (lettuce, alfalfa, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, salad radishes, edamame)
  • miso soup (white radish, taro, napa cabbage)
  • half an apple


  • grilled aubergine with grated ginger
  • silken tofu
  • stir-fried pak-choi
  • genmai (brown rice)


  • salad (lamb’s lettuce, alfalfa, sunflower seeds, salad radishes, broccoli, grated carrot, red onion)
  • rest of yesterdays lentil stew

Sometime during the afternoon i had a banana and handful of nuts.

7 a day (again)


  • salad (lettuce, cucumber, alfalfa, sunflower seeds, broccoli)
  • pineapple


  • yasai itame / japanese stir fly (cabbage, leek, carrot, onion, mushroom, grilled tofu, ginger, garlic)
  • pickled diakon (white raddish)
  • 2 dried figs
  • grapefruit


  • lentil stew (onions, garlic, chillis, savory, brown lentils, tomatoes)
  • salad (lamb’s lettuce, pear, walnuts, lemon juice, hemp oil)
  • bottle of red wine

Easter was a little “off the rails” but not horribly so… some pasta was involved, a falafel in durum, some rice. Nothing horrendous.