July 3rd, 2008

According to Japanese law, I'm overweight.

By now you may have heard of the Japanese law that requires companies and local governments to measure the waistlines of Japanese between the ages of 40 and 74. If you haven't, read http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/06/metabo-your-figure-or-your-job.html.

The limits are 33.5 inches for men, 35.4 inches for women.

To give you an idea of how strict that is...*I* barely miss the limit. (Well, if I suck in my stomach, I can pass, but I don't know if that'd be allowed.)

Those of you who have seen me lately can vouch for the fact that I'm not exactly overweight. Nor am I very large. You can gauge from my body shape what their standards require.

Glad I'm not Japanese. They'd be sending me out for mandatory counseling and monitoring.

Sweet Heat: For Jamaicans, It’s About Jerk

From http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/02/dining/02jerk.html:
ON most summer Sundays, Brooklyn is burning.

Smoke rises from grills, many of them charcoal-fueled, illegal and loaded with jerk chicken — the spiced, smoky favorite of the borough’s large Jamaican community.

Jerk is Jamaica to the bone, aromatic and smoky, sweet but insistently hot. All of its traditional ingredients grow in the island’s lush green interior: fresh ginger, thyme and scallions; Scotch bonnet peppers; and the sweet wood of the allspice tree, which burns to a fragrant smoke.

“It’s not a sauce, it’s a procedure,” Jerome Williams, a Jamaican-born Brooklyn resident, said on a recent Sunday in Prospect Park, where families arrive as early as 6 a.m. for lakeside grilling spots, a few of which are actually authorized by the parks department. “It has to be hot, but it cannot only be hot, or you get no joy from it.”

Done right, jerk is one of the great barbecue traditions of the world, up there with Texas brisket and Chinese char siu. Its components are a thick brown paste flecked with chilies, meat (usually pork or chicken, occasionally goat or fish) and smoke, from a tightly covered charcoal grill, that slowly soaks into the food.

Boston Bay, on Jamaica’s east coast, has become the island’s most famous destination for jerk. The beach is lined with stalls selling jerk, and the sweet and starchy foods that go well with it: “rice and peas,” rice cooked in coconut milk with small red beans; sweet potatoes roasted in charcoal; and “festival,” a missile of sweet fried dough that resembles an oversize hush puppy.

“People drive all the way from Kingston for Boston jerk,” Mr. Williams said. That’s a four-hour journey of hairpin turns over the Blue Mountains, where allspice trees grow wild.

Purists say allspice smoke is a defining element of jerk. The entire tree, which Jamaicans call pimento, is used: the crushed berries are rubbed into the skin; the wood burns hot and slow; the green leaves are tossed on the fire, releasing a sweet smoke that flavors the meat with a warm, woody pepperiness.

Last year, because of the efforts of Gary Feblowitz, a jerk-obsessed cinematographer for television documentaries, pimento wood for grilling became available in the United States. It took him five years to clear red tape in the United States and Jamaica.

Jerk is so ingrained in Jamaican cooks that the notion of getting a recipe is entertaining, something like asking a Midwesterner for a hamburger recipe.

“Go around the corner to the cellphone store, the music store — you will always find someone to tell you how to do it,” Mr. Williams said, gesturing toward Flatbush Avenue, the main artery of West Indian Brooklyn.

Ms. Reid, of Islands restaurant, bakes her jerk, as her mother did before her. “I think men like messing around with hot coals,” she said, proving that some gender-culinary stereotypes transcend geography. “Women just want to get a good dinner on the table.”

To find good jerk in New York, one place to look is near hospitals (serving the many Jamaicans who work in health care), busy subway stops, or better yet, both.

Yvonne’s Jamaican food truck, which parks on East 71st Street near New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center on the Upper East Side, sells jerk pork only on Tuesdays and Fridays, and jerk chicken only on Wednesdays, but a fiery sauce of chopped Scotch bonnets pickled in vinegar every day of the week. The sauce is available by the shot and, alarmingly, by the quart. (Most local jerk is made mild, with hot sauce glugged on afterward at the customer’s request.)

“Jamaicans and Trinidadians like heat,” said Tamika Macintosh, a nurse’s assistant and an Yvonne’s regular. “The other West Indians can’t take it.”

Alternatively, follow the smoke. Some fancy West Indian restaurants make very good jerk rubs, but they are too mindful of the law to put a charcoal grill out on the sidewalk. You have to seek out the renegades.

“If the smoke is so thick outside on the sidewalk that you can’t see to put the quarter in the parking meter, that’s a good sign,” Mr. Williams said.

“We get tickets, sure,” said Desmond Mailer, the manager of McKenzie’s on Utica Avenue in Flatbush, where smoke billows from blackened oil drums 16 hours a day. “But you know, cops like jerk, too.”
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July 1 was Moving Day in Quebec.

Historically, urban leases in Quebec began on May 1 and ended on April 30, but in 1973 the law was changed so students could move after the end of the school year. That law changed extended all leases that year until July 1, and it removed the requirement for a fixed-term lease.

Nonetheless, most leases in Quebec are still a year long, and they generally start on the first of July. Leases have started to spread out, but July 1st is still known as Moving Day in the cities of Quebec.

The resulting trash-picking opportunities on July 2nd are apparently extensive, as documented in this blog:
Anyone who wants to understand the vast excess of western society need only walk around anywhere in Montreal on July 1. There, you’ll find discarded furniture, empty boxes and lots and lots of garbage.

What gets me most about it, though, is the thought that before today, people had these things in their homes. Now it’s so useless even people walking the streets want nothing to do with them.

This is a post about Moving Day told in photos.
I feel like there must be some business opportunity to take advantage of the July 1 moving day in Montreal and the September 1 moving day in Boston, but I can't figure out what.

Edit: There's also this cheery press release from the Régie du logement: "For many households, July 1 is both a statutory holiday and their moving day! That is why, again this year, the Régie will be just a phone call away so as to respond to information requests from tenants and landlords on that often frenzied day.

"The Régie reminds you that a new tenant's right to occupy a dwelling begins on the first day of the lease, and that the tenant who is moving out does not have a day's grace to vacate the dwelling and remove all personal effects. That said, it is obviously not possible for everyone to obtain a moving truck at the same time. The Régie du logement therefore encourages you to be courteous and civic-minded, and exercise your rights in a reasonable manner."

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