Sunday, August 3, 2008

Entry for June 20, 2008

"Nandemo takai!"

Everything is expensive!

Today I remembered to fill a plastic bottle with tap water to take to work. That's five days in a row. Since the cheapest 500 ml bottle in the workplace store is Crystal Geyser at 110 yen, I've saved 550 yen this week, not to mention there being five less plastic bottles clogging the local landfill or being recycled into plastic there doesn't seem to be much of a market for, so, yay!

Plus, today, the Pumpkin Princess was very cooperative about leaving for day care, so I dropped her off in time to get through the expressway gate before 9 a.m. (if you get on or off the expressway during certain hours, you ony pay half the regular toll). So that's 850 yen saved today.

Since I got on the expressway early, I tried playing a geeky game of how much mileage I could get out of the Pumpkin Prius.

(geek alert)

Since wind resistance varies directly to the square of velocity, the more slowly you drive, the less wind resistance you get.

(end geek aler)

Of course, driving too slowly is inefficient for the engine, so there is a happy medium somewhere in between. It was low traffic, so I wasn't elevating anyone's stress level by driving betweeen 90 and 100 kph. The Pumpkin Prius has averaged 22 kilometers per liter (51.8 mpg for my American friends) this tank. Driving the Prius to jack up the fuel economy used to be a purely geeky game. Now, it's starting to make financial sense.

For lunch, I spent the 850 yen saved at a Korean restaurant I'd been meaning to check out. I had the sundubu jjigae lunch, which was delicious! Although it's considered bad table manners in Japan, apparently in Korea, it is perfectly OK to spoon your soup on your rice or vice versa, so I took full advantage of the cultural discrepancy and ended up with a delightfully spicy seafood risotto.

This afternoon, one of the co-workers asked me if I wanted a cream puff. One of the clients had brought a couple packs of them. They were from a local pastry shop known for their delicious cakes, so I did not hesitate to take one. I bit into it, and, well, it was good, but it wasn't a cream puff. The filling was the lovely custard cream that the pastry shop is known for, but the shell...wasn't a shell. It was more like a skin. A sticky, pasty skin. It tasted a lot like a yukimi daifuku skin. Then it hit me. Wheat (and hence flour) prices have been steadily rising in current months. Butter has also been incredily hard to come by (Japan imports most of its milk for butter, and domestic dairy farmers only produce what's needed as fresh milk, and then the global market for dairy products abruptly got larger, leaving us with no butter. Or cheese. A couple months ago, you could not find butter in the supermarket. Period.) hitting bakeries and pastry shops very hard. It makes financial sense to develop new and different sweets that don't use flour. Using mochi skins, which would be made of rice, makes good business sense, because in Japan, rice prices are regulated by the government and will not be rising for at least several more months. In addition, making mochi does not involve butter.

Not everyone agreed with me or like the quasi-cream puffs as much. The combination of mochi and custard might not be a universal taste. I'm thinking those people don't like Yukimi Daifuku, either.

So the recent climate changes, global oil market, and rising grain costs have made fake cream puffs and my geeky mileage game financially practical. Cool, but you have to wonder what is going on for people who are less well off. I just eat less bread and more rice (and mochi skin cream puffs). What do people living on less than a dollar a day in developing nations eat? If anything?

Please go click on the Hunger Site if you haven't already today.

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