25 April, 2010

Turning Japanese.

Remember that song by The Vapors? Turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese/I really think so--oh, admit it, it rings a bell--circa 1980. I've got it on a damaged cassette mix that I can't quite bring myself to throw away. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so does it make this gone and disappeared band feel better that Liz Phair featured it on an album, and that even Coldplay covered it (at least once)? A hit single seems so much more ephemeral than, say, a tree.
I just went to an exposition of Japanese maples at the 150 year old Bambouseraie d'Anduze. A privately held 34 hectare botanical garden, it is aptly named as its collection includes over 300 types of bamboo. Black ones, striped ones, purple ones, yellow ones, minute ones that form a spiky lawn, massive ones that reach 25 meters, in short, all kinds of bamboo. There's also the largest magnolia tree in Europe, sequoias, on-going often breath-taking natural art installations, an aquatic garden (note: April is too early in the season to see much in the way of the normally sensational water lily collection), a large Japanese garden, a labyrinth made of living bamboo, etc., etc. All this irrigated with five kilometers worth of elegant, narrow water canals.
At first blush years ago, it seemed so odd that I'd keep coming across stands of bamboo in the Cevennes. I mean, it's the south of France, not southeast Asia, right? But for the very wealthiest some two hundred years ago, having a collection of exotic trees (sequoias brought in by ship from California, bamboo from China) was not only a trend but a way of flaunting a very particular status. On the larger properties in the Cevennes, you can still come across some extraordinary specimens. As my neighbor says: we don't plant trees for ourselves, we plant them for our grandchildren.In the shorter term, we're getting near-summer weather here: the swallows are back in the eaves of the roof, and I've broken out the ice cream maker. First came the house standard, coconut ice cream. Then this custardy, ultra-decadent version of green tea ice cream by chef Yoshi Katsumura. A sunny afternoon with a friend's a pretty fine excuse to enjoy matcha...but nearly any moment'll do, really.

Glace au thé vert/抹茶アイスクリーム (Green Tea Ice Cream)

1 liter whole milk
15 g powdered Japanese green tea, or matcha
12 egg yolks*
400 g sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Bring milk just to the boil. Remove from heat, add green tea and allow to infuse. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together until they form a pale yellow ribbon. Combine egg mixture and milk, then strain into a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and remove just before the mixture reaches a boil; cool completely over ice water. Beat heavy cream until frothy. Pour into egg mixture and mix well. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Mmm...

*This is not a typo. Save the egg whites to make meringue cookies, which go well with this ice cream, or a cup of green tea.


  1. That bamboo is freaky!

    I was at the poppy reserve today. Spring is definitely in the air!

  2. Hi WC, I know--from some angles the bamboo actually looks braided.

    Thanks RC! And spring colors--not autumn. I had a really hard time deciding which photos to include...

  3. Gah! This is gorgeous. Long a fan of Japanese gardens, this is a balm for me. Thank you!

  4. You're welcome Molly! There were many more lovely variations, and it seemed as though every other person leaving the gardens was carrying home a maple of their own. Portable zen.


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