So my sister spent her winter break on the West coast. Apparently after over two weeks of adventures thousands of miles away, all I had to do to lure her back home was bake a mochi cake. Indeed, the welcome home cake I chose comes from one of my family’s most treasured recipes. Incidentally, as I baked, I contemplated life and suddenly (as is all but natural for eighteen year old girls) I found myself imagining death. In fact, I am quite sure I know exactly how it will happen.
But first, let me tell you about mochi cake, a deceptively deadly dessert.
Mochi is (traditionally speaking) a sticky confection made out of pounded and molded short grain glutinous rice paste. It was invented in Japan and is used primarily for New Year’s celebrations.
As it has gained popularity, different cultures have used the same rice flour in different ways to do absolutely wonderful things. The mochi cake we eat and adore around my house is based off of a Hawaiian style butter mochi cake with some added American touches.
In other words, cultures collided and it was delicious. That is what I love about globalization. In this interconnected age, we can adapt, learn, and enjoy from the best bits of every culture. I love studying new places and foreign cultures – but I’m not a stickler for purity. In my eyes, while I believe it is fine and dandy to have a particular culture that you identify with, the more we open to learn from each other and even blend the genius ideas that our forefathers from various areas of the world have developed over the centuries, the more genius new creations can be made.
In my perfect world, people would be allowed to pick and choose from various cultural traditions according to what makes the most sense to them personally. For example, I’d gladly give up hand shakes for the Korean bow. And I’d be thrilled to greet people with “peace” vs. “how are you?” *By the way that was not a question that I expect or have any interest in you answering.* (AMERICAN CULTURE PET PEEVE ALERT).
Anyway… The best part about cultural diffusion is mixing and matching new ingredients and ideas. So, back to deliciousness and impending death:
Here is the recipe that makes my whole family sing for joy.
Blueberry Mochi Cake (via Closet Cooking)
1 cup butter (melted)
2 cups sugar
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mochiko (1 box)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup blueberries
1. Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
2. Mix in the evaporated milk and vanilla extract.
3. Mix in the eggs.
4. Mix in the mochiko and baking powder.
5. Mix in the blueberries.
6. Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan.
7. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until golden brown on top and a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
The key to mochi cake is finding an international grocery store where you can buy this, the stuff that dreams are made of:
Then you mix ungodly amounts of butter and sugar and other great things. Drop a handful or two of blueberries at the end and suddenly it becomes not only dessert, but perfect breakfast material (oh how I love the American idea of breakfast):
Now mochi may appear innocent enough, but in reality it is a thrill food. Its characteristic starchy stickiness has been known to cause dozens of deaths each new year in Japan as it is a horrible choking hazard. The danger of eating mochi increases as you get older. A Japanese company even invented fake mochi, a safe alternative for at risk elderly mochi lovers.
I learned the dangers of mochi the hard way. Once, while we were in Hawaii visiting my grandpa, I thought I’d bring him some Hawaiian butter mochi as a treat. His caretaker was appalled by my gift, as one of her patients lives had been ruined by mochi by suffering severe brain damage from prolonged choking.
You’d think such a story would stop my family from partaking of its chewy goodness, and although I will admit I am more careful now, and I don’t offer it to older folks, I still can’t help cooking it up on occasion. It. Is. So. Good.
I can’t imagine a life without mochi. And so that brings me to my new death sentence. I imagine that I’ll be living a crazy adventure, traveling the world until a ripe old age. Maybe I’ll even be in Japan or Hawaii for a special festival when someone offers me some mochi. I won’t have the self control to turn it down. Not now, not ever.The End.