Thursday, July 22, 2010


I don't want ComEd, our electric utility, to get any more of my money than strictly necessary, so there are often summer days that I leave the air conditioner off. Today was one of those days, especially because it was cloudy in the morning. The house has good insulation, so it takes all day to heat up on a day like that. I don't usually notice as the inside temp slowly rises. Yuriko notices after she comes home from an air-conditioned office, however.

"Why is it so hot in here?" she says.

"We didn't notice," I answer.


"You know, like lobsters in a pot that's beginning to boil."

Drinking something cold during the day also helps. There's Kool-Aid (see July 8) and other kid beverages around, which I leave for the kids mostly, as well as carbonated soda, which I drink but never as much as the rest of my family -- the family I grew up in, nor the one that grows up around me now. Beer has its place, but largely as special-occasion drinking. Long ago, Yuriko brought home a 24-pack of one of the mainstream brews because it was on sale cheap, and it must have taken me about three years to get through it.

I also drink "roasted barley tea" in the summer. That doesn't sound like a good drink, but I never call it that. No one else in the house calls it that either. It goes by its Japanese name, mugicha (麦茶), around here. I've been drinking it for so many summers now -- as far back as the hot, AC-less Osaka summers -- that it's a flavor of summer for me. Drinking it any other time seems odd.

Currently we're working our way through a 52-bag package of Shirakiku brand mugicha, product of Japan. Since it's an import, it has an ingredient panel in English. It says, "Ingredients: Barley."

"It has a toasty taste, with slight bitter undertones, but much less so than tea made from tea leaves," writes the Japanese food blogger at Just Hungry, and a lot else besides about mugicha. She continues: "To me, it’s much more refreshing to drink than plain water."

I'll go along with that. But mugicha is an acquired taste. It looks like regular tea, and if you're expecting it to taste like regular iced tea, you'll be surprised. On their first try many Occidentals don't seem to care for it. That might have happened to me, but I don't remember, since I've taken to it so completely in the years since.

The simplicity of how it's made also appeals to me. Put a mugicha bag into a pitcher; fill it with cold water; put the pitcher in the refrigerator for a few hours. Drink. That's it. Perfect for summer.

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