Baking time

It’s finally cool in Tokyo. Time to start baking.

Here’s a video about chocolate chip cookies, comparing and analyzing the process of those made by an amateur to two different professionals. How do you make your cookies? And if you want to practice your “cooking English” more (the vocabulary and idioms used when talking about cooking is rather specific from language to language and just translating directly doesn’t always work, so getting lots of input in that language is very important if you want to talk about it), there are some links to recipe sites in the Tools section.

Happy cooking 🥘 and baking 🍪

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, here’s how to decorate cookies to make them look like autumn leaves:



Over the summer I read a book that took place in England in the 14th century, just after the Black Death (also called the Black Plague, and in Japanese it’s called ペスト, which comes from the English word pestilence and can cause some confusion because “pesto” in English is a delicious pasta sauce made of basil, oil, nuts, and cheese… ), which killed about 50 million people, or about 60% of Europe’s population (according to this article, though statistics vary) and was spread mostly by infected rats.

So reading about people *eating* rats was a bit more jarring than it might normally be.

“How to join the rat race” (from 1843)


This article implies that rat is probably an acquired taste (a food you don’t like right away but can become more enjoyable over time, like oysters). Write about some things you didn’t like at first (food or drink) but you do like now. Like natto, for example? I disliked 麦茶 the first time I tried it, but love it now..

Focus on language

Try guessing what these mean from context, and then check dictionaries (both E and J) and ask native or near-native speakers for confirmation, then try “recycling” the language in your own original sentences and stories.

  • “(something) has a pull on me” (first paragraph)
  • “no getting round the fact that…” (second paragraph), in American English I think most people say “around” rather than “round”, but ask as many native speakers as you can and see what they say
  • “Rats.” (from the title of this post) — This doesn’t just mean more than one rat. It’s a phrase (an interjection) used by American English speakers (and maybe others, but you should ask around and find out). What do you think it means?

Other things you could do related to this topic:

  • Learn something about Sulawesi.
  • Write about unusual foods you’ve eaten or would like to try, and find some photos.
  • FInd some information about overfishing or other cases of the “supply and demand” of food becoming unbalanced.
  • Find out if Japan, or another country you’re studying, had horrible pandemics in the past.
  • The Black Death took place in about 1346-53. What was happening in Japan at that time?

Flying through the world of van Gogh

Something to enjoy, to ease us back and into the autumn semester. If you’re ready to start, try doing a little research on van Gogh, or one of his contemporaries. Or you could try finding something about him in the news, like these two pieces: “Does Van Gogh’s Starry, Starry Night feature the Milky, Milky Way?” (from The Art Newspaper), and this, which is a bit darker, more somber: “Van Gogh’s ‘terrifying environment’ of French asylum revealed” (from The Guardian).


A travel writer from the National Geographic set herself a goal on her vacation to Belize: try not to use any single-use plastic. She ended up avoiding it 79 times.

“You don’t have to be perfect. Even if you mess up along the way, doing *something* makes a difference.”

And this goes for your English, too. It doesn’t have to be perfect; just do something.

Let’s all try to follow her example this summer. I’ll be back in September with more topics. In the meantime, there’s plenty in the archives to read, watch, and learn about, and then to talk about with your friends or write about in your porfolio.