It starts with these two: Fumiko and Flore. They are both great cooks, but with very different styles. She learned recipes and followed them — certain things must be done in a very exact way or it WON”T TASTE RIGHT. Learn it, follow it, and you get consistent results every time — why re-invent the wheel? He is the Great Improviser — recipes are roadmaps with many alternate routes, and he is more likely to take a by-way or forge a completely different way. His culinary hero is Emeril Lagasse, so BAM! you will find some unexpected ingredients in many of his dishes.

They are my parents, and as you might expect my style is somewhere in between these seemingly mutually exclusive styles. I learned from Mom that there are recipes you don’t mess with — when you want something to taste like Mom’s or Grandma’s, or someone else’s mom’s or grandma’s, then you gotta do what they did. Same when I want to know what someone else is tasting — I’ve read their blog, I’ve drooled over the food porn, and now I want to taste THAT bread/soup/cake/pizza/stew/{insert your best recipe here}! Hunt down the ingredients, pay attention to the differences, and hopefully you can close your eyes, taste, and be transported to a NYC deli, an Italian alp, an Hawaiian beach, or a tiny Greek island. If only for that moment.

Other times a recipe and a photo are an inspiration — you tweak, you substitute, you add your own something-something…. then I’m channeling my dad. Sure, Dad sometimes crosses the line (substituting Worcestershire sauce for soy sauce in Filipino chicken adobo was the most recent, never-to-be-repeated transgression… it was literally inedible…), but his curiosity about and boldness in trying new foods, as well as his flexibility in using what is near at hand are qualities that haunt every page of this site.

I was lucky to have met my soulmate in my husband (T.) — who indulges market romps when we land in a new country, and who will boldly point to an item on a menu he cannot read and then happily eat whatever is brought to him. Even cucumbers. When we met, this man refused to eat cucumbers — blood sausage, raw meat, insects, no problem; cucumbers, no way. That has changed.

Laika & Haiku in LohnsfeldKiowea makes himself at home
Our companions in this journey have been of the four-legged variety. For 10 years it was the well-travelled Katzenschwestern (Sister Cats), Laika and Haiku, formerly known as Timmy and Tammy of the Kaiserslautern Tierheim. They flew back and forth between Germany and the U.S., and even flew to Hawaii (via Seoul). In between, they “enjoyed” car trips to Maine and to France, too. On Oahu, we were joined by Kiowea, a lo-o-ong-limbed tuxedo cat who purred his way into our hearts and home via the Hawaiian Humane Society. He and Haiku flew together from Hawaii to Washington on our last big move — no big deal for Miss Haiku who was a seasoned traveller and was familiar with things like snow, but trading geckos for crickets, and grass for snow was quite baffling for Master Kio for a while.

And me? I’m Manju — I took my name from these Japanese wheat cakes filled with sweetened adzuki beans. Born in Okinawa and raised on the U.S. island of Guam, I consider myself so lucky to have lived in and travelled to some truly incredible places. I lived and studied in the San Francisco Bay Area for 9 years before returning to my island home for the next 7. We are privileged to have lived twice in Germany, spending a total of 7 years exploring and falling in love with the land, the people, the wines, and the foods of Germany, France and nearby countries. We encamped once to Boston, Massachusetts while T. was in graduate school, and sometime later also to the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where this site was born. The last 2 years we’ve been in the Washington DC metro area, and just moved north to Frederick County, Maryland. Although only a 45-minute drive north and west of DC, Frederick County is more like a different country — small family-run farms dot the county and provide an unbelievable bounty of organic produce, rich honeys, wines, and grass-fed and free-range meats, dairy products and eggs. Now that we’ve put down some roots, I’m eager to see what happens next! Thanks for coming along on our journey…