National Hamburger Month

May is National Hamburger Month! And May 28th has been declared National Hamburger Day (at least here in the U.S., where the hamburger is king). Who knows how these holidays get started? I had a hard time even trying to figure out who invented the hamburger. After doing some research online, the only thing that seems certain is that there are conflicting stories and several people are taking credit. But the consensus seems to be that the city of Hamburg, Germany, wasn’t really the origin of the hamburger sandwich—rather, it was where we got the hamburger steak.

OK, once I start hearing everybody claiming to be the inventor of something, I lose interest. But the best story I read was that Genghis Khan can actually take credit for ground beef. He apparently had to figure out a way to feed his troops while they pillaged and conquered as a mobile army on horseback, so he packed wrapped slices of raw meat under the saddles of his men. Eww! The meat would crumble under the pressure and movement as they rode, and the friction would mince the meat—how about that; a successful raid and a ground beef patty at the same time! I’m not sure whether they ate it raw or not.

And here’s something else you may not know, unless you’re Japanese. When I first started working in Tokyo, I found out there is a difference between a “hambahgah and a “hambahgu, with the emphasis on that last syllable. Our beloved All-American sandwich is a “hambahgah; considered to be a distinctly foreign food by the Japanese. The “hambahgu is really a traditional hamburger steak, introduced to the world by the Germans and adapted to Japanese tastes. These are the subtleties you’ve got to learn!

American “Hambahgah

We sure know how to make ‘em, don’t we?

Japanese “Hambahgu

Note the sauce, a rich demi glace that is the heart and soul of this dish, in my opinion. The patty is usually a combination of ground beef and ground pork, with a bread crumb filler to make the ingredients go further. I love it this way—it’s a similar texture to our American meatloaf. Served with a plate of plain white rice on the side, the hambahgu is one of my favorite childhood memories, and one of the best dishes you can eat with rice (see last month’s Zojirushi 101 for more). Although I prefer the classic demi glace on mine, you can find hambahgu at restaurants served with tomato sauce, ponzu with grated daikon, and/or topped with a fried egg or melted cheese.

More Hamburger Fun Facts:

•During WWI, hamburgers were known as “Liberty Sandwiches” because we wanted to avoid using any reference to Germany, which was considered the main instigator of the war.
•Current eating champion Sonya Thomas (aka Lee Sun-kyung), who holds records in over 25 eating competitions, once ate a 9-pound cheeseburger in 27 minutes. She is known as the “Black Widow” because she continually defeats men 4 to 5 times her size in eating contests. Sonya is 5 feet tall and weighs 98 pounds. LOL.
•In the 70s, a Big Mac® advertising campaign became very popular when a catchy jingle was nothing more than naming all the ingredients in the hamburger. Everyone would try to memorize it and sing it. Even if you’re too young to remember this commercial, can you name the ingredients in a Big Mac?
•In 2003, animal rights group PETA offered the city of Hamburg, NY, $15,000 to change the name of their town to Veggieburg. They said the city’s name “conjured up visions of unhealthy patties of ground up dead cows.” Hamburg declined the offer.


Try to guess the name of the fast-food burger just by looking at the picture. For the answer, read my post for more hamburger fun. There are hints everywhere!


Try these hamburger recipes from Zojirushi—it’s another excuse to use your griddle or grill while you celebrate National Hamburger Month!

photo credits: Media News, sasaq
creative commons license
other photos by @ironchefmom

“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions—on a sesame seed bun.”





Earlier this March I was at the International Housewares Show in Chicago again, and this year I thought I’d do my report exclusively on your favorite company and mine, Zojirushi. For more on what the IHA Show is all about and a peek at what goes on there, see my past post on the IHA Show here. As always, it was a sold-out conference of over 2200 exhibitors from 47 countries, showing off their newest innovations in kitchen and home cleaning products. It’s an exciting, fast, activity packed 4 days of meetings, seminars, panel discussions and dinners for all of these exhibitors—and our friends from Zojirushi were there, unveiling brand new creations and celebrating their 100 Birthday!

Just to give you a bit of the overall picture, the Show is divided into 3 halls at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago. Home cleaning takes up the North Hall while kitchenware takes up the South. A smaller, but definitely the coolest hall, is filled with all the manufacturers of home electrical appliances—and that is where Zojirushi is, right in the middle of it all.

As always, our friends had many new products and innovations to unveil, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about them during the year. Here’s a couple of sneak peeks from me–the updated Fresh Brew Coffee Maker, and a new drink bottle from their travel mug collection. The Fresh Brew will now come included with a permanent, gold mesh coffee filter basket, so you won’t have to replace the paper filters anymore. This is great news! Permanent filters save money, are easy enough to clean and are better for the environment because there’s no paper waste. I like that!

Their newest insulated travel mug has these very stylish, gradient colors that accentuate the tall cap design on this bottle. I’ve always been a fan of the colors that Zojirushi comes up with for their bottles, but they’ve outdone themselves this time with these!

Also being introduced are these new drinking spouts on some of their models. The large opening is designed for quick guzzling when you’re very thirsty—but they’re still watertight enough for your backpack. Neat, huh?

I was also told that for fans of stainless steel, there is a new water boiler with an inner tank made of their patented SlickSteel® surface, and a steel option will also become available on one of their rice cooker models. So if you’d rather have stainless steel than a nonstick surface, you can look forward to those!

Besides all the wonderful technical gadgets and appliances that are demonstrated in this hall, you can smell all the aromas from fresh coffee and food cooking as you roam the aisles. Manufacturers of coffee makers and various cooking appliances all give out samples throughout the day, and Zojirushi is no different, as the staff is extremely busy, grilling tasty snacks on their gourmet griddles and cooking rice dishes with their rice cookers. I’m telling you, it’s a smorgasbord, and there’s nothing like the smell of good food to attract customers to your booth!

Marlene and Nick from Zojirushi fanning and cooling fresh cooked sushi rice.

Lamb Kebabs (original Zojirushi recipe)

Grilled Veggies


Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (recipe from Marlene) & Brown Rice Tabbouleh (Zojirushi original)

Scenes from the 100th Anniversary party that Zojirushi held at their booth for their customers and guests.

What a spread!

I hope you enjoyed this look from behind the curtains at this year’s International Housewares Show. You can see how much work is involved in putting an event of this size together, both for the organizers and for all the exhibitors that attend it. Luckily, the weather in Chicago was fairly mild again this year, and I was able to fly out just as snow hit the city. This was at the airport and it looks bad, but I only got delayed an hour.

Airport crews busy at work, de-icing the wings before takeoff. I think that green stuff is anti-freeze.

I hope to attend next year too—looking forward to it!


photos by: Amy Barnum and Bert Tanimoto

100 Years of Inspirations From Japanese Life

Zojirushi celebrates their 100th Birthday this year. Congratulations! Believe me, this is no small feat. Even though Japan is known for having many companies that are centuries old, if you compare U.S. companies that started in 1994, one in every four were already out of business by 2004—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I got to thinking—what was Japan like in 1918, when a manufacturer of hand blown glass liners started the beginnings of the company that would one day become Zojirushi? Check out these remarkable images by German-American photographer Arnold Genthe, who followed his passion for Japanese ukiyoe art and spent 6 months touring and shooting ordinary life in Kyoto, Shikoku and Hokkaido during the early 1900s. All of these images are preserved and stored today at the U.S. Library of Congress. Look at them carefully, and you’ll travel back into a different world—but was it so different?

Many of Genthe’s images show street merchants and shopping areas. Not that much has changed, has it? Today’s “shoten-gai” is pretty much the same, other than the buildings and the presence of rickshaws and pull carts. This street even had an overhead canopy–a lot like the ones you see today.

See the power lines? Electricity was first used in Japan in Tokyo in 1878, which wasn’t that far off from the rest of the civilized world. It was still unfamiliar and uncommon in those days. By the time the early 20th Century came, Japan was already an active member of the international community and very modernized. People began wearing western style clothing and started eating new foods, while cars, trains and electricity became part of everyday life.

Omigosh! This street definitely needs to be leveled off!

A lovely shot of homes nestled into the mountains. What struck me about this image is that many homes like this can still be seen if you visit the Japanese countryside. Thankfully, not everything changes with industrialization.

Weary travelers resting at a pitstop, while a rickshaw trots along. The rickshaw was a popular mode of transportation in Japan during the turn of the century, and it was a distinctly Japanese invention. By the late 1800s more than 40,000 rickshaws were carrying people around Tokyo, which was the “taxi” of the times. But it should also be noted that only the wealthy could afford them—a reminder of the widespread class system between the haves and have nots during those days. By the 1930s the rickshaw’s popularity started to decline when Japan’s car industry began to take off.

These young people look like they could afford to ride a rickshaw.

Enjoying a day at the beach. The sign separates “Women to the left, men to the right”. And look! Emojis!

Children are children no matter what. But note that the older girls were made to take care of their baby siblings at a very early age.

Arnold Genthe took these shots in 1908, keeping his camera hidden while he captured Japanese locals going about their daily lives. It’s a rare look into a past that we don’t often think about—it makes you think about what it means to be 100 years old, doesn’t it?


photo credits: “Rickshaw” taken from vintage photos & Tokyo Times
Arnold Genthe images from U.S. Library of Congress archives



My Favorite February Days

It’s time again to review the wacky “Holidays” of the month and get silly. February has its fair share of holidays, but this month I’m going to do something different and direct you to my favorite Zojirushi recipes that everyone can make—to help celebrate these special days. There’s a recipe for everything my friend, and Zojirushi usually has one.

February 4th is National Stuffed Mushroom Day
I kind of get why this dish has its own special day. Versatile as an hors d’oeuvre and always appreciated as an appetizer, they can be filled with practically anything and can either be served right out of the oven or at room temperature or even out of the refrigerator. Try these Stuffed Potato Mushroom Skewers—juicy mushroom caps stuffed with classic parsley and mashed potatoes. Looks easy and looks delish!

February 6th is National Chopsticks Day
My favorite eating utensil! Sorry, but forks are a waste of time for most things to me—even salads. The only disadvantage is if you want to eat a steak, but you can pre-slice the meat before you serve it, right?

Practice makes perfect for handling your chopsticks. Anyone can pick up short grain Japanese rice because it’s sticky and clumpy. You could even scoop up a mouthful with your off-hand if you needed to. BUT try picking up the drier Chinese long grain kind, or for an even bigger challenge, try picking up a grain of rice at a time. To get to this level, you’ll need a sharp pair of excellent quality chopsticks and the hand-eye coordination of a surgeon. For practice, look up this Zojirushi recipe for Kurigohan. This is very easy to make with your rice cooker. Practice picking clumps of rice first, then graduate to single pieces of chestnuts, then focus on single grains last. Master this, and you are a hashi pro.

For more on chopsticks, read this.

February 9th is National Pizza Day
Alright! Who doesn’t love pizza? Now here’s a day where we have an excuse to eat one! Of course, on this day you can order one to go or visit the pizzeria on the corner, but you can also scratch-bake one if you have a breadmaker. And you can make it with whole grain wheat so that’s a bonus. Try the Whole Wheat Chicken Pizza from the Zojirushi website. Home made pizza dough—that’s the way to go!

February 14th is Valentine’s Day
Of course it is. Want to impress someone with a unique dessert? Try this interesting one that was developed for one of the Zojirushi Food Jars. It’s a fresh fruit jelly dessert that you can chill in the jar, and eat right out of it. I was thinking this is perfect for a day outdoors if the weather is mild enough— but if not, it’s transportable so you can bring it with you on movie date night at home. This looks good. Red Cranberry Gelatin with Mixed Berries

February 16th is Chinese New Year
This is the Year of the Dog and will mark the beginning of year 4716 on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. If you were born during this year, it is said that you possess the best traits of human nature. Dogs are a symbol of loyalty and honesty. Dog people are said to also be friendly, smart, straightforward and have a strong sense of responsibility.

How about some hot tea to celebrate? Oolong, a fragrant and mild Chinese tea, is loved by tea fans everywhere. This Silky Milky Oolong Tea recipe is a modern take on it—easy to make and so soothing on a cold night!

February 24th is National Tortilla Chip Day
Believe it or not, the familiar triangle shaped chip was born in Los Angeles, California, and not Mexico. In the 1940s Rebecca Webb Carranza decided to make use of the tortilla rejects from her tortilla manufacturing machine that she was using at her Mexican deli. The snacks became popular and the rest, as they say, is history. She received the Golden Tortilla award in 1994 for her contribution to the Mexican food industry.

So help celebrate National Tortilla Chip Day with a hot Cheese Fondue using your Zojirushi Electric Skillet—YUM! CHEESE! You can prepare lots of other ingredients to dip too, and make a party out of it.

There are crazy holidays for every day of the year—which on is your favorite?


Valentines Chocolates by Stewart Butterfield, Creative Commons license
All other images by Zojirushi


Good Vibrations in 2018

Good, good, good, good vibrations!
—The Beach Boys

So this is my one resolution this year: stay positive! Each year my family asks me, “What’s your New Year’s Resolution this year, Dad?” And I try to come up with one, but only one, because I know how hard they are to keep. They’ve not always been successful, but I’ve got to set an example, right? I think I’ve grown more cynical as I get older, and that’s not good. As I get older, I figure I’ve earned the right to get crusty, but I don’t want to dry out and get crumbly…ha!

Too many haters out there today, and the problem is that everyone has a voice that can be heard everywhere, know what I mean? And this isn’t a positivity blog, so I’m not about to tell anyone what to do or offer suggestions. I will, however, tell you what I’m going to do to stay positive and invite good, good vibrations.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful.”

How utterly Zen is that?

More Good Music
Listening to great music always puts me in the right frame of mind. and I don’t care what anyone else is listening to, because I’m listening to classic rock—the way songs were written when they were called tunes. The best songwriters can compose catchy melodies that are memorable, and combine them with meaningful lyrics that aren’t pretentious or sappy. To be fair, there are many contemporary bands that I listen to as well—good music is good music, after all. But music preference is generational, and I prefer the songs that speak to me. From one of the greatest songwriters of all time:

I’m not the kind of man
Who tends to socialize
I seem to lean on
Old familiar ways
And I ain’t no fool for love songs
That whisper in my ears
Still crazy after all these years
Still crazy after all these years
—Paul Simon

More Good Food
We got ourselves a Gourmet Sizzler griddle this year for Christmas. My wife wanted one so she could do some tabletop cooking with the family, and I thought it was a good idea. I’ve noticed that whenever we eat at home, we each have our little places to go to inside the house, so we grab a plate and scatter to watch our own TV shows or sit at the computer while we eat. As much as I cringe at the thought of dining out and paying for the expense, I feel like it’s worth it because we’re all in one place together and we actually talk. Believe me, this gets harder as the kids get older.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to doing some teppanyaki or Korean BBQ or okonomiyaki at home this year. Who knows, maybe we can turn it into a regular family activity. If you decide to get one, there are some easy starter recipes on the Zojirushi site, so look them up. And if you’re interested, there’s some more information on griddle cooking here. I definitely wouldn’t have bought this if all I was going to do was make pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches—that’s not enough to bring the family together!

More Good Moments
The trick to experiencing the good moments in life is to be able to recognize them. I am notoriously bad at it, so I resolve to be more sensitive to my surroundings from now on. I have an Instagram account, but I’m not all that active on it. When I think of the hundreds of funny or interesting images that I see all the time, I think if only I stopped to take a photo and just comment on my IG page, I’d probably have a decent collection of moments that I could have shared. These days we can do that so much easier than we used to—all we have to do is whip out our phones. It’s a matter of looking at things through our own unique lens, you know? Here’s an example of what I mean. This was taken when we went to go get breakfast at a local diner called Phanny’s. Excellent breakfast burritos, BTW.

A resolution to eat healthy—forgotten at the bus stop.

This year I’m going to see More Good Movies, write More Good Stories, read More Good Books and feel More Good Vibrations! What are you gonna do?


images: Good Vibes by P&J Productions, Buddha by Gaijin Pot, all others by Zojirushi and Bert Tanimoto