Saturday, 10 January 2009

First family fight. War of the Lilly Bulbs.

We had our first family fight today...all about those Lilly bulbs!

The evening didn't start well.
I finished work at 6 pm and came home with KFC. Usually we have their Spicy Chicken. This time I ordered a box of the Tender Chicken, which is breast, because I thought Okaasan would prefer that. I remembered she wasn't too happy with the last time I served fried chicken pieces and I thought nice pieces of breast would be more suitable.

Anyway. I got home with the chicken and the ingredients to make the Lilly bulb salad. Tomatoes and cucumber and a Japanese supermarket dressing (thought if I made a dressing it might be too unusual). An afternoon student had said that making this kind of salad with lilly bulbs was one way to use them, so I felt fairly confident.

But. Okaasan was still out shopping somewhere.

I made the salad. We waited a bit. By 6.45 pm we decided to eat. This woman has all afternoon to walk round shops. If she can't be home for usual dinner time: tough.
The lilly bulb salad was kind of boring really. Lilly bulbs really have no taste. Just pasty. It was nice to have a dinner just the two of us, but we talked about Okaasan and both felt tired.

At 7.30 pm she answered the phone and came in for dinner.

I was washing up our plates. So I put together HER dinner and served it. He sat chatting to her at the table, I was standing in the kitchen cooking some discounted spinach and pumpkin that I'd bought which needed cooking before they got any older.
Okaasan apologised for coming late for dinner. We asked her to phone us, or try to be home by 6 pm in future.

Then our fight developed.
Okaasan ate the lilly bulb salad.
"Hmm, lilly bulbs. They are full of vitamins you know. But this is kind of hard. It's better to steam them. Steaming them is better than this. It makes them delicious..." etc etc
You can imagine my feelings. After all the agonising over how to cook these blasted things! I determinedly continued cooking the spinach and pumpkin. He remonstrated with her gently that she shouldn't be buying 4 lilly bulbs when she doesn't have cooking facilities....she chattered on...and on about how delicious they are if you steam them etc
I came and sat at the table. Tensions rose. I was answering back: "Well, I'm sorry. I'm not Japanese, I don't know how to cook these things. I've asked a lot of friends and students, I've looked on the Internet...etc etc"...defensive....tensions....tensions...

I went back to the kitchen counter to get my anger under control by concentrating on the spinach cooking. I got myself under control. I came back to the table to ask her about how to steam lilly bulbs in future. I thought I was doing well: being so mature and anger-controlling. After a minute or two I returned to the kitchen counter and the spinach.

"Oh, Amanda-san, you shouldn't do that with with the spinach water...." came the voice from behind me.


I turned round and spoke sharply: "Enough already. I'm trying really hard here, I'm working, I'm cooking, I'm house cleaning...don't tell me how to cook spinach too!".

After that it all gets hazy. Quite a few angry words were spoken. The upshot was that she finished dinner quickly and for some strange reason took the uneaten lilly bulb salad back to her place in a plastic container. But as she exited our home she closed the door firmly and stopped me following her out as usual to check on the hot carpets etc

He and I sat down in exhaustion.

First family fight. It shows that after a month of being polite we are getting into a real level of communication. Mind you I am still "Amanda-san" Japan, that "san" is a distancing thing...only family or close friends are "chan or kun".

I know now that the sensible thing to do would have been to ask HER how to cook the lilly bulbs. But...that would inevitably mean her coming into our home and doing it in the kitchen, and I didn't want to give over my time for that. If I wasn't working we could do these nice storybook girly kitchen times...I could learn Japanese cooking from her..but...
But also - it was incredibly insensitive of her to criticise my cooking while eating it, and then to move on to criticising my spinach cooking too - all on the same evening as coming late for dinner.

I once saw a TV program about an American woman married into a Japanese family in the countryside somewhere. The Japanese mother-in-law was SO critical of her, openly to the TV was really painful to watch. I was angry at the M-in-L, I was angry too at the American woman for letting her life become that. Politeness to an older person is one thing. Being a doormat is another.

So. How does this all bode for our future? God knows! Would it be better if we are sharing a kitchen, so it is easier to supervise her cooking safely? He is adamant that she shouldn't be allowed to cook unwatched, because of all the burned pans in the Tokyo house. And Okaasan hasn't really cooked for about 2 years now. She says it is troublesome.
But she was a good cook. She enjoyed cooking. She obviously still enjoys going and buying stuff. I feel we shouldn't remove the ability to cook completely from her life. Somehow we have to find a non-stressy way of letting her cook sometimes. I would LIKE to learn Japanese cooking from her, but I don't need critical comments at the end of a working day.


And now: what on earth do I do with the rest of the blasted lilly bulb salad that none of us think is very delicious?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's sitting there in the fridge still.

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