Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year - cooking and eating.

Happy New Year!
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

Yesterday - we cooked. Very very slowly. And we ate noodles. And we watched "Kohaku", the cheesy singing variety show which is the centerpiece of Japanese TV New Year celebrations.

In the morning Okaasan came to our kitchen and discovered just how poorly equiped modern couples are for traditional cooking. Poor lady. It's enough to make a good cook cry.

She made Umani - which is vegetables and chicken simmered in a fish stock. It's made before New Year and then eaten all over the holiday, supposedly to save the housewife shopping and cooking. But actually now in Japan all the supermarkets are open on January 1 anyway, so really there is no need for this. But...tradition!

For Umani all the vegetables have to be peeled and cooked separately. As we have only two pans and two gas rings. This took ages. And add in the okaasan short term memory factor - it REALLY took ages.

Actually it was a revelation to me as to just how bad her memory is for the here and now, and a few minutes ago. Endlessly checking the food, wondering what she'd added, where things were on the counter in front of her...absolutely endless. I hovered behind/beside her, he sat on the sofa with his bad leg directing our efforts - it was a constant chorus of: "Yes, the sugar is here", "Yes, you've added stock", "Yes, you've added sugar", "Yes, the sugar is here"...and so it went for about 3 hours. I REALLY understood why he doesn't want her cooking alone, and why he found so many burned pans in her home near Tokyo.

Also of course it was a lot of fun to watch and assist a Japanese woman cooking. How she peeled the veggies, how she tested their readiness, how she planned the next stage. Very meticulous!

Later I went to have lunch and play Scrabble with a friend while he and okaasan finished off the cooking and ate ordered in pizza. Outside 2008 ended with a blizzard.

At 7 pm he made noodles topped with deep fried shrimps I'd bought from the supermarket (although I'd made a mistake about WHICH deep fried thing goes onto the noodles), and so like families all over the country we sat down in front of the TV and watched crooners and pop stars, drag queens and has-beens sing in 2009. Yujiro and Okaasan gossiped about the various singers, I escaped upstairs occasionally to play wordgames on the computer, we drank plum wine, we ate oranges...and by 9...10 pm we were all heading for bed.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd end 2008 as an oyomesan.
Yujiro never thought he'd miss an entire ski instructor season with a bad leg.
Okaasan never thought she'd be living in a cold, snowy place with a couple who only possess 2 cooking pans!

Happy New Year everyone.

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