Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Ice and Fire

3.15 pm - I get home from work. Okaasan tucked up under the heated table safely.
"Brr! It's very icy now! The road is dangerous!"
"Really? I haven't been out. I don't know."

4 pm - I come into the kitchen to think about prepping Okaasan's dinner so I can leave the house about 5 pm.
Okaasan is up and getting ready to go OUT!
"Um, it's very icy now. The middle of the day was ok, but now is getting late and icy."
"Really? But I have the walking stick! I'm ok!" 
Shouldn't have given her the stick - makes her all confident...
"Err....the road outside the house is all frozen into icy's dangerous. I have the last work-party tonight so I am going to make some dinner for you."
"Dinner? I'm going out! I can eat something out, it's easier...." ;-(

And so. At 4.10 pm she picked her way down the icy street. Where the ice waves lay in 2 inch high ridges in all directions. Lethal.
I clear up her lunch stuff, take stuff out of the washing machine, e-mail Yujiro to tell him to keep in phone contact with her.

We agree that she could come home by taxi and I leave money in the entrance hall for her. I also pop over the road and ask our neighbor to leave her outside light on, so at least the ice waves are illuminated. As a last thought I leave some cooked tofu on the kitchen counter with a pan, in case the eating-dinner-out plan slips through the memory cracks.

And I leave. Fearful.
80 year old with balance problem on ice.

No way at all to stop her. She wants to go. She thinks she can. So she goes.
This going out late in the afternoon is an absolute routine. She sits there in the living room watching TV as outside is glorious, sunny weather with ice melting and people enjoying a nice day.
And at 3.30...4 pm...when most housewives/retired people are thinking about heading home - Okaasan sets out.
Yujiro says this is an ingrained habit from her last few years in Saitama, when she didn't cook for herself - so she went out late afternoon (after the heat of the day) and had a bit of dinner somewhere.
Fine in Saitama (the Tokyo suburbs) where "cold" is about 15 degrees - not so good up in the northcountry where it is dark at 4 pm and minus 5.

5.15 pm I went off by train to my last work-related party of the year.
Got to the restaurant at 6 pm....Yujiro called me: Okaasan had just got home.
BIG relief.

10.30 pm I get home and tip-toe into the kitchen......
A familiar smell wafts around.
Burned saucepan.
Okaasan is asleep in her room with the TV blaring and in the kitchen are the remains of her cooking attempts: she put some cooked rice in the same pan with the tofu...boiled it all together...and burned the pan. Ate it. Maybe some soup too. A yogurt.

Big relief. Burned pan is fine. Burned kitchen bad.

And on the kitchen table?
Lilly bulbs. Yurine in Japanese.
Long-term readers of this blog will know my experiences with this traditional Japanese vegetable. Two years ago Okaasan bought lots of them. Constantly.
There is actually very little you can do with them apart from traditional savory, egg custard. I tried a few things like salad too. They have no taste. Just pasty.
Finally I planted them in the garden and beautiful lilly flowers came up.

So. Instead of buying dinner out last night - Okaasan inevitably ended up in the supermarket...which is bursting with seasonal foods. And so she bought lillybulbs.

Savory egg custard recipes on the Internet. Here I come!


  1. Never heard of it. Let us know how it turns out!

  2. Not the yurine again! Just when you thought it was safe to return to the kitchen...

    Can you keep them until spring and re-plant them?

  3. You know yurine JY - when you go into a supermarket at the this time of year - there is a box of sawdust near the veggies area...and lurking inside are lilly bulbs...
    it's the small white pulpy thing at the bottom of only use a tiny amount in chawamushi....with TWO bulbs I have enough for about 50 chawamushi.....which I ain't going to make!