In 1975, my dad was transferred again, this time to
and I was 16, found myself back in the States, but a very different place from LA. Our diet was pretty healthy, there was a Japanese grocery not that far from where we were living, so meals at home were still pretty Japanese. From there, college in NY, the rest of my family went back to New York after my first year so I was alone for most of the year, going home at Christmas and summer. Nothing remarkable here, I had a pretty typical young person’s diet, lots of pizza, Chinese food, booze but lots of dancing to work it off. You could find lots of cheap good food in Tokyo and after a brief stint at home after college, I was back in NY, hanging out with my boyfriend (now husband) and friends, working and eating. I cooked a lot back then, we loved to entertain. I would plan elaborate meals, shop and cook on a Saturday and have friends over for an evening, We both had pretty demanding jobs so during the week, we ate out mostly or had food delivered and I saved all my cooking for “occasion” food. I never did cook any Japanese food though, except for things like stir fries and fried rice because Japanese cooking was my mother’s domain. We got to go out for Japanese when my dad was in town and he would take us out. New York
Fast forward a bit, we are now married, living in Park Slope and we have a baby. I have quit my job to stay at home with my baby Hana, “poor but happy” was our motto back then. We joined the Park Slope Food Coop, a wonderful place full of wonderful food. It was here I was introduced to organic food and how much better it tasted than regular food.
My parents were back in
, so once again, my Japanese food consumption went up. I made most of Hana’s baby food since it was a simple thing to do and organic baby food was just being introduced. Thanks to the Coop, I always had the freshest ingredients to hand. Fruit and vegetables just tasted more like what they are in organic form. Here is an anecdote about organic food; when Hana was a still very little, the coop was only open 3 or 4 days a week and I had run out of carrots for her. I went up to the green grocers on New York Seventh Avenue and bought some, cooked it and gave it to her. She refused to eat it, because it tasted nothing like the carrots she was used to. Now obviously that’s an extreme reaction and she now eats organic and non organic produce, but I was very surprised.
Well, we had another baby and moved to
Montclair, a suburb, into a lovely house on a great block. With the birth of my kids, my own cultural identity started to become more important and I began to cook more Japanese food. I wanted to pass it on to my kids but also, they seemed to really like it. I discovered that all those years growing up, helping mom in the kitchen had stuck and I had a pretty good grasp of the basics. What I couldn’t figure out, I would just call home and my mom would talk me through it. She sent me some cook books and some of her own recipes and I would recreate the dishes I had been brought up on. New Jersey
My ultimate triumph as a Japanese cook came when I made a new year’s box. In
, traditionally, the first three days of the new year are a time when everyone rests and you visit friends and family so a traditional food box is eaten filled with food that would keep over the three days. Of course traditionally, it would be filled with lots of fish products but I was married to a vegetarian. So, I had to cut way back on the fish, and add veggie version of some things. Much of the food in the box also has symbolic meaning mostly to do with good health, longevity and hard work. Somewhere I have pictures, I think, it was a pretty proud moment and I did it at least two years and then we were transferred to Japan of all places. But more on that tomorrow. Tokyo