Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Falling, Cooking, Saving

As these many goodbyes have come to pass, I have been surprised, at times, with whom has shown up, who has touched me more than I realized, and who I have touched more than I realized. It is humbling.

Embedded in Japanese life and illiterate, the journey has had its moments of grandeur, like Mt. Fuji at sunrise with friends at my side, and despondency, staring at the garbage and realizing that I can't even get something simple right. Every smile, each hello, it all helped- and just maybe on the journey of life, of motherhood, it went both ways. Meaning that sometimes, maybe, my hello or my smile helped someone else too. We are all so necessary, more than we think.

Today, late to my last cooking class, I arrived anxious and in a flurry of activity with my phone ringing and my iPad pinging. It took effort to focus on the food, the class, but slowly the hundreds of move related details settled out and down to the bottom like sediment falls out of the water once it's still. I could pretend for another few hours that my life is normal and that this was a routine cooking day.

Cooking is not so much about fun as it is about the need to put dinner on the table nightly that is healthy for the body, interesting to the palate, and hopefully, easy to prepare. Easy to prepare requires knowledge on my part. It means that I have shopped for the ingredients, have recipes on hand, and can whip up a dish in a timely fashion. Cooking class helps me. We learn five recipes every month so after five years of this, I am more comfortable in the kitchen than I used to be.

However, meals at my house are still more hodgepodge than anything else. My children have different tastes. My husband rarely eats dinner with us because he is at work. The why bother making fancy adult food when the kids won't eat it any way thought reigns. I have some meals that are routine and work for everyone, ok, one night, pizza night. I make four different pizzas. My husband will eat anything, but my children will happily starve themselves to death. My daughter won't eat meat for the most part. My son won't eat tomatoes or pasta despite having a fair number of Italian genes. I make a variety and some how they grow and dinner is eaten. Our meals are part Japanese, part Italian, part French, part Indian, part American; it depends on the day. We eat a lot of tofu, a lot of potatoes, a lot of salad, a fair amount of miso soup, and a pinch of this and a tad of that.

In cooking class I have the luxury of eating food that has been thought out to compliment other tastes and to reflect the season. The menus never quite work for me at home, but they offer inspiration and a road map. Today my heart was a bit drained, my mind at a slow simmer, and my tastebuds unsure of fresh scallops and tandoor chicken, but as ever, Nansai Sensei pulled it off.

Saying goodbye one last time proved fatal. Tears sprang to my eyes as my heart and brain flashed back and bounced along memory lane at lightening speed recollecting my first nervous day, my first photo cookbook unveiling to the sensei, my children bearing the rings down the aisle of her daughter's wedding, the words of sustenance, the food of substance. I rushed for the door.

I'm all cried out. I keep thinking I'm all done. There can't possibly be any more tears left and, yet, they keep coming. I think it's the surprise factor.

Sometimes someone catches you at that moment in life when you are falling, heading straight for doom. The thing is, they think it is a small adjustment, but to you, it's life saving. Then one day you realize this is it! It's all a surprise, at least to me-- I never quite realize I'm falling or recognize endings until they are fully upon me. Then I'm so grateful that I can't put it to words, instead tears come and I feel like a big puddle.

The past few days I have felt like a lava lamp, a blob of puddles floating up and down, grateful but in liquid motion.

Thank you my Kamakura friends and cooking classmates for catching me when I was falling, again and again, even when you didn't have a clue that I was on a downward trajectory. Thank you Aki Nansai for the warmth of your kitchen, the kindness of your table, and for all of the lessons, some of them unspoken.

Mata ne.

My Cooking Sensei
Fresh Hotate Scallop Salad
My favorite sweet beans!
Tandoor Yogurt Chicken
Oranges filled with gelatin-- slice & serve

None of these kiddos were here when I started!

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