My younger brother and his wife came over to our house, and survived a sleep-over with our girls, as husband and I slipped away for an overnight trip with a dear college friend and her husband. Uncle K announced he was coming with reinforcements (also known as bribes) – in the form of rice crackers, and ikura, or salmon roe.
I grew up looking forward to a day I would be allowed to eat ikura until I was full. My parents served ikura on special days – a family dinner night where my mother would prepare a huge batch of steamed white rice, and prepare a wooden hangiri or rice bowl, and mix the rice together with a sweetened rice vinegar mix with a shamoji while she enlisted an innocent by-stander (usually father) to cool the rice with a fan while she deftly stirred the rice together. “The key,” she would say, “is to slice into the rice, and not mash it together.” I’d stand there rolling my eyes, fanning away with a paper fan, waiting for her to tell me I was relieved of my fan duties.
At dinner, the rice would be set at the table with pieces of sashimi, or raw fish on pretty plates, with squares of nori (seaweed) at each diner’s table. Most often, the gorgeous, jewel-like balls of ikura would also be set at the table. We would take a piece of nori (a square piece, about three inches x three inches, take a tablespoon or more of the rice and gently spread into half of the nori sheet, add a slice of sashimi (normally, it would be maguro, or tuna, hirame, or fluke, ika, or squid in thin slices, and mirugai or geoduck) and roll everything together into a nori cone. We each had small dishes of soy sauce to carefully dip the sushi into, and enjoy.
To try to ease the burden of watching my kids, I had a huge pot of oden simmering when he arrived. It had the usual goodies – various fish cakes, konnyaku, daikon, boiled egg, carrots, gobo simmered in a dashi stock, which perfumed the air, reminding both my brother and I of dinners growing up. Definitely Ofukuro no aji, literally translated as “mom’s home-cooking.”
Lunch for this week so far took advantage of the leftovers.
Monday’s lunch consisted of:
Left over oden – boiled egg, fish-cake “ballies,” carrots
Blanched snap peas
Steamed rice with nori furikake, or seaweed and sesame seed topping
Roasted beets in heart shapes
Tuesday’s lunch included:
Roasted chicken wings and drumsticks with salt, pepper and lemon
Boiled egg – simmered in dashi
Blanched snap peas
Roasted beets cut in stars
With the crisis taking place in Japan – earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear plant fires – my mind and heart have been elsewhere. The news footage has been heartbreaking, and I’m worried for my parents, my family, my friends – and for the future of Japan. Thankfully my immediate family is outside the earthquake ravaged area; however, the effects are being felt. Between the rolling blackouts, worries about food and fuel supply, and the potential effects of radiation deeply concern me.
To ease my mind, I decided to cook.
I made a turkey-meatball-vegetable soup, and let it simmer on the stove. The turkey meatball included:
Minced onion, garlic and carrots
In a pot, I added chicken stock, sliced carrots, onions, celery, and potato, and brought to a low boil. Once the vegetables softened, I started dropping turkey meatballs into the boiling soup to cook.
My daughter’s lunch today included the aforementioned soup, and cut vegetables: red peppers, cauliflower, beets cut into cat and heart shapes, and originally, I had steamed rice with denbu, or a fish flake topping as shown in the picture. However, after I re-thought the amount of food already packed, I decided to change the rice for carrot sticks.
Hopefully she’ll enjoy her lunch.
Dad, Mom, I know you’re reading this – between the black-outs. We are so worried, we are thinking of you both, the family, and sending strength, hope, and positive energy.