Monday, February 7, 2011

Post Five: Dinners

The church, this is a small alley that connects the the outside large street, one would never know that this building was here, but for the green spire.
So far it is hard to believe I have been here for over a week now! I would like to say that while I am of course enjoying our day-trip excursions immensely, I am also having a great time at the Takahashi house. Masa’s parents Tomona and Shu are pleasant, fun, and just all around wonderful people. I have been eating the most scrumptious food and enjoying some good conversation about life in Japan among other things. I accompanied Tomona to her Church in the downtown area Sunday morning. I was unable to understand the service of course, seeing as it was in Japanese; however I could follow along somewhat in the hymns with English titles and I had an English/Japanese New Testament. The service itself was similar in many ways to a typical protestant service in America, with some differences of course: birthdays were announced but then the birthday…ee… would speak a bit about their year, the sermon was very long, but one thing I liked a lot was that everyone SANG! The organ was very quiet and the congregation small, but everyone was singing loudly enough that the room was filled. It was a very nice surprise and change from what I am used to in America in that respect.

The rest of the afternoon was spent as a lazy Sunday should, a relaxing lunch, some TV, then a late afternoon run past city buildings and rice paddies under clouds that threatened of rain.
Dinners have been very varied and both enjoyable and fascinating experiences. I have had so many different dishes at the Takahashi household that it is difficult to keep track of all the many flavors, names, and types of meals. At the house I have had: curry rice (a very common dish sort of the macaroni and cheese equivalent),  shish kebob chicken with seaweed and spam and ginger and soysauce and white pickles and all manner of other things that you could pick and choose from to wrap in seaweed and rice. Shabu-Shabu, which is a dish where there is a pot of cooking mushrooms, cabbage, fishcakes and other wonderful surprises, then you add your own meat, cabbage, mushrooms and it cooks then you take what you want and put it over rice with other condiments such as soysauce or ginger or tomatoes. I have also had a stew with fried rice, and lastly but certainly not leastly I have had what is called Nato.

Nato requires its own introduction hence I will give it all of the royalties it deserves. I was told of this dish at the dinner table on Sunday night, it is amazingly delicious. I was then told that apparently Nato was “rotten beans”. Needless to say this did not make me particularly thrilled and I was then reassured that no no it was not rotten, we searched for the right word and found fermented seemed to fit better. Hence Nato is fermented soybeans. Slightly better, I suppose wine is from fermented grapes so why not soybeans as fermented? The next night I was treated to my first taste of this Nato. They smelled like a slightly used tennis ball…not a good start, mixed with mustard and soysauce I was given my first bit to try. I discovered that they tasted pretty good, not as starchy as beans they had a rich almost meaty flavor similar to tempeh. Thus my Nato experience was concluded with two more small portions and a picture of proof that an American woman can indeed like Nato. Bonus! Apparently Nato also makes on more beautiful, who knew, the secret the good looks of this family lies in fermented (not rotten!) soybeans.
Other wonderful dinner conversation included tales of mini-Masa’s exploits, the romantic union between a farmer and a samuri, stories of a soon to be rugby legend, and lots of laughter and smiles.

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