Sunday, October 5, 2014

TIFA Cooking Class

Today, several months of planning finally culminated in the TIFA cooking class for foreigners.  The volunteer members at the Takarazuka International Friendship Association had been planning it for at least 2 months when I received the flier with all the details about location, cost, menu items, and what to bring.  In celebration of the annual rice harvest, we made California rolls, dango (mochi with red bean paste), chikuzen (mixed stewed vegetables), and soup with hanpen (fish cake).  Somehow, as luck would have it, HPAC had no scheduled rehearsals or concerts and several of my peers joined the call to join the fun.  Despite being a bit chaotic, with all instructions given in Japanese and some of the helpers a little confused about the directions, the we managed to get some really delicious food to the table and enjoy it together.

Two women helped me and my friend Alex at our cooking station.  One of them spoke English fairly well, well enough that I didn't use any Japanese.  As we sat down for lunch, she somewhat boldly asked me why I was a vegetarian.  Luckily I had just put a piece of California roll in my mouth with too much wasabi, and the time it took me to clear it allowed me to think of my response.  I settled with, "Just a preference.  When I was a kid we didn't eat a lot of meat so it isn't something I really feel I need."  We chatted a bit more and I had the chance to learn that she had lived in England for two years of school, and then later lived in Wales for two years with her husband who was an orthopedic doctor.  She said it was difficult to live in Wales as a Japanese woman, the discrimination she had experienced there, people charging too much when she had to buy some new tires, people watching her in the store while she shopped.  She said she preferred America and I told her that even in America, in some places, this is still a problem.  When my colleague asked what she had done–in other words, her career–she looked a little puzzled, "What did I do? Nothing."  She had been a house wife, as most Japanese women are.  She mentioned that in Wales, people had commented on how much work she put into her family.  And she was puzzled by this, too.  We talked about how in the West, it is more common for women to work, that women are expected to work; and that the duties of the house are spread around to different members of the family, that this aspect of life is less centralized, and often not as well cared-for as it is in Japan.  It seems to be a very real difference between Japan, and England and America.  It was an interesting conversation, and I remember feeling strange using the word, "chores."  I came to really like this woman whose overseeing in the kitchen had felt a bit overbearing at times, whose directness had pushed her preferences upon us, who had seemed to judge me and my eating preferences.

I felt like I made a new friend.  And I also sort of know how o make a few Japanese dishes.  At least I have the recipes in fairly clear English with a Japanese version to help with grocery shopping.  Looking forward to the next TIFA event, to making new international friendships.

the room where we had our cooking class

the California rolls 

it is so hard to slice these well;
my colleague was really good at it

our two assistants

setting the table for lunch

preparing to eat


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