Thousands of Miles from Home


Hail to the Chef

A few weeks ago I saw a flyer at the Okayama International Center advertising a japanese cooking class, foreigners only. Being an innately suspicious individual, at first I thought it was a trap! Then I realized the delightful possibilities of a good lesson in japanese cookery, not to mention a deal of a meal at the low price of 300 yen. So on the first day for registration I called the international center and reserved Andee and I a spot (I suppose the cooking class is rather popular because Janna and Cori called later but all spots were filled).

So this Sunday Andee and I met in Okayama on the way to the cooking class. In the lobby of the international center Andee wanted to eat a quick lunch before the class began, but I saw a sign that read "do not eat meals, hold business meetings, or perform any other activity that will use the lobby for an extended period of time." Directly next to this sign were four men sleeping on couches. Andee ate his meal in the lobby.

When we got to the 6th floor, some students were already chatting, waiting for the class to begin. A woman asked us to put on namecards and we mingled about the room for a few minutes. Everyone in the class was supposed to take an apron with them, but because Shoko was in Kobe I had Andee supply one for me. The first apron he pulled out of his bag looked more like a french maid outfit, so I opted for the "Peko-chan" apron instead. When class started, all the students were divided into various tables, each with enough cooking supplies and food to make all three dishes. At my table was an english teacher from Michigan, a man(who I think studied engineering) from Germany, Andee, and myself. Each table also had a cooking instructor.

The menu broke down like this: Salt-grilled pacific saury (that's a fish, for all you kids out there), an assortment of boiled foods such as shiitake mushrooms and tofu, and miso soup. After everyone in our group introduced themselves, the teacher explained the cooking directions in japanese, with a little english on the side. Cooking the fish was rather straightforward, but the boiled foods required some finesse. Kamaboko, which is steamed fish paste, can be cut into various shapes to make the presentation more attractive. I spent my time grating daikon raddish and making a (fabulous) apple and persimmon centerpiece. I also took the job of arringing the fish on plates, as well as boiling the tofu.

Talking to Mike (the guy from America), I found out that he had been in japan for three weeks, two of those in Osaka. He majored in engineering but wanted to see the world, and thought that teaching english would be the best way to do so. The german (I think his name was Hans), was very good at japanese, and also quite a good cook. After cooking all the dishes and arranging the food, each table sat down to a mini-feast. Somehow our table prepared 6 plates of food for only 5 people, so there was plenty to go around. We chatted a good deal more over dinner, then Andee and I made our way back to Tamano.

So I don't know if I would consider myself a great chef, but the food was delicious. De-boning fish with chopsticks requires a little practice, but I'm getting better (my aim is catching a fly in mid-air).


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