In the winters, a food I looked forward to was: Oden.
A light broth stew, with assorted mountain and sea vegetables, and assorted deep fried and boiled mixtures and garden vegetables, made for a hearty and warm emotional satisfaction. What heightens its tastiness and sensual pleasure, was that in the olden days, when I was a child, we’d sit in the warm kotatsu (heated table) on the tatami floor, on the zabuton (cushions), while in the middle of the table there was a hearth where there was a hibachi grill area to cook.
Typical ingredients include the Konbu, potatoes, Konyaku —either slices or ito (noodles); tofu cubes or slices; chikuwa; gobo and/or gobo-maki; daikon slices, boiled egg, large slices of carrots; fish and/or meat balls; octopus; and other regionally and personally inspired ingredients, from cabbage rolls to tebichi, etc. Of course there would be, separately and tenderly served.
Mama and I, and perhaps some friends or relatives who were visiting, sat around the hearth, while the pot of oden would be cooking, filling the house with its fragrance while it boiled.
Later when, we moved into more modern homes, the hearth became an electric hearth/kotatsu (instead of coal fired stoves), and the electric pot would cook the oden, but with similar effect, simmering for an hour or two while it spread its wonderful scent through the house. By the time it would be ready to eat, were were ready to devour. With rice and other cooling vegetables to balance the meal, we would take in the oden.
Sometimes, we would go out to a neighborhood restaurant for the oden. Often, there would be a huge vat, full of the oden ingredients. People would be laughing and enjoying themselves, some drunk on Sapporo or Kirin or Suntory beer, or sake. Some throwing pieces of o-sushi in their mouth while they waited for the oden. Often they would be outdoor, open-aired cart restaurants with stools around the table they would set up around the cart full of the chef’s ingredients and tools. The feast would happen here, or at home. Oden. The wonderful.