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.
Mama and I would like to go to certain neighborhood restaurants, usually small, with the traditional noren. Often they were the same places that made the Chahan (fried rice), or the Takoyaki (octopus balls) or the Ramen noodles. Small steamy places with the paper lanterns lighting their entrance.
When one is displaced from a deep and regular way of living, with its everydayness, their scents and sounds. And food:
Those things become important, usually, for the rest of your life.
In displacement, one sometimes needs that particular food to nourish the soul, so to speak, to revisit the sound of Mama’s voice, or the sound of birds chirping outside, or the rush of palm trees or bamboo, or the quiet.
Often, in the turbulent after-war years, these things that nourish us are the only things that help us survive and stay the only thing stable in an otherwise changing life.
So I will begin posting some things that I and some of my colleagues and friends, have noted to be important foods in the Amerasian and Black Pacific experience.
This first one is from my own experience living in postwar Japan. Onigiri おにぎり, or Omusubi おむすび. Rice Balls.
In Japan, this is a centuries-old tradition. For trips, snacks, lunches and sometimes dinner, the diverse ways in which Onigiri is lovingly made, by Mama, or by a master chef, is timeless.
Of course I still make some for myself. But my late Mama always made the best, in different shapes, with different things hidden inside, or beside them in a bento box.
Fried (yaki), on skewers (kushi), plain, or with nori wrap, or Hawaiian spam or other sweet meat, sometimes made with fried rice, any vegetable or fish or meat inside, or not, with sesame seeds or not……. love them all.
Excerpt: Strawberry Shakes, burgers and fries at the Tachikawa Air Force Base Snack Bar in the late 60s to 1970
When Dad returned to Japan after having been shipped by the US military away from us, as was the common practice by the military in those days, for those who dared to fall in love with Japanese and Korean women, we moved onto Tachikawa Air Force Base.