[Sca-cooks] Japanese breakfast

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Sun May 10 15:54:19 PDT 2009

I was in Japan for a month in 1972, on the very first such trip organized by the art college i was attending. We took classes with teachers at the Osaka University of the Arts. And we were told we would be staying in a modern air-conditioned dormitory, which we did. Except the dorm was not on campus. It was the guest house for the ancient temple that houses the funerary mound for Shotoku Taishi, the prince who first made Buddhism a national religion in Japan. Therefore all the food had to be vegetarian.

At first our breakfast was made in the kitchen of the University and trucked over to us -  scrambled eggs and toast, both cold from the journey, served with margarine and giant cans of imported Canadian strawberry jam.

After a few days i went to one of the men in charge of us, whose name i no longer recall, and i said, "A-san, can we please have traditional Japanese breakfast?" A-san said i would have to ask the other man in charge of us.

So later that day i went to him and said, "B-san, can we please have traditional Japanese breakfast?" B-san told me i'd have to ask A-san. I said i already did and he told me to ask B-san.

So we got traditional Japanese breakfast, cooked in the temple, fresh and hot. I think some of the other students were a bit perplexed, but, dammit! we were in Japan! We should be eating Japanese! The cook for the temple was a very tiny, somewhat elderly women dressed in beautiful kasuri (double ikat) peasant outfits. She was beaming broadly as she brought us our fresh hot breakfast. Hot green tea. Lots of hot white rice. Bowls of miso soup (i LOVE miso soup). Dishes of uncooked nori (the flat seaweed sushi is wrapped in). Raw eggs.

Raw eggs? So the Japanese students who were hanging out with us showed us how to eat them. At the exact moment, take the steaming hot rice out of its covered dish, put it into one's rice bowl. IMMEDIATELY crack the raw egg over the rice, drop the shell aside, and stir, stir, stir. The rice is hot enough to "cook" the egg.

Also, traditionally Japanese pickles (quite different from American) accompany breakfast. Each temple is known for making one kind of specialty pickle. But we had a huge spread of many different kinds! My favorite was tiny slices of tiny eggplant pickled in sake lees (the stuff that settles to the bottom of the kegs), which was slightly alcoholic and sweet-and-salty. But there were at least 1/2 dozen other varieties, all freshly made, not out of a plastic sack from the supermarket. I still long for those pickles. What i buy here (and we have a fairly large Japanese population around here) just isn't as good, full of artificial colors and preservatives. Sheesh! The whole point of making pickles is to preserve the main ingredient!

someone sometimes called Urtatim

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