Sunday, May 22, 2011

Japan Goes South of the Border

A few weeks ago, a friend at church asked me if I could make lunch for the congregation on May 22nd. I think she was really telling me, more than asking me, but no worries cuz it sounded like fun.

I decided to make burrito bowls (Mexican rice bowls), since it was something no one had ever tasted. And I find that is a good thing when making food for so many. It really cuts down on the criticism and ups the compliments when they have no idea what it's supposed to taste like.

Burrito bowls are easy enough. Mexican rice in a rice cooker (and we have those a plenty here in Japan), Black beans, and shredded chicken in the crockpot.

I started the meal the night before. 3 bags of black beans soaking: Check. 6 chicken breasts, 2 packs of taco seasoning in the crockpot on low: check.

all night a slept fitfully, having nightmares the crockpot turned itself off, or the beans soaked up all the water and were now dry. thankfully, all was well in the morning . Chicken cooked, and beans ready to be boiled.

Making the rice at church was another adventure in itself. Making Mexican rice in a rice cooker was a new idea for all the ladies helping me in the church kitchen. It was an experience translating the directions in to broken Japanese and checking for accuracy in broken English. We must have understood more than we think, because the rice turned out beautifully.

With the beans on the stove and the rice in the cooker, I sat down to hear the message and wait til 12 when I would see if my hard work paid off.

"Interesting." was the statement I heard most. Typically not the thing a chef wants to hear about their food. To my great pleasure, the "interesting"s quickly turned to "delicious"s. The greatest compliment was the fact that there were barely 2 servings of beans left over, and no servings of anything else.
What did they do with the left over beans? They were brought to evening service for our meal there. but, not for the dinner portion. They were for dessert. They were an ice cream topping.

Let's let that sink in.
Black. Beans. On. Ice. Cream!
Have you ever had Mexican black beans over ice cream?
Nor had I. Something about the garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder and beans doesn't exactly scream dessert topping to me.

Our pastor getting a big helping of beans for his ice cream

Our pastor got Stephen to try it by saying, "challenge." That's also how he ended up eating the silk worm pupa.

I tried and spoonful, and although they are not a vile as I would have thought, it was not my cup of tea.

Over all, it was a successful meal. And I learned some really important things about cooking for a large group. Namely always make something they've never seen before to guarantee good reviews, and never underestimate what Japanese think would be good for dessert.

So, next time you have black beans, don't forget the ice cream.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Learning Japanese.

Japanese is filled with English words said with a Japanese accent.
teburu (table)
ko-hi (coffee)
bah nah nah (banana)
takushi (taxi)
hanbah-gah- (hamburger)
Oren jee juu suu (orange juice)

And there are so many more. More times than I care to count, I have asked what to call something in Japanese and was told an English word. I've come to the conclusion, that if I can't think of the word in Japanese, I should just say it in English with an accent.

This love of English words does have it's downside though. When I try to order a caramel macchiato at Starbucks, I get blank stares unless I say "kya me ru ma ki ah to. " Even though the menu is written in English over the barista's head.
Or if when talking about our English class, I mention the text book and no one can seem to figure out what I am talking about. But then some light bulb goes off and some one says, "Ohh, the tekisuto." and now, miraculously everyone knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

This past week, Japanese English kicked my butt again.

At church last week, Sunday, the pastor was saying something about Tohoku, and our church going to "BorAntia."

Hmm, Borantia must be the city in Tohoku where they are serving.

But 3 days later, a non-church member was talking to me about BorAntia Japanese classes. And how I should take one. And how a mutual friend went to BorAntia in Tohoku.

Huh, is BorAntia a university, or an organization that does both Japanese classes and tsunami relief? Just nod and smile.

The next day, I was asked by a church member if Stephen and I were going to BorAntia in Tohoku.

It wasn't until Friday that I figured out that people were not saying the name of some city of organization. They were saying "BorAntia" the Japanese way to pronounce "Volunteer".

Our church went to volunteer in Tohoku, and my friend was suggesting volunteer Japanese classes that were held at a community center.

So, this week I have learned that in order to learn Japanese, I must relearn English.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2 months since the 'quake

Today marks 2 months since the great Tohoku quake.

March 11th will live forever in the minds of Japanese, especially those who have been directly affected by the tsunami that followed.

Last week, 8 people from our church went to Tohoku to take food and serve in any way they could. Together with 12 other people from the Hokkaido Christian Ministry Network (Hokkumin), they prepared meals, cleaned out peoples mud filled homes, and listened to people's stories.

When the students shared their experiences last Sunday, one theme kept emerging.

"There is still so much to be done!"

Progress has been made. The roads are reopening for non-emergency vehicles. Debris has been removed from some areas. Gasoline is no longer being rationed and hoarded. Yet, as one student commented, "it looks like the Tsunami just happened."

It will take time for Tohoku residents to go back to life as usual. One of the concerns, as reported by a church member, is that people will forget about what is still a reality for those living in the tsuamni affected area.

I am glad that our church as plans to return to the same area. I hope those they are serving will see Christ in them.

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