2017 is closing very soon. I am in Tokyo and enjoying very short but quality time with my mother, who has become this month 90 years and 7 months old.
Thank you very much for visiting my blog during this year. I am grateful to have shared my passion and expertise on Japanese food with you. Every country’s cuisine has formed to its present decisive state through continuously changing history, culture, people, geology, geography, society and arts of its country. As other cuisine do, Japanese cuisine has been experiencing transformation on and off over the years and centuries in order to suit to the palate of its audience. However, the philosophy of Japanese cuisine, which is defined as ‘fire & water based cooking’ as opposed to ‘fire & oil cooking’ to which majority of world cuisine belongs, remains to be the pillar philosophy of Japanese cuisine. ‘Fire & water based cooking’ techniques have also helped to shape French cuisine in Japan bringing to a new level of the art – lighter flavors and respect to preserve the natural flavor of each ingredient. According to the just announced 2018 Michelin Guide report Tokyo restaurants have acquired over 530 stars and many of these restaurants present French cuisine based on ‘Fire & water based cooking techniques”. These techniques also have been influencing chefs working in French and American kitchens in America. In the New Year I will keep learning, discovering and sharing more aspects of Japanese cuisine with you. My 2018 goal is to share the ideas from Japanese cuisine with all of the people in the world for the creating and sustaining of our physical and mental strength.
For those who have been following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you found me traveling in Kyushu, the southern-most large island of Japan. I spent 12 days before coming to Tokyo to do a research trip for my next year’s tour – Kyushu with Hiroko, 2018! I have discovered so much fun and had awe inspiring experiences in Kyushu. Kyushu is chockfull of amazing stories of history, foreign influence (science, technology, food, and religion), geography, geology, the history of Christianity in Japan and art. And, of course, its cuisine has been influenced by all of these factors. Remember that Kyushu is the place where Japan had its first encounters with the outside world – the Chinese from nearby and the Portuguese from Europe. And there is the Dutch influence during the long years of Japan’s near total government mandated isolation from the world and the event in Nagasaki during the war. The island is tectonically squeezed, possessing several active (spewing smoke, ash, fire) volcanoes such as Mt. Aso, Mt. Sakurajima and Mt. Unzen and offers locals and travelers natural blessings including gorgeous scenery and abundant hot springs (of course, together with their associated marvelous country inns). I am looking forward to sharing the best of Kyushu that I have discovered with you in November 2018. If you are interested in joining the tour please do contact me by e-mail for further information on Kyushu with Hiroko 2018! at email@example.com. I am going to take only 10 enthusiasts for this very special experience. Kyushu with Hiroko 2018 will be a memorable, delicious, educational and nourishing (physically and mentally) experience. All of the accommodations I have selected are unique, comfortable and first class, and that sites and culture you will encounter are unique in the world. I’ll be posting more information soon on www.hirokoskitchen.com .
And now a short, but fascinating story about my mother…
After experiencing three (3!) cancer treatments in her 80s, my mother today is as strong and sharp as she was 20 years ago. Yesterday I visited her at her apartment, prepared udon lunch for us and listened to her stories, all of which happened to her in the distant past. Some of the stories were repeated ones that I had heard before, but others were totally new for me even after all these years. Here I want to share with you one of the new story.
Tasting of beer at age 3 and loving it:
My mother was not blessed with good health when she was born. At her early ages she did not have much appetite. This is completely opposite to who she is today. My mother is known for having the most insatiable, strong appetite in the family. This includes Buzz and me. My grandfather (her father), who was a pediatrician, tried everything to keep her well-nourished during this difficult time. According to my mother my grandfather introduced her to the taste of beer when she was around 3 years old. At that time his daily schedule went like this. He saw his patients at his clinic in the morning. Then he spent the afternoon visiting his patients in the town where they lived. Every day when he came back to his home clinic an assistant arranged for a large mug of chilled beer to be delivered to him from a nearby restaurant. Back then, no Japanese house owned a refrigerator, so chilled beer ready for drinking was delivered to every home on demand. My mother was the fourth daughter for him and was his favorite, so when my grandpa came home, my mother rushed to him and sat next to him. While listening to her father’s stories, she watched him gulping down and enjoying the mug of beer. One day after learning from his wife that my mother has not been eating much, my grandpa asked my mother if she wanted to taste the beer. My mother nodded, tried it and exclaimed to him that she loved the taste of bitter hops. After this episode it became a daily ritual for my mother to have just a little sip of beer from her father’s beer mug.
My mother did not develop a love for the alcohol in beer. There was too little alcohol in a very little sip. What my mother loved in beer was the bitterness of the hops that her body somehow asked for. Over the years both her health and appetite improved dramatically. Was her daily sip of beer part of her “cure”?
My mother married my father (a surgeon) and they opened the clinic in Tokyo. My mother became an indispensable part of my father’s business operation. She managed the clinic physically and financially. She cooked the meals for the patients who stayed at our clinic quarters after their surgery. She also prepared our family meals with huge love. My mother worked almost 17 hours a day for many long years. I remember that at the end of the day after the meal and cleaning up, and confirming that everyone had retired to their own bedroom for the night, my mother sat in the dining room with a small can of beer reading the daily newspapers. This was the only time when she could fully disengage from everything. I am sure that she was thinking of her father a lot.
About 15 years ago she announced to my sister who lives with my mother that she quit beer. There was no doctor’s command to stop drinking alcohol. The reason was that the beer of today does not taste as good as what she enjoyed in the past. When something does not taste good there is no value to consume it.
Today is December 31. I wish you the very best in the New Year!