OK. I just added the photos! :D I did make and have nice Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday night, despite the fact that I had to work from 6:30 am to 3 or 4 pm on both Saturday and Sunday.
The problem is that I cannot have access to the Internet from my laptop at the moment... The modem seems to have a problem. I first posted this entry from a PC at a "Manga and Internet Cafe" in town, and though I brought photos of my Thanksgiving dinner on a CD-R, the PC there did not have a CD-R drive. AHhhh! So I added these photos at somewhere else. ;)
Anyway, I made almost the same dinner as I did in 2004 and 2005, and enjoyed it very much. Yeah, alone -- again. But how could I find someone to have a Thanksgiving dinner with? You know what? Here, if you are a Japanese and celebrated Thanksgiving, you've got to be ready to face an accusation, "You're not an American, are you?" though no one says to a Japanese person who celebrates Christmas,"You're not a Christian, are you?"
Well, I once wrote on this blog in 2004 why I keep celebrating Thanksgiving here in Japan. And as far as that reason is good enough for me, I don't care what others think or say about that. :p
Now, the details. The dinner consisted of Roasted chicken breast, mashed potatoes, green peas, corn, cornbread and two kinds of desserts: a pumpkin tart and small apple crumble tarts. (The ones in bold are linked to the recipes, but of course I tweaked all of them. For the tart shells, I used this Japanese recipe, again with my own twists.
The cranberry sauce (I used dried cranberries) was a great success this year! This time I added a couple of secret ingredients: a little vinegar and chopped dried fig, and added no sugar. For some reason, it worked out fine, and I might make the sauce again for some kind of pork dish soon. The stuffing was good, too. I couldn't afford hazelnuts this time, but chestnuts gave a nice sweet touch which went well with the sauce.
I cannot say that this cornbread was a great success, partly because I used buttermilk substitute (vinegar-added milk) instead of real buttermilk, and partly because I replaced small amount of white sugar with brown sugar, thinking that it might enhance the flavor. I regretted it when I saw the batter turned darker, but it was too late. And the cornbread turned out a bit too sweet. But I loved the texture very much. It was nice and moist.
For this tart, I used kabocha pumpkin -- the less moist and nutty type -- so I should have adjusted the amount of condensed milk. But I forgot, and as a result, this turned out a bit drier than I had wanted. Maybe whipped cream on top could have helped, but I was too lazy.
And this apple crumble tart was the biggest success. It made up for the minor disappointments with the cornbread and pumpkin tart, and gave a nice ending to my Thanksgiving dinner 2008.
I don't care about accusations. I had something to enjoy that weekend, and it was much better than just spending the whole weekend resenting the person who made the awful work shift. I'd rather enjoy cooking and eating than being praised for behaving properly as a Japanese.
Talking about adaptation of foreign customs...
I guess people have different opinions and feelings about the issue, and I'm aware that many have a negative view on how Japanese -- including myself -- adapt Western customs. I don't mean to get into the debate on whether it's good or bad, but I just want to mention one thing: I believe that just blindly following foreign customs and trying to find your own value/meaning as you adapt something are two different things, and I hope that what I've been doing is the latter.
Anyway, last year before the Thanksgiving week, this issue of "Japanese mimicking anything American" kind of got on my nerve, and I seriously wondered if my Thanksgiving dinner was just part of it. I knew it WAS in many Japanese people's view, but I was more concerned about what it meant to myself, not others. And when thinking about what the spirit of Thanksgiving means to a Japanese (me), a crazy project (again!) popped up in my mind; I thought, "How could ancient Japanese people have celebrated their first successful harvest when, let's say, they started growing rice in Japan? What kind of dinner did they prepare?" So I ended up preparing an ancient Japanese thanksgiving dinner based on my very little knowledge of food in ancient times and wild imagination.
I think I've heard that rice in ancient times was rather reddish, and people must have eaten it with lots of different kind of grains. Maybe beans were already available. They must have eaten wild nuts, too. I don't know when they started farming chicken, but at least they must have caught and ate wild birds way before that. And of course, they must have made alcoholic drink out of rice, because in ancient Japan, alcohol seems to have played an important role whenever people needed to relate to various gods in the nature. The ancient sake was not clear, but looked milky, as far as I know. Also, I've heard that something similar to yogurt and cheese was already available around 10th century...
Now here are the result of my wild imagination:
Obachan's imaginary "Ancient Japanese Thanksgiving Dinner" 2007
Rice balls made with rice and many kinds of grains
Skewed Chicken (I couldn't get wild birds) with miso seasoning
Yogurt with sweetened black beans
Gosh, obachan, you certainly had a lot of time to kill! -- you want to say? Well, you're right. My work schedule at that time was not as terrible as it is now. Anyway, I had so much fun with this project. But days passed too fast while I procrastinate, and then it was already time for Christmas baking, so I didn't have a chance to post about this project. Now C's comment inspired me to bring these stock photos into the spotlight, and post about the hilarious dinner that could upset any expert of Japanese ancient history. Hahaha...
Anyway, anyhow, I think that people's most simple, basic feelings are often universal, and different cultures have developed different ways to express the basic, possibly universal feelings or wisdom. In adapting something from outside, you might get in touch with some aspects of your own culture which have been taken for granted, and enjoy the difference and sameness at the same time. I like that very much, and it has been reflected on my blogs -- I think -- and will be in the future, too.
Categories: Western-inspired, Categories: Japanese