Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Autumn Festival Feast in My Hometown

Now I’m back in my apartment with lots of photos and memories of the autumn festival in my hometown held last weekend.

On Saturday, October 14th, I took an early bus to my hometown to help with the cooking. When I came to the small kitchen adjacent to the shrine, four women around my mom’s age were already there, busy with cooking. They were touya’s wives, including my mom. According to her, they had made a VERY brave decision of making many of the dishes of the feast themselves this year. (I heard that last years’ cooking team totally depended on the local catering service and it costed too much, so I guess there was a budget-cut.)

As soon as I entered the kitchen, I was led straight to the deep-frying pot. There waiting were breaded prawns and seasoned fish meat to be deep-fried. Rice was cooking in the electric rice cooker, and someone was filleting fish at an outside sink.

When you hear about elderly women cooking together for a community gathering, don’t you automatically expect them to be making “grandma’s signature dishes” with their expertise and all dishes to be wonderful? Oh well, that’s not necessarily always true. Sorry to disillusion you, but actually it was kind of hilarious. You know how it is to cook in a kitchen that you are not used to? To make things worse, everyone forgot to bring some ingredients/utensils and most of them were not available at the shop nearby.

So things got pretty messy there. Kamasu (peto?) for the stuffed sushi was opened in a wrong way, someone added wrong amount of water to cook rice, and some said that some of the dishes had to be delivered to another place at 3 pm while others said 4 pm, etc. etc…. Ahhhhhhh!!! And you know what? The communication through cell phones often does not work in my hometown – sometimes because the elder people do not know how to use them, and other times, the cell phone displays “no-service area” message. :O

And in this kind of situation, you have to realize that each household has a different way of cooking/serving and different preference of taste. In a very rural, traditional place like my hometown, women in our grandmothers’ generation learned to cook just like their mothers did, or after they got married, like their mother-in-laws did. There was no restaurant or shops in a small farming and fishing village, and of course no recipes from TV cooking shows or the internet, so they had no chance to get familiarized with more “standardized” tastes. And women of my mom’s generation learned cooking from them. So each family’s preference of taste seems to be rather persistently inherited. You know what I mean. ;)

Participants of the festival enjoying the big feast.

We served the big feasts on the festival eve and the main festival day. On the main festival day, the four cooking staff got together at 6 am(!!) to cook some dishes different from the day one and serve the feast around 11:30 am. (I joined them later because I was not an official member of the cooking team this year.) There came sooooooo many amateur photographers on that day to take shots of the unique rituals of our festival. They had no way to buy lunch, because absolutely no food stalls come to our festival, and the only store in the community sells candies, ice cream and seasoning stuff only but no snacks/bentos. So we made rice balls with "superfluous" gomokuzushi and fed the photographers. (Hope the cooking team next year does not hate us for doing that.)

Unfortunately, we, the cooking team, could not join the feast both days – our duty was to stay in the kitchen and keep serving foods and washing glasses/dishes. :( We were all so tired when it was over, then one of the elder ladies came by and said, “Oh, you are lucky that you had to come here at 6 am today. When I cooked here for this festival, we came here around 2 am!”
Gee. Then when my real turn comes in about 30 years from now, the cooking team would be meeting at around 10 am. Boy, I really hope so. :P

Full write-up and photos of the festival:
Preparing for the Autumn Festival - Part 1 -
Preparing for the Autumn Festival - Part 2 -
Autumn Festival in My Hometown - Festival Eve -

Autumn Festival in My Hometown - Main Festival Day -

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Anonymous said...

looks yummy! looking forward to your full write-up!

Anonymous said...

I'm yearning to climb right through my monitor and join in the feast. It looks tooooo wonderful.

obachan said...

Thanks. It’s coming soon. ;)

Hahaha. It must be really something to eat festival food with the kids with funny make-ups.

Hi! So great to hear from you. I bet these Sawachi made you feel nostalgic, right?
I visited Connecticut about 20 years ago and I still remember the taste of Lender’s bagels I had there.
Come visit my site whenever you miss Kochi. :)

Anonymous said...

That looks so good! It's so nice to see the whole families cooking together... 3 or 4 generations under one roof?! It looks like fun!

Anonymous said...

That looks wonderful....

ghanima said...

It sounds like everyone's nerves got a little frazzled, but I bet it made for a great time overall! I find that bonding experiences like those are increasingly hard to come by in our structured world. Any way, the food looks great! Did the cooks learn any special tricks from one another?

Anonymous said...

Despite all the little problems, all the food looks great!

obachan said...

Well, I have never experienced 3 or 4 generations cooking together under one roof, but it sounds like a lot of fun (if they were getting along alright). :P

It WAS a lot of work. Really. Hope the festival attendants enjoyed the food.

Hahaha. I would say, it's more likely that each cook went home more determined to stick with her own way of cooking for the rest of her life. ;P

k & s
Thank you. Maybe our festival food is a bit different from the popular festival food in Osaka?

Anonymous said...

You are a Goddess to create this marvelous site. I just got back from two glorious weeks in Japan and I found your site when looking for a recipe. The photos are wonderful and your writing is divine. thank you!

obachan said...

Hi anonymous commenter,
Thank you so much for the compliment :) I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed your stay in Japan.
Comve visit my site whenever you miss Japan!