Monday, November 24, 2008

My Thanksgiving Dinner 2008

Obachan's Thanksgiving Dinner 2008

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.

Dec. 4th
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
Simmered beans
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.

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sakiblu said...

Hello Obachan.. I'm new to your blog, but I am really enjoying it, and wanted to thank you for all the good recipes and photos..May I wish you the very Happiest of Thanksgivings!!I will be alone on Thanksgiving too.I just baked two pumpkin pies and getting ready to do the turkey breast..I can't wait to see the Macy's Parade.Thank you again for all the work you put in to this blog.Warmest Regards, Sakiblu

K and S said...

I hope you had a nice dinner :) Looking forward to the pics!

Anonymous said...

Your dinner looks wonderful. I know it's not the same, but we, your faithful readers, are there in spirit with you. (Yes, I'm drooling over the pictures.) I'm on my own as well and just wish I had the desire to make myself such a delightful meal.

LilyAnette said...

Happy Thanksgiving

CityZoo said...

Happy Thanksgiving! My mother was a Nihonjin. Every Thanksgiving, she made norimaki in addition to the turkey, stuffing, etc.. My aunt Asako made delicious pies. Your use of kabocha and the way you tweak your recipes is inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh...I hope there's a recipe with that kabocha pie somewhere! Now that I am settling in for the long haul in Japan, I'd like to get used to using local ingredients instead of running to the import store every time I want to make something. Kabocha is so sweet and tender, I bet it would make a wonderful pie!!! Maybe even better than the usual pumpkin pie I'm used to back home! Your Thanksgiving post is really an inspiration!....Do you really get that much fo a hassle, btw, for letting on that you're going to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner?? ^_^ I'll be starting on mine first thing tomorrow morning...Actually, I'd love any tips or advice on what I'm planning on doing. I'm trying to make a good substitute for sage flavored pork sausage by buying ground pork and just mixing in the sage. I hope it works, but would love your input!

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving Obachan! I applaud you for your celebratign the holiday, even if you are not American. it's about being thankful and mindfull, which you remind me to be all the time.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Oba-chan. I'm a gaijin living in Japan teaching English (I've been reading your site for a while) and I'm glad you're having fun with Thanksgiving, no matter what people say! I miss Thanksgiving at home a lot and you made a nice adaptation of it.

ChroniclesofChaos said...

Hey there Obachan!

It's been some time since I left a comment here but something captured my attention tonight.

Following of customs that are not necessarily those you grew up with. Well... I truly believe if you like the custom and it doesn't hurt anyone, then by all means go ahead with it and not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Over here in Singapore, my colleague and I have this strange habit of shrieking "Itadakimasu" each time we are about to eat.

We have no idea what it means and if it is a prayer of thanks. To us, it simply means "Thank You for the food" and "I'm about to dig in now!"

obachan said...

Sorry about my late response, guys. I thought I already replied, but obviously I didn't.

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving including the parade! :D

K & S
Looks like you tried out new recipes and had a nice dinner on Thanksgiving day, right? BTW, there are some online stores that sell turkey in Japan.

Yes, I'm doing this to thank my kind readers, too.Thank you, everyone. :)

Lily Anette
Same to you.

Norimaki with turkey! Sounds like my kind of Thanksgiving celebration. I wish I could have been there, too.

Dateline Osaka
Thanks for your comment and so sorry that I didn't respond to you in time about the pork sausage. But you didn't miss a lot because I don't know anything about sausage making. Hope you had a success.

Happy Thanksgiving Sara. I appreciate your warm comment.

As I wrote in the additional part of this post, your comment inspired me to bring those photos from 2007 into a spotlight, and I thank you very much for the inspiration. Posting those a-year-old photos made me feel much better than I had thougt; I guess they wanted to express something in the blogsphere.

Tickles' Belly Flops
Hi. Thanks for your comment. I really felt supported. It's funny how much I wanted support regarding this issue... I didn't realize it until I read the supportive comments from my readers.

To me your use of the word "Itadakimasu" looks perfectly correct. The word does mean those things. Perhaps the custom started to thank the god(s) that gave us the food. My parents told me to include those who were involved in bringing the food to our table, like farmers, fishermen, etc. and the person who cooked the meal, plus, the person who earned money to buy the food. Thorough coverage for just one word, isn't it? ;)

Anonymous said...

Mm, I agree with you about people getting annoying when they accuse you of trying to be a different nationality or blindly following different customs... I've been to Japan, so I love onigiri and anpan and bifun. But whenever I talk about making them, or I go to the store to buy ingredients, people always tell me "You're not Japanese, stop that." And I remember once in highschool I was practicing Japanese with a friend, and a girl came up and yelled at me to stop trying to be Japanese!

You enjoy your Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. :) There's always time to be goofy, thankful, and stuffed with good food, regardless of where you live and what customs you're "supposed" to follow.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to have inspired you to post your old photos! I really enjoyed your creative approach to "ancient Japanese thanksgiving." And I completely agree with you - there are some values that cross all cultural boundaries, and by exploring those values (peace, love, thanksgiving, and having enough food!) through other people's traditions we can learn more about ourselves! By sharing and understanding we enrich ourselves and the people around us. I've lived in three countries now, and each time I've absorbed a little of the place I lived, and I really feel it's made me a deeper, wiser person. I'm glad you talk about your own cultural experiences on your blog ^^
~C, aka "Madsilence the Younger"