My mother is "issei"-- Japanese born and moved to a foreign country. I am Nissei, 2nd generation from a Japanese native and born in a foreign country. My daughter is Sansei. You get the idea. Since I spend a lot of time thinking about how I will affect my daughter's eating and attitudes towards food, I think a lot about how my mother has affected me.
He said, "You expect me to be perfect?"
"Yes," she said, "Today I want you to be perfect."
So after that anything that went wrong he went ahead and blamed himself for forgetting the eggs. Even the next day. "It's because I forgot the eggs," he said when we took the wrong turn on our way to a lunch reservation.
Turned out we didn't need any more eggs anyway.
My mother came here from Japan when she was 22 years old. Globalization wasn't as big as it is now, so foods like "Cream of Mushroom Soup" were probably not part of her daily living. Thanksgiving must have seemed like a bland mix of carbohydrate centered food. It kind of is.
As a kid I remember some holiday dinners at our house where we had all Japanese food, or all different foods that had nothing to do with Thanksgiving (just a lot of it) and several Thanksgiving dinners that any 1950's American housewife would be proud of.
Foodbuzz has given me the opportunity to document our Thanksgiving meal for a feature called 24x24, or, 24 meals in 24 hours. For our dinner we decided to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal with a Japanese influence.
Star Anise Brined Turkey: Star anise flavors actually stayed strong after the turkey cooked. The sensation of it was strange, like, "Am I eating duck or turkey?" We made a hoisin sauce to go with the turkey but accidentally forgot it was there. It was cold enough outside that we kept the turkey in a cooler on the back porch while it was brining.
Okinawan Sweet Potatoes: The Okinawan sweet potatoes were extremely sweet. They were practically dessert. I love the color so much. These can be roasted whole in the oven. Pierce the skin with a fork several times, place on oven rack and bake for 20-30 minutes until soft (no need to wrap in foil or anything). Remove skins and mash in a bowl with butter and a bit of milk (if you desire it to be a little softer).
Roasted Kabocha Squash: We experimented with a cocoa powder/cayenne pepper rub from a recipe my mom had. This was a miss, but the second it came out my dad was trying to figure out how to make it taste better. He mashed some up with butter and sugar and had us all taste it. It was interesting to see the cooking problem solving in action between my mother and he. I think we'll stick with just roasting the cut pieces at 350 degrees with oil and salt next time
Japanese Pickles: Tsukemono is a standard side dish at a Japanese meal. My mom just taught me how to make these and it is amazingly easy. I enjoyed having a crisp vegetable among the traditional Thanksgiving mush.
Milk Bread Rolls: The milk bread rolls didn't make an appearance until it was time for dessert because I miscalculated a step. Bakeries are so common in Japan and they obsess a bit over extremely white bread recipes. Japanese milk bread is soft, sweet, and has the layered texture you dream about in home made rolls. I used a milk bread loaf recipe and just made them into rolls. We all didn't mind eating these with dessert because they were so tasty. Mom reminded me to brush these with egg for a beautiful finish. Amaya ate big chunks of dough, and I kind of let her because it was Thanksgiving. Special. My mom always bent the rules a little for special occasions, and I appreciated her flexibility. She has always been very balanced about food.
Gingered Carrots: For the gingered carrots my mom had me round out the edges. She is very good at small details like this. I would never think of something like that but she was right. They did look so much better.
Asian Pear Pie: My parents have an Asian pear tree right in our backyard. During the summer they picked buckets and buckets of pears from one small tree. What they couldn't give away they canned in an Apple pie manner. They give this canned Asian pear filling to friends. I usually hide my jar until I'm sure they're making a batch during the next season. My pantry feels barren without a jar of this. It is way better than apple pie. Just substitute the pears for apples with your favorite apple pie recipe. The Asian pears keep some of their texture while apples just turn too soft to taste. Mom made a beautiful crust (again, the details) where I would have just had shaggy edges.
Jake was a champ and held the baby and entertained Amaya for most of the day. Jake's influence on Amaya will probably be even greater than mine because he shows her how patient you have to be when your cook is very very slow.
Even though your Thanksgiving is over you can still make some yummy Japanese food with your leftovers.
Turkey rice porridge (Zosui) (using leftover turkey)
Korroke (Japanese style croquettes using mashed potatoes or even sweet potatoes)
Tempura green beans (using leftover green beans)
One way I hope I'll be influenced at SOME point in my life is how to decorate a table. My mom had the whole thing decked out before we even showed up. She even found these cute Thanksgiving people (Yes, pilgrims) to put on the table. Maybe at least Amaya will learn how to make things look more appetizing and she can do it for me. I'm hopeless when it comes to presentation. I'm too focused on getting the food in my mouth, I think.
A whole day devoted to cooking and eating food. Sounds like my kind of day.
But I think it's good that we keep it to one day a year.