Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vegetarian kaiseki

I'm so happy I got this picture of me and my English teachers even though my favorite teacher is missing. They're all great teachers, really lovely people, so sweet to me and...aren't they just the cutest? And yes, I'm heads taller than all of them. Asi es mi vida en Japon.

The end of the year teachers' party is a fancy affair where we sit on the floor (women don't sit cross-legged in Japan - ouch!) and eat at little trays. Everything goes according to a schedule which mostly involves speeches that get haltingly translated to me by one of my patient English teachers. The ladies keep bringing us tons of food and I feel terrible for them because Japanese kaiseki cuisine uses about a million differently shaped and sized dishes. Here was the spread when we first sat down.

The party cost 7,000 yen each (about $86 right now) for food and drink. Luckily they ordered me vegetarian food so here's my veggie sashimi. Almost too pretty to eat! The gelatinous shiny stuff on the bottom is konnyaku. Unfortunately for me vegetarian kaiseki usually means they employ all the textures I don't love. I really enjoy the flavors but have a hard time with jelly like substances, egg custards and slimy mushrooms. I really had to "gambatte" (do my best). Then, some things I always love - miso soup, tempura, rice, the sauces, etc.

It's all you can eat and drink, but I never get too full from the food because it's all really healthy. I never drink very much because you can't fill your own glass; you have to wait until some one else comes over and tops you up (or you get a buddy system going with the person next to you). I do some pouring for other teachers but I tend to get a little shy in these situations since my Japanese isn't awesome. It takes a while for my teachers to get drunk enough to come over and talk to me - mostly about the basketball or volleyball tournaments.

It's really emotional to see these teachers who spend so much time together and grow so close but never show it say goodbye to each other and tell what they meant to each other. I was already a hot mess from a roller coaster week so I was crying right along with them. Luckily, Japanese culture has this reset button where no one will discuss the party ever again and will act like anything that happened there never did.

Oh but the food! I'm still thinking about the dessert - delicious sesame mousse with sweet sake drizzled over it.

Here's the lovely picture John got as a parting gift from his teachers.
His other school gave him a really cool plant too, lucky us.

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