Monday, December 29, 2014

What we ate (and other Christmas notes)

Today’s coffee: New Year’s Blend

It’s raining today, which is annoying, since it makes some of the huge amount of snow that fell on December 26 rather slushy and gross. But this too shall pass; the weather will get cold again later this week.

This is our car, on the morning of December 26. It's hard to tell from the picture how much snow that is, but it's more than 2 feet...
Actually I was rather pleased with a quiet day indoors on December 26. I made sauerkraut, yuzu curd, and sandwich fillings for the Christmas tea party the following day. Then we sat in front of the window watching the snow fall. (Keith also shoveled snow.)

Tea Party menu:
Scones with yuzu curd, jam, and cream
Mini-quiche with ham and sundried tomato filling
Tea sandwiches: egg salad on pumpernickel, cranberry pecan chicken salad on pecan sourdough
Linzer cookies
Cardamom rolls
Chocolate banana pound cake (from Noriko)
Raisin pound cake (from Mina)
Sasakushi dango (from Kyoko)
Lots and lots of tea

Tea party table, complete with flowers from one of my concerts.
Tea party guests: members of my small group and some friends.
Being in Japan has influenced me in many ways, perhaps especially in the area of food. Taking pictures of food, thinking more carefully about color and balance and seasonal vegetables when putting together a meal, and considering the tastes of my guests, to name a few points. Also, just spending more time thinking about food, and planning menus. Today, I have food on my mind for various reasons, so that’s what I’m going to write about, mostly.

I think I’ve never been as well-fed as I’ve been in the last week. We have invited a number of Japanese friends over, thinking that they will help us to eat the mountain of food currently in the house. However, Japanese tradition dictates that when you go to someone’s house, you bring a gift, usually food. This means that the mountain of food did not necessarily decrease when our guests went home.

In Japan, Christmas is “over” on the evening of December 24. After that, it’s time to prepare for the New Year holiday. We deliberately invited people over after Christmas, since now that concerts and church events are over, we have time to relax with friends… and celebrate Christmas. There has been a steady stream of guests at our house since Christmas Eve, and this will probably continue until after New Year’s. (Meanwhile, Keith is trying to write a sermon…)

Christmas Eve menu:
Swedish Meatballs and gravy
Mash potatoes
Cranberry sauce
Green bean casserole
Dessert: Cardamom rolls
Drinks: Sparkling apple cider

Thanks to Costco, we had ham for our Christmas dinner; that’s the first time we’ve had ham since coming to Japan. I made a glaze with mikan (mandarin orange), and we roasted potatoes and carrots together with it. Uncharacteristically, there is no picture of the ham. Tonight the leftovers will become split pea soup, also a first since we’ve been in Japan.

Christmas Dinner menu:

Ham with mikan glaze
Roasted carrots and potatoes
Brussels sprouts with chestnuts
Stuffing, provided by Sarah
Dessert: Fruitcake with marzipan, mince pies
Drinks: Sparkling apple and grape juice

The reason I’ve got food on my mind is because I’ve started preparations for Osechi, the Japanese New Year’s feast. This year will be my fifth time making Osechi. Keith says it gets better every year. I wouldn’t doubt it; the first time I made Osechi, I could hardly read the recipes I was using. Most people make Osechi over the course of several days. Usually I just do it all on December 31, but this year I’m trying to spread it out a bit.

This, too, is part of my training. Keith and I hope that hospitality will continue to be a big part of our ministry in the future.

Other than the previously mentioned meals, here are some other pictures of various Christmas events.

Church potluck #1. Can you find Ultraman?
Christmas concert #1 at Hokuei Church
Church potluck #2
Playing for worship service at Wakaba
Christmas concert #2 at Wakaba

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