Can you tell us what we have made here today?
We’ve prepared Shabu Shabu which is a Japanese version of Hotpot served with very thinly sliced beef, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms and tofu and my mom always puts noodles in the pot so when you’re done eating all the meat, you have a soup broth.
That’s super cool. I’ve never had hot pot, how does it work?
Well what you do is you take your slice of raw beef using your chopstick and then you swish it around in the boiling water which cooks it. You can cook it to however you want to eat it.
Woah! I’ll be honest, when we were setting this out, I didn’t think it was actually going to work.
(We cook a couple of slices of beef and eat some noodles)
When I came back home for the first time since leaving for college. She had prepared me shabu-shabu which was her way of welcoming me back. It was so sweet. It was also the last meal I ate before I came back. I don’t know, we have an obsession with hotpot in my household.
Going a little deeper into your household, did you enjoy growing up there? Tell me a little bit more about it.
Well, I come from the safest city in the US. We call it the "Basche City" because the Home Owners Association only allows you to paint your house 5 colors and they’re all different shades of basche.
Yeah (laughs) and you have to have your house a certain distance from the sidewalk. Um, it’s just a an area filled with a lot of college kids as well because of UC Irvine and my high school was right across from me. The only real reason we lived there was because of the educational system that was in place.
We also live pretty close to the beach so we would do that a lot.
And at home you live with?
I live with my mom, dad, as well as an older sister named Amy and a younger brother named Austin.
How did that dynamic work?
It’s just because my sister is the pretty princess and my brother is this athletic jock type. Both of which are very popular. I was always just sort of sitting in my sister’s shadow. I don’t know, she was just a very popular theatre kid so everyone only really knew me as her sister. Also at home, I would always get in trouble for their mistakes.
Jeez, that’s rough.
It's fine, what can you do?
So making this was kind of just between you and your mom?
Not really, it was for the family but my mom and I spent more time making it and especially towards the end of my senior year and we became closer and closer. Like her and I went to Japan together; it was just the two us. Not to mention, I’m the only one who really shares the same taste palette as her. I’m the only one who will drink green tea or eat mochi with her.
I’m also the only other person in my house that cooks besides my mom. It became the way that her and I communicated; Through cooking meals with each other.
Are there any other meals that remind you of home? Maybe some with your dad?
No. The last thing my dad cooked for me was an omlette when I was five and never again. Him and my mom were brought up differently and come from two very distinct cultures; Maybe that translated into how cooking fits into their lives. I don't know. I would cook a lot of italian food back home so that’d probably remind me of home.
You say your parents coming from distinct cultures. Your mom’s culture is Japanese. What is your dad’s?
Did growing up with those two cultures ever lead to any sort of friction?
When I was younger, I went through a phase where I rejected my Japanese heritage. In kindergarten, my professor was Japanese and close with my mom so she would try and connect with me through that culture by keeping me in at lunch to eat Onigiri with her but I just wanted to go out and play with my friends.
Adding to that, no one on that side of my family speak english so I remember being unable to talk with my grandparents before they died and so it constantly feels like I’m trying to connect with my japanese heritage but being rejected by it because I’m seen as different or unable to understand their way of life.
I totally understand that feeling...
Yeah it sucks.
Maybe we should move away from that then. Since we’re talking about home through the lense of food but is there anything stronger that reminds you of home?
I think food is definitely one of the biggest ones. That’s what made me so excited to do this project because food is how me and my mom communicate. Another thing would have to be weather. It’s been really sunny here recently which reminds me of being back home.
That’s pretty much it. I don’t necessarily miss being back home and think about these sort of things, I more just miss my mom. I feel bad leaving her because I know she’s away from her home and doesn’t really have anyone here except my family even just for college.
Does that impact your home in the future? Would you move back to be with her?
Yeah; I mean, I’d probably live here on the east coast for awhile but I would eventually move back to be with her on the west coast.
So we cooked this in my household, which is obviously not yours.
What is missing to really make cooking this dish feel like home? Is it music? is it silverware?
Well it’s probably my mom’s tableware which was very specific as well as the hotpot we use.
Even just going and getting the meat is different and how its plated. Back home when you would buy the beef its even more thinly sliced and comes on a styrofoam plate which has a plastic yellow flower in the middle which its served on. The funny thing is that the tableware is meant for four people but we have a family of five which means my brother ends up getting the really shitty american table-set
So knowing that, did preparing this meal right now, remind you of home?
I mean, of course it did but its interesting because its the first time I’ve prepared this meal by myself. I feel like weirdly grown up about it because normally I’d leave the japanese cooking to my mom. This experience was a weird inverse.
Interesting. A couple of people have expressed the same feeling.
Yeah I mean, it's understandable why.
Either way, thank you for being a part of A Heart's Meal.
Anytime! Thank you.
This meal was made with Aki Barber (RISD ID'18)
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