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Autumn & harvest time

Written on: Wednesday October 17th, 2007

A journal entry from: Japan

Today was a picture-pefect day in my eyes, a sweet warm autumn day. Unfortunately, I can't enjoy it too much, since I have to go to work, and I also had my Japanese lesson this morning. But, I'm sure there will be other days. I went for a short bike ride this morning and that was enough, and now I am having lunch next to my open balcony door and writing this. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and here I am especially glad for the change in season, as I didn't really enjoy the hot, sweaty, sticky, "can't move" summer months (although I was starting to get a bit more used to it at the end).

So besides the blessed weather, I have been watching the rice fields ripen which is interesting for me - when I arrived and I first saw the newly-planted fields I realized I had no idea what rice plants looked like and how the grain would look before harvetsed. Really not that different from other grains, of course, but it was interesting to see for myself. It is a lovely yellow-brown colour, so the fields remind me of the fields of grain back on the prairies at the end of the summer. But, while the Canadian prairies have probably already got their first frost and the harvesting is almost over (or is it done already?), the harvest here only started a couple weeks ago and goes to November. (Imagine!) It seems to be ususal here to burn the waste (from both the rice and the vegetables), which puts a pungent smoky smell in the air which I love. I've also noticed that many vegetable gardens apper to have been replanted, so I'm speculating that there can't be much frost here in the winter. I'm guessing the winter climate will be similar to Vancouver Island but less damp (I hope), although I've heard it's cold. That's probably pretty relative for a girl from the Canadian prairies. (We'll see..I may have to eat my words later...)

So, the weekend before last the owners of the school had a "nabe" party for us gaijin (foreign) teachers. Nabe is apparently a traditional Japanese autumn-time dish, and nabe-parties are apparently a traditional thing to do at this time of year. It's a great idea - have a bunch of people over and prepare a simple hot, brothy dish and enjoy it together and sit around chatting. So, nabe is made by chopping up various vegetables into big chunky pieces (cabbage, leaks, mustard greens, bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms, etc.) then putting them into a pot (we used a wide electric hot-pot) with stock (usually fish-stock as I understand it, and it's sold pre-pepared with spices and garlic and ginger already added), plus diced tofu, and, in our case, sausages and meat goyza (dumplings similar to pot-stickers). You also add special noodles made of some sort of vegetable starch, which are sold in a bag immersed in liquid, and actually smell a little bad when you take them out of the bag. But after they're cooked, they're fine. Then you let it all cook and simmer until it's ready, and that's it. It makes nice healthy, soup-y dish. It really is great for a chill autumn evening. I think you all should try it [:-)], although you might not be able to find the nabe noodles so I'm not sure what you could substitute - maybe udon noodles, but don't put them until that last 10-15 minutes.


So, anyway, this weekend tried making my own pot of nabe and it turned out pretty good:










But, of course with my little fridge I couldn't fit it all in, so it was a great excuse to share some.