Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sansai (and falling in mud)

I was asked to go to a party at the Okada's last week. We were going to have a lunch composed primarily of mountain vegetable *sansai. I eagerly accepted the invite, and was thrilled to hear the update from Yoshi... "we will be picking vegetables in the morning, do you still want to come, it is hard work!" I told him I was "even more excited" and he commented on what a "unique" girl I was. Offhanded compliment, I suppose, but I will take what I can get.

We headed to the mountains just outside of Oyabe and started the hunt. Our crew included the Okada's, Yoshi, me, the Nakayama's, and two women, their husbands, and 3 little ones (6, 8, and 10 years). Their mom is sister to one of my sensei here at school. Thought that was pretty cool, small world.

First off was teaching me what was what. Helps to know what you are hunting. Wabari are long stemmed, with a little curlie deal at the top, they are usually served after soaking in some kind of dashi or vinegar.

Next up were a small bud that grew on the very top of a bare spikey tree. I found a bunch of these, because Nakayama-san was really excited about how delicious they were when used for tempura. Also, I noticed that they are home to a small black beetle. I had to wack them on the trunk of the tree to rid them of their occupants. Got over the guilt when I tasted them, though. Almost like the stem of broccoli, but a little sweeter.

These lovely things look like lilypads, and you eat the stem after soaking in vinegar. I actually eat them all the time in my Sanko bento, and never knew.

The zenmai were a bit tricky to find. They are essentially rolled up ferns. I was taught that you should pick the ones stil wrapped up tightly with the fuzzy outer shell around the coil. It is the best tasting kind. Some of my first efforts were tossed to the side because they "are not as delicious!" Ooops. We still had bags full, so I wasn't too concerned. I slid down the side of a hill once, since it had been raining the two days prior. No one saw me though... ;)

*not my photo

Lunch rest stop.

These were our hunting grounds for the mid-morning.

Our spoils...

Great day, great dinner of tempura, and good company as always. Days like this make me love Japan all the more.

The kids were a little timid at first, but after they found out they could practice their English on me, and then fall into Japanese if necessary, they wouldn't leave my side. We were climbing on cows,

racing up stairs (note, this is before the racing),

playing with *kemushi caterpillar(毛虫)well,the one in the photo isn't so *ke (fuzzy)

And just hanging out with everyone in the mountains. There was a beautiful temple up there as well, and I got my first *goshuin in almost a year. (御朱印)Which are stamps and *shodou calligraphy(書道) that you can collect in a book that you purchase at shrine or temple in Japan. The shrine maiden or priest will whip out the shodou brush and write the name of the temple and the date of your visit over the red stamp that symbolizes the temple/shrine itself. They are beautiful, and a great way to remember which temples and shrines you visited and when. Thank you Saffer for suggesting I get one almost two years ago in Kyoto!

Here is Yoshi ringing the miniature bell next to the main building.

Very relaxing day, couldn't have had a better time... and I made some new friends. In a few weeks it will be rice planting time!

1 comment:

Emma-sensei said...

:D You look so, so pretty in the first picture. Acks. Miss you. Lonely. But Sir Andreas Popinus is coming to visit me in January. squeal!