December 25, 2012

Grandma's path

Grandma's path

I spent a great amount of time with my late grandma while I grew up. After coming back from school, I run to fruits/vegetable garden next to our house to find her.
She was always hard working either outside or cooking in the kitchen. I enjoyed helping her with weeding, fertilizing the soil in organic way (there was no word "organic" to separate the other way of growing food in my house),  harvesting the fruits/vegetables, sorting fruits or beans. She also was selling the products to the local vendors occasionally when she had made more than our family could consume or share with neighbors, friends, or relatives. 

Our family also had many rice fields that needed lots of help from all the family members and relatives at planting and harvesting time. My sister and I were put in a wooden tub floating on water in rice field when my family were busy planting rice plant. The depth of the water in the rice fields at planting time is little below knee. That way keeps the small children close to them safe if they don't try to run off the tub. Apparently we were both good kids staying in a tub whole time. At the harvest time, we were running around the dry rice field collecting flowers or catching the bugs, and of course helping them somehow. I remember that the lunch time at the rice field was fun too. Usually my mom or grandma made rice balls with several different fillings and wrapped with seaweed. Side dishes were cooked vegetables or leftover goodies, and fresh fruits.

Autumn is grandma's favorite time as she loved going into the mountain for mushrooms. She knew exactly what was poisonous. She tried to show me the difference, but I haven't mastered it at that time. I always collected everything I found, and then she examined to remove the poisonous ones. Fortunately I haven't found many poisonous ones, and no one had been killed.  She was so passionate about collecting them, and I felt that she almost forgot about me when she was in the mountain. We shouldn't talk or make a noise to avoid the hunters shoot us by mistaking for deer or birds. Mushroom hunt was a dangerous work, I thought. But being in the mountain was such a fun experience as a kid. Not only I found mushrooms, but I enjoyed eating the berries and grapes that were only found in the deep mountains. What a treat! She remembered the exact place where Matsutake mushrooms grew. They come back every year so that she goes to that spots for them. This kind of mushroom is extremely expensive. It used to be between $50 -$100 for a piece in Japan. No kidding! Nowadays, we can find them much cheaper at the market, but those come from Korea or somewhere else. And it doesn't have a good flavor or particular good smell that no other mushroom has. So careful when you found the cheaper ones. We usually grilled them slightly over the open flame and ate them with grandma's special sauce. I believe she made with soy sauce, sake, vinegar, and seasoned sweet sake. It was a secret recipe! She also sliced them and cooked with rice when we had many of them. Or she used some slices into egg custard. Yum!

After I moved away from Japan where I was born and raised, I look at Japan and our good memories differently than the way my sister does. Of course we are different, but not only that, my memories sit in pieces in my mind. I have hard time putting together now. Time is not something you can put together easily. I don't feel like "I belong" there anymore, and I only "visit" my family, friends, and my memory when I got there. However, I don't feel like "I belong" here neither. Having home in two different places confuse my mind sometimes. Do I keep being a traveler like this? I just can't put my thinking together.