Today I’ll be talking about one of the more unique experiences I had while in Japan. On October 22nd, my friends and I attended a Polish Cooking class at the Kasumigaseki Kita-Kouminkan that was hosted by a local community group that was created to maintain connection between Kawagoe and its sister city in Salem, Oregon.
My Aunty and Uncle lived in Japan before and met many people who they still keep in touch with who are in this SKFS so when I was coming to Japan my Aunty told her friends. This ended up leading to having the chance to attend a class about Polish cooking. Honestly I had no idea what Polish food was and didn’t know what to expect but purposely didn’t look it up just in case it was something I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat (since I am a picky eater).
Luckily, the person who invited me to the event was nice enough to let some of my friends join too so we all went together to experience a lesson about how to cook Polish food while in Japan with a group that was mostly old obachans.
When we first got there we did our self introductions in Japanese, got a name tag, and then donned the aprons that my Aunty’s friend gratefully brought for us to borrow for the class. There were four of us TIU students so they split us all up, one on each table with a group of Japanese ladies and the occasional foreign man.
On the menu for today was Kapuśniak, a cabbage and sauerkraut soup; Placki ziemniaczane, potato pancakes with a Sos pieczarkowy, mushroom sauce, on top; and Kompot, an apple dessert.
After the general instructions were given then we all broke off into our little teams and began working. I didn’t have any idea of what to do so I just stood around until an obachan gave me a job to do. Since I am young I was given the task of grating 6-8 potatoes and my arms were in pain. After that I was given the job of grating onions. That was intensely painful actually. My eyes were stinging so much. The only consolation was that the other TIU students and even some of the Japanese students had red eyes and appeared to be crying because of all of the onions being grated.
Since the “savage” obachan that was mostly helping me had already established that I couldn’t use a knife or even peel potatoes, my next job was to stir the soup. She kept insisting that I should taste it to see if it needs more salt but I said that I had no idea what it should taste like so it wouldn’t really make a difference if I tried haha
It was pretty funny because even though there was a recipe, many of the ladies were confused as to how many to use of each ingredient or which ingredient went into which dish since we were making all of them at once. This led to things like putting way too much sour cream–not that they cared, noticed, or minded.
I was worried about how my friends would be feeling about this experience since I did invited them and we all did go into this experience blind about Polish cooking and cooking in general, but it seemed like they were enjoying themselves so I was happy.
Towards the end of the process my main job became plating. As you can see, I did a pretty terrible job of it haha. But anyways, as the cooking wrapped up, dishes were being washed and put away, and chairs were being brought out so that we could sit around the table and eat. It was really cute because each group chose their different dish-ware that they wanted to use and so everyone’s table had its own unique touch.
After a round of group picture taking and a group “itadakimasu” in Polish, we started to eat. As we were cooking I already knew that I was going to struggle eating every single thing that we had made today but I tried my best. I managed to eat the whole pancake with the mushroom sauce, a few sips of the soup, and somehow all of the apples. But I really couldn’t finish the soup so I had to shamefully apologize for that. I was also sort of peer pressured by old ladies to try a kaki or persimmon for the first time. I didn’t like it. I feel bad about being such a picky eater but I am so averse to certain textures that I think its to the point of being like an eating disorder.
Back to the topic though, while we were eating we talked story with the people at our table and it was really fun. I got to try and practice my Japanese outside of class for once which was interesting. I got to hear about how some of these women knew my Aunty and they also asked me about my home and school. It was a really different and fun experience. Something that I never would have thought I would do in Japan but am very grateful that I had a chance to do especially with friends.
After we all finished eating and cleaning up some final words were given and then our group was going to leave but my Aunty’s friend who lent us the aprons wanted us to come and visit her house which we had all actually been passing every single day on the way to and from school.
I had previously noticed that house before since I saw the garden and thought, oh! this is a nice house. We all ended up walking with her back to her house and then she gave us a tour of the garden that she said my Aunty really loves. She was super nice and invited us all to stop by any time we wanted.
I would have to say that this was a Saturday well spent and I am glad I have this as a memory of my time in Japan and I hope my friends thought so as well. Grateful to my Aunty for reaching out to her friends and I appreciate how they were so welcoming.
Thanks for reading!