Saturday, June 2, 2012

Like Sons, Like Aunt?

My sister is an, let's just say interesting, person. Now don't get me wrong her, time (and distance) has made me appreciate all the more my younger sister. While true that we spent the better part of 17 years or so at each others throats, the both of us have mellowed enough to admit that we not only are fond of each other, but might actually like each other.

Admittedly, being over 2,000 miles apart and only seeing each other once in a blue moon and even then only for a few days at most might have something to do with that.

But my younger sister has grown into a charming woman whose artistic skills I stand in awe of. She literally cannot touch anything without somehow making it artistic. She taught herself how to play piano by ear and is far braver than I in terms of exploring the wild (Or at least weirdly interesting) side of the world. I might have her slightly beat in terms of shear distance from our home, but she has had far more varied experiences than I. All that said, my sister does have some rather entertaining habits that I grew up with. One, she is the farthest possible thing from a morning person. Getting her out of bed took a major operation. Indeed, I recall one summer where my cousins and I resorted to placing frozen hot dogs in her ear in an attempt to wake her up so that we could all go somewhere. And getting her out of bed was just the start, she had this amazing talent to be able to sleep anywhere, any-when.

Then there is the matter of her security blanket. She slept with it until at least college and by the time she had gotten there, that blanket had been reduced to hunks of yarn kept safely in a pillowcase. As a child however, she was incapable of sleeping without her bankie, as a number of nights with screams and howls raising the roof until it was found proved.

And finally though, she has a cast iron throat. One of my fondest memories of my sister is her at age three with our great-grandfather sitting her at the bar in our grandparents' and feeding her cocktail sauce that he was spicing up until she said it was right. I have memories of her chugging Tabasco sauce straight from the bottle. A cooking mistake on my part once had me gasping for breath and my mouth under the tap (I learned the hard way that one cannot substitute crushed red peppers for red bell peppers) was reported by her to be "Slightly hot".

I don't know what this woman's stomach is made out of, but I'm almost fairly certain that given she participates in Thai pepper eating contests that we could probably use it as shielding up at Fukushima.

Now my sister has met one of her nephews once. We brought Makoto over when he was 8 months old. She has talked to him on the phone some times of course, and being a good aunt, she always remembers to send something over for the holidays and birthdays. She hasn't met Hikaru at all. And yet... Somehow, some way, this woman has shaped my sons in her image.

Makoto, as it has been mentioned, is NOT a morning person. He reminds me strongly of my sister from how me must be dragged kicking and screaming from his bed to the bad mood he has when he is woken up. Hikaru of course is a morning person, but seems to have gotten my sister's ability to sleep wherever suits him whenever he feels like it. Like my sister, Hikaru is also attached to his blanket. He refuses to go anywhere without it and God help us should it not be in the bed when we try to put him there.

Blanket washing day is a trial for Beloved, not only does Hikaru stalk around the house in a tantrum because she cannot produce the blanket when he demands it, but when it finally dries, it doesn't smell right and that makes him madder.

But it's the food that really brings forth memories of my sister, especially Hikaru and spicy foods.

Curry and Rice, Japan's national dish
To sidetrack a bit, let me tell you about curry, specifically, curry and rice. While many would think that Japan's national dish would be sushi, those of us over here know better, it's curry. Brought over to Japan during the Meiji Era by the British Royal Navy, it is THE comfort food of choice. Every Japanese boy knows his mother's curry. Every child in Japan learns how to cook curry and the variations in the dish goes from house to house as each mother (Or father for that matter) has their own special way of cooking it. There's TV programs about it (Seriously), there's news stories about different kinds or styles of curry one can find. Curry is even bought as a souvenir from various areas of Japan.

And of course Curry Bread is one of those traps that all new gaijin fall for when they arrive in Japan.

But curry is excellent. I've eaten it from one end of Japan to the other and loved it. It's one of those safe dishes that, when you don't feel like experimenting, or just in a hurry and all you want is something good, curry me.

But it IS spicy. Kind of. There are curry places that serve REALLY spicy curry. One place makes a special 119 curry (119 by the way is the Japanese version of 911) that is so spicy that the cook dons a gas mask to get 'er done. Most Japanese curry however isn't all that particularly spicy. While I don't have my sister's tolerance for spicy foods (Chile being the exception), I can handle the curry with no problems. Children however cannot.

Most Japanese kids start off eating kid's curry, which is this pale yellow (As opposed to red) concoction that is about as spicy as mac and cheese. Bland would be an understatement. So it was with Makoto. It took him a few years to accept his mother's excellent curry (I stand firmly by my statement that Beloved makes the best curry in Japan). Hikaru however... takes after his aunt. His first encounter with curry involved him stealing a spoon and dipping it into my dish. Before we could stop him, he put it right into his mouth at just over a year old.

He didn't cry, he didn't fuss, instead he went right back for more. Every curry night since then has been a repeat of this, he loved curry, the spicier, the better.

These kids don't take after their father, they take after their aunt!            

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