Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Is Not For Shopping

Tomorrow I will buy a turkey breast to cook for Thanksgiving.  It's my turn to cook.  I won't buy a whole turkey, because there will only be five people around our Thanksgiving table, and we certainly don't want to be eating leftovers into mid-December.

This is not an advertisement for Harris Teeter, my grocery store "home," but that's probably where I will go to purchase my turkey breast.  I usually know where to find things, even though it is my husband who does the grocery shopping 99% of the time.  Five minutes from my house by car, I will drive there, plunk the turkey breast in my shopping cart, roll my cart to the check out counter where they will scan it and put it back in the cart for me to push out to my car.  When I get home, I'll carry it to my refrigerator where I'll place it until it's time to cook it the next day.  It will take a half hour at the most to get my turkey.

It was different for my mother when I was growing up.  She used to journey to downtown Tokyo on two separate trains to purchase our turkey.  It took her well over an hour just to get to Kinokuniya, the import store where American food like peanut butter, popcorn, corn flakes, or a turkey could be purchased. Once she selected our turkey, she placed it in the large, sturdy bag she took with her to the store, packing it carefully among a few choice other items she felt she could manage to carry home along with the turkey.  She then began her trip back to our house in Mitaka, first hauling the twelve pound bird to the train station.  She placed it on the seat next to her (if there was room) on the train, and then an hour later put it into the wicker basket on the front of her bicycle to peddle it home.  It took practically the entire day to buy the turkey.

I am thankful for my mother who went to extra efforts to make sure that we celebrated Thanksgiving and got to know this holiday.  We celebrated it, even though nobody else in our neighborhood did.  She showed me the importance of this most precious of holidays where we stop, come together, and give thanks.  It is my favorite holiday.  I enjoy its slow pace, the purposeful time in which we are together just for the sake of being together, and count all the ways in which we are blessed.

So when our commercial world marches on to take away even this, this one single day when we pause to give thanks, I will not participate.    I will never, ever, shop on Thanksgiving Day.  I will remember those stores who opened on this holiday.  For the rest of the holiday shopping season, I choose not shop there.   It's that important to me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Popcorn for Dinner

It wasn't often that Mom was away at dinner time, but when she was, she usually prepared something that Dad could heat up and serve up on the table for dinner.  Our family rarely ate out at restaurants.  It was a really special occasion when we did, and it certainly was not something we did for convenience in those days.  We went to restaurants as a family for celebration, so we did not go to a restaurant without Mom. That just wouldn't be fair.

On those rare evenings when Dad was left to his own devices to prepare dinner for us, we had popcorn.

Dad loved having popcorn for dinner, and we were part of his ritual of preparation from beginning to end. He told us all about how often he had this special dinner of popcorn when he was growing up.  Our kernels came from Kinokuniya, the imported food store in downtown Tokyo, or was shipped to us in care packages from America.  Not to be overly dramatic about this, but having popcorn was one of the ways we were reminded that we were American.

First, Dad coated the bottom of the stainless steel pan with some vegetable oil.  Then, we watched as he cut open the bright colorful American plastic bag of corn kernels, and poured them in to the metal pan, making a loud noise.

Then, Dad placed the pan on the stove, and we gathered in close to listen for the first pop.  I always wished I could see the popping and not just hear it, but of course, that was impossible with the metal pans.   We silently waited, still as we could be, so as not to make any unexpected noises that would take away from the excitement of hearing that first kernel hit the lid of the pan.  When we heard it, that first lone popper, we looked at each other's faces to be re-assured, that yes, that was a pop.

Slowly, gradually, more and more kernels popped, and in no time there were so many kernels popping in rapid succession that we couldn't tell them apart.  That was the best part.  It was out of control!! As the popping died down, Dad shook the pan over the stove to make sure that as many kernels as possible would pop, and slowly, slowly, the energy and sounds from the pan died down.  Sometimes Dad included enough in the pan that the white jewels began to lift the lid off of the pan.  I secretly wished for it to overflow and cover the top of the stove.

When the popping was finished, Dad salted it and tossed it in a mixing bowl.  Then, the three of us sat at the card table in the kitchen rather than the dining room table where we usually ate dinner.  Dad scooped the popcorn out of the pan with the bowls he would set in front of us for dinner.  Finally, just before we said the blessing, he retrieved the cold glass bottle of milk from the refrigerator, and poured it over our hot popcorn. We ate it with a spoon, just like Dad did when he was a little boy.

My family does not eat popcorn for dinner.  We don't pour milk on our popcorn, either.  Our popcorn is popped in a microwave in a paper bag that expands and we throw away in the trash.  My family won't be carrying on that tradition, much to my Dad's dismay, but I will always have great memories of pop corn for dinner at the little square card table in the kitchen in Mitaka.