Thursday, November 02, 2006

Preserving the past

A while ago I wrote an entry about my grandma. This is one of my other grandma's - my Japanese grandma. Unfortunately she also died about 2 years ago, but like my New Zealand grandma she also had a big influence on my life here in Japan. She was incredible lady who managed to leave an impression on everyone she met - even when no one was speaking the same language. I think everyone remembers her for her great smile.
She was 88 when she died, but right up until she went into hospital she was in the garden - growing vegetables mainly to give away to everyone else. That was her life - growing and giving vegetables to others. In fact she was so efficient in the garden and so healthy that no one bothered to ask her about the secrets of her success, how she preserved the vegetables etc. Now that she has died there is no way to get those secrets.

Keeping that in mind I am now determined to try and learn as much as I can from the older people around here (there are definately no shortage of them around here...) and try to make a record of some of the traditional ways of preserving vegetables etc in this area (the methods seem to vary a lot in each area).
Japan has a huge number of "pickles" - they are not like the gherkin kind of pickles, but often just vegetables preserved using salt, miso etc. I am starting to learn the art with "takana" - a kind of leaf mustard which is often preserved with chillis etc. to give it a spicy flavour. I grew lots in spring this year too, but didn't know what to do with them so most of them ended up in the compost heap! Following my mother-in-law's directions carefully (she made a big mess of them 2 years ago and consulted an elderly lady in the area last year to learn the proper method) I carefully cut them and laid them out to "wilt" today - one day in the shade seems to be enough to change the healthy, crisp leaves into floppy, not-so-delicious looking blobs.
Tomorrow I need to get my muscles working and "knead" them with salt.... it should be yet another interesting experience!

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