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 Me in Japan.  I'm the blond.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in two ways.  The family gathers together and the family eats…and eats…then sleeps a little…then eats some more. Most folks will include the usual suspects in the Thanksgiving feasting - turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dressing.  From this point each individual family plugs in the family favorites, which could be anything from yams and marshmallows to venison salami .  My family is no different.  Although, I will say our Thanksgiving table can get a little more eclectic than most.  My father was a career military man having served nearly 30 years as an intelligence officer in the Army. Hence we lived all over the world spending the bulk of our time in Japan and South Korea.  Along the way my mother and sisters picked up an array of recipes and techniques which they folded into their repertoire of cooking.  This repertoire was already bulging with cooking knowledge that included a heavy amount of down home Hoosier cooking from Indiana, some staples of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine and a smattering of Amish and Mennonite recipes from the northern Indiana Michiana country which includes the area around Goshen, Sterling and Elkhart where my dad and his parents lived.  Also, my father had a passing knowledge of Tex-Mex cooking from his teen-aged years living in Deming, New Mexico during the depression.  It was here that he learned crazy good pie making skills from my great-aunts who were legendary bakers in those parts.  My dad’s mom was also a great baker and was a key to their survival during the Depression.  My grandma would do odd-jobs for sugar and flour to make cookies that my dad and his brother could sell door to door or on the train platforms to make enough money to buy food to feed the family.  The sweets were never kept for the house, but were sold to survive.  Even so, my father’s family had to split up in order to ease the financial burden and insure their future together.  My father was sent from Indiana to live with family in New Mexico for a few years, eventually re-uniting but not until after my father had learned a few things about making pies from his aunties and hunting javelinas and rabbits from his uncle. 

 It was my mother, though, who actually used this amalgamation of recipes and skills on a daily basis.  The main way she took care of her family was by preparing meals.   My mother was truly one of the first practitioners of fusion cuisine, and wherever we were she always managed to meld local cuisine with our American favorites.  I remember things like Turkey Sukiyaki, Chili with Nori crumbled in it, and Korean Chop Chae made with home made Amish egg noodles instead of traditional Korean cellophane noodles.  My mother had a bit of the French in her as well, having the habit of finishing nearly every dish with a dollop of butter.  To this day, if I eat Campbell’s chicken noodle soup it just doesn’t taste right without a little butter.

As the years went on and my mother fell gravely ill, it was my sisters who picked up the culinary mantle in the household.  As my father’s career wound down and we spent more time stateside my sisters picked up Italian recipes from our time being stationed in Baltimore in the heart of that great city’s Italian neighborhood.  Then we spent time in Aberdeen, Maryland on the coast of Chesapeake Bay and my sisters learned about cooking crab, frying oysters and all manner of fish.  Our last stop was Fort Bragg, North Carolina where we had grits nearly every meal even though my dad hated it.  We all loved it, along with the tart, vinegary BBQ that is unique to that part of the country.

When my father retired he took us all back to Indiana where his roots were as well as my mother’s, and with us came all of those wonderful recipes that had been gathered along the way.  Recipes that are now usually reserved for when our far-flung family gathers together to re-connect and find comfort and joy in each other’s company.  Our Holiday table does indeed tell the tale of our family’s history, for along with the turkey and trimmings you are liable to see a lasagna made the way my mother’s friends did back in the  Dundalk section of Balmer. You will see pickled beets and eggs. You will see home-made chicken and noodles my step-mom makes from a recipe held in the family for nearly a hundred years.  There will be Chesapeake oyster dressing. There will be sweet corn casserole from my Grandma Hoover’s recipe box that she put together over the course of her lifetime starting when she was a little girl in Pennsylvania Dutch country.   And maybe, if he’s in the mood, my father will make an apple pie from scratch with no recipe and he will carve a picture of an apple in the top crust to let you know what deliciousness awaits inside.  And always, always there will be the one dish my mother and sister made for me constantly when I was little because I loved it so, and now all these years later my daughter and her cousins all clamor for it too.  It’s an incredibly simple, but fantastically satisfying comfort food recipe from Japan called Yakemeshi, and it’s the Japanese take on fried rice.  Although we in our family are crazy about noodles and we love our chicken and noodles; it is this simple rice dish that must be served at some point in time when we are all together.  This one dish, with its very short list of ingredients, its ease of execution and mysterious power to always leave you wanting more even when its gone, is a symbol of how we are when we gather together.  We are all very different, and we don’t share each others views on many things, and yet, when we are together we cherish our short time with each other and when we have to part and go our separate ways, we always want a little bit more and look forward to the next time when we gather together at the table to revel in each others company and bask in our shared history.



 

Yakemeshi

1/4 cup Light Vegetable Oil (Safflower is good)

5 cups Cooked Rice

2 cups hamburger

1/2 cup Diced Onion

1/2 cup Diced Celery

1/4 cup Diced carrots

1 teaspoon Minced Garlic

2 Well-Beaten Eggs

1tablespoon Soy Sauce

Preparation

Heat Oil

Stirfry hamburger

Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic.

Stirfry until well blended.

Add Rice

Stirfry

Stir in beaten eggs and soy sauce and cook until eggs set.

Serve hot.