When you look at Japan on a globe, 2 things pop-up: lots of ocean surrounds the small, thin islands and their latitude is not that different from our own. Now that we were discussing this, the ingredients in dashi, the Japanese soup stock base, suddenly made total sense sense to me.
|Thank you to our student A. M. for his photographic talents!
Dashi is easy and fun to make, the students loved shaving the whole dried fish to make bonito flakes. Then we added miso and poured the heated soup over our cooked soba, tofu & green onions. The garnish salads added a cool crunch and smooth sweetness. Our desserts used up a part of a large zucchini donated to our cause (thank you JH), which allowed us to bring in some more unusual Japanese sweets, daifuku and a green tea jelly using agar-agar (again the ocean!).
What was intriguing about our meal, as we focused on teamwork and timing with the additional dishes and with needing to keep the soup hot, was that as we tasted, we started comparing how eating a bit of one item can affect the flavor of the next item–and this could actually be intentional. Tea sweets are designed just for this kind of enjoyment – the pungency of the tea makes the sweet that follows even more enjoyable.
This intentional playfulness of menu composition gets lost in our society’s rush, but it is a good way to slow down, and perhaps better appreciate a meal for its combination of flavors, textures & influences, instead of how fast it gets to the table and how big the plate is. We could see the appreciation in our students as we “played” with our food in this way.
Miso Soup with Soba Noodles, Tofu & Onions
Gomaee (cold spinach salad with sweet sesame dressing)
Sunomono with Cucumber & Seaweed
Zucchini Spice Bread
Daifuku (mochi with sweet red bean paste)
Green Tea Jelly