The other day I went over to the home of one of my students for a group lesson over lunch. A lesson over lunch is how this particular lesson has been carried out for over six years now — my longest standing private lesson “contract” as it were. However, the three to four students plus I usually meet (twice a month) at the same Chinese restaurant, eating lunch with general chit-chat for the first hour, and having a lesson over the second hour. But once in a while one of the students invites the group over to their house for lunch, and this was one of those occasions.
When these occasions come up, I have enough experience now to know not to eat anything for breakfast, and to tell my wife dinner won’t be necessary, since there is always an incredible amount of food, all of it delicious. And the student who prepared this particular lunch has a good friend who is vegetarian (of the strict variety, as opposed to the psuedo variety I belong to), so not only can I partake of all dishes, but she is quite creative when it comes to making things that normally would contain meat just as tasty without it.
A case in point were these little open sandwiches. The ones on the far left featured a slice or raw salmon over a bed of — actually I wasn’t sure what the spread was except that the whole thing was delicious. It turned out the intention was a spread of avocado, but the avocado she had was not the best. She saved the salvagable parts, and made a spread of avocado and banana mashed together. It tasted heavenly although I kind of wish she hadn’t shared how it got that way. (By the way, the black stuff on the second row of sandwiches is caviar from Mongolia, on top of scrambled egg.)
Besides the bountiful quantity of food, the other nice and guilt-inducing aspect of these lunches is that any pretense of a lesson is dispensed with as a matter of course. Not only that, but the Japanese to English speaking ratio — not very much in favor of English at the best of times — gets heavily tilted in the Japanese direction, so it basically becomes a Japanese listening and vocabulary lesson for me.
Some of the new words I learned on this day include:
酒豪 (しゅごう, shugou) — a heavy [hard] drinker. The English seems to have a negative tone, but the Japanese is used more to convey someone who can handle their liquor well.
しょっちゅう (shocchuu) — all the time; always. It always surprises me that I can still come across for the first time such seemingly indispensible, everyday words such as this one (although, given the late 60s/early 70s age of my students, it could well be that their vocabulary features words that have gone out of favor with a younger generation).
老婆心 (ろうばしん, roubashin) — kindness, goodwill. The word is made up of the Chinese characters for old, grandmother, and heart, respectively.
The main course (which came after five different “appetizers” that would have been plenty for lunch) was a “tomato nabe”. “nabe” is basically a hotpot dish of vegetables, tofu, fish, and/or meat, and comes in many varieties. However, I had never had a tomato-based nabe before. Little did I know that later when searching Google, it apparently is quite trendy at the moment (this Japan Probe post complete with a video from Japanese TV program should get you up to speed).
What we did after we had had our fill of the nabe ingredients (which included mushrooms, shrimp, red peppers, and scallops) was remove the uneaten ingredients and fill the pot with rice, parmesan cheese, a raw egg, and some parsley sprinkled on top — a kind of risotto. Not sure if that is part of the trendy tomato nabe being eaten by the young office lady set, or an added flourish from my student, but it was certainly delicious (for me, more so than the tomato nabe itself).