My first November in Nou-machi, I was drafted into cooking gumbo for an entire town.
This happened because every Thursday night I taught a community class made up of adults from various walks of life. I told them that I liked to cook and, at times, was pretty good at it. I’d even worked in a pizza restaurant for a while.
Because of this I was recruited into showing them how to make a version of Paul Prudhomme’s Gumbo Hazel. I do not remember why I chose gumbo, but I think it’s because Nou-machi is part fishing village and has excellent seafood which I thought would make excellent gumbo. Also gumbo is close enough to curry I thought they’d understand it and like it.
This led to shopping and evening cooking and everyone in the adult English class speaking Japanese instead of English. I somehow managed to pull it off, and the class was impressed enough by the gumbo that it got around to some people in the city office and I was invited to cook for the annual culture festival in early November.
That was more nerve wracking as I had to translate the recipe into Japanese and into larger portions so I could prepare the food. Once again it was a hit and I ran out of gumbo and gave away all copies of the recipe. Even old ladies were giving me a thumb’s up over the gumbo.
My only complaint was that I didn’t get a chance to try any of the other food being offered at the festival because I was too busy serving.
Over the course of the next few years I taught the adult class to make a better spaghetti sauce, peach cobbler, chili, pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Not all of the meals went perfectly, but they were all reasonably tasty. Most of the time it was fun, although I was annoyed that my adult English class always spoke Japanese and not English during the cooking lessons, even after She Who Would Eventually Be Obeyed joined the class.
During my time in Nou-machi, and for a couple years after, I heard from people that they were still making gumbo. If I leave no other mark on Japan, I taught them that much.
Now I need to teach them how to make Andouille sausage. (Once I learn how.)