OCHAZUKE: To All the Moms

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By GWEN MURANAKA

With Mother’s Day this weekend, I’m sure a lot of readers will be going out for a Sunday brunch with their sons and daughters, their grandsons and granddaughters. This will be the first Mother’s Day where I will have a mother-in-law, which regardless of all those old mother-in-law tales, is a true blessing.

Gayle, my husband’s mom, is the heart of her family and I see how her caring and nurturing love has turned her son into the great guy I’ve been lucky to get married to. I always tell people that the Hayashi household is a bit like a Japanese American version of that old ’70s TV show “The Waltons.” At dinner the entire clan (kids, grandkids, extended family) often eat together, sharing homemade meals and news of the day.

Moms are usually the ones who hold the family together. My own mom has been gone for so long, and yet I still feel a longing for that mother-daughter relationship. But I’ve been so fortunate to have some incredible women who have raised me and continue to offer so much of themselves to everyone around them. They make all our lives better.

Amy, my aunt, taught me so much about generosity and facing difficulties with good humor. She can dissect the woes of the Lakers better than any TNT analyst. Chris, my stepmom, is so incredibly supportive of everything I do that when I introduce her when we go to community events, I simply say she is my mom.

Here in the JA community, every organization has a “mom” who makes sure that all the smallest details are handled with grace and good spirits. In the English section, Maggie Ishino is our “mom,” so gentle and kind, always keeping us well-stocked with Kleenex tissues and peppermint candies. A newspaper like The Rafu tends to laud the “newsworthy,” those big honchos that sit at the head table and have their names at the top of list. I think there should be special consideration given to all the women who give so much of their time and efforts behind-the-scenes with little fanfare. Thanks, moms!

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Received some more responses to my “okazu” comments from readers. Emiko Kono wrote in to say here husband and she both grew up with okazu and shared some terrific cooking tips.

She writes: “I stock up on packages of pork, chicken, beef, and shrimp when I’m shopping at Marukai weekly. There are cut-up pieces just the right size for an okazu, and I freeze them.  Then, I get various veggies: snow peas. bok choy, eggplant, green beans, asparagus and broccoli.  For seasoning, oyster sauce with a dash of sugar works well; but the old favorite of mirin, shoyu, and sugar works well.  I make a miso sauce for a pork/tofu dish. Tofu works well in ‘okazu’ too — chicken/tofu is really tasty!

“Ever have eggplant with ground beef or green beans with eggplant? Try it, you’ll like it.  Always add half a sliced onion to you okazu.”

K. Asai, a longtime subscriber, wrote in to set the record straight. Asai notes that “okazu” is translated as “side dishes” and isn’t the name of a particular dish.

“‘Okazu’ is whatever you eat together with your rice, such as teriyaki beef, broiled fish, fried chicken, vegetables, etc.  You could travel all over Japan, or any place in the world, and you will not find ‘okazu’ listed in any Japanese restaurant menu because ‘okazu’ is a generic term,” Asai says. “The misuse of this word ‘okazu’ appears to be strictly a phenomenon among the local JAs, and it should pointed out that it is incorrect. Just trying to set the record straight.”

I asked my younger co-workers and it seems that okazu is a generational term, unique to the Nikkei community.

It’s a sign of the times that Bob’s Okazuya in Gardena changed their name to the more generic Bob’s Hawaiian Style Restaurant. Those under a certain age just aren’t familiar with the term.

Mia, our web editor, had not heard of okazu; while Cari, our social media manager and graphic designer, mentioned that her mom will sometimes cook “niku jaga,” a Japanese dish made of ground beef and potato. One thing is for sure, all this okazu talk makes me hungry. Tabemasho!

Gwen Muranaka is Rafu English editor-in-chief and may be contacted at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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