MATSUNOSUKE - Akiko Hirano's Pie & Cake

Akiko Hirano's Essay

Backnumbers American Cake form a Housewife who studied abroad

Essays from Akiko Hirano who studied in the U.S. at age 45.

Reproduced and translated with additions from the 2000 Sojusha Publishers' publication (sold out).

COVER: American Cake form a Housewife who studied abroad
housewife's dream

The dream of exchange to the U.S.

Invitation to Illinois

The illusory exchange

An 8 million yen investment in me!

The struggle with English begins

Inside a multi-cultural class

Japanese food in
an underground kitchen

My composition appears in a text book

If only I had read more books
when I was younger

The death of
a Chinese exchange student

American style stress relief

Finally, a real university student

Independent students in the states

Driving debut

Amazing silver power

Visiting New York City

Crossing North American Continent by car

Japanese food in an underground kitchen

It was shortly after my ESL class started and when the new summer session was about to start, three young Japanese male students joined my class. They seemed to be in their late twenties but they looked “young” enough to me. One of them was sent from his company to let him improve his English in the States. The other one left his work and came for the same reason. The last one was here after finishing graduate school to brush up his English in order to become an English teacher back in Japan. Even though the reasons which brought them here were slightly different, we all had one thing in common ? we are all grown-ups unlike most of the Japanese ESL students here. Therefore it did not take much time for us to become close friends.

With their arrival, my personal life became livelier than before. Two of them started living in the same school dorm as I did so we often prepared our supper together.

I usually did not eat breakfast at the dorm but I used a coffee stand on campus. Since we were allowed to bring our coffee into the class, we would often run into the classroom holding coffee mugs in our hands.

I almost always ate my lunch on campus. My usual menu for lunch was a bagel or lamb sandwich with some cream cheese and coffee. I am not a picky eater and I am in very good shape so I am thankful to my parents for that matter.

However if I continue eating bread and coffee for breakfast and lunch, I cannot help but missing Japanese food at least for supper. Apparently those Japanese young men were in the same boat and they were missing a bowl of steamed rice and miso soup very badly.

Therefore we started cooking Japanese food together for our supper almost every day. We decided our roles spontaneously ? one person prepared rice, the other chopped vegetables and my role was to decide the menu for each day and to cook for us. We enjoyed our home-made Japanese food and the other “young” student who did not live in the dorm sometimes came and joined our feast.

We went to get Japanese groceries either by driving for three hours to Yaohan in New Jersey (That famous Yaohan which went bankrupt later) or going to a Korean grocery store near Hartford which took us half an hour. These are the only places we could get Japanese grocery and it was quite troublesome but there weren’t many choices for us.

Whenever we went grocery shopping to Yaohan, one of the boys always wanted to stop by at a Japanese book store called Kinokuniya next to Yaohan so we went there at least every two weeks. The stuff we got from the grocery went to individual fridges until we cooked.

Since I love cooking, spending time and effort on cooking was not a pain at all even though it took time from my studies. I leaned that as long as you are creative, you can make tasty Japanese food even when you are living in the states. For example, New England is a place where you can get fresh salmon. People often saute salmon in the states but we steamed it instead and ate with grated Japanese radish and soy source. It was absolutely tasty.

With whatever vegetable we had at the time, we always made miso soup. We also made Sukiyaki sometimes. Yaohan sells thin sliced beef so we froze it and ate as Sukiyaki whenever seasonal vegetables and green onions were available. It would have been so much better if we could eat Sukiyaki with raw eggs like we do in Japan but we could not eat raw eggs here in the States.

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