Last Wednesday night was a staff dinner party with the teachers at my grade level. About once a month the second grade teachers all gather together for dinner. To say that this was a dinner party is misleading, it happened more like this.
On the Friday prior I came into work and found a note on my desk. The note read, “We will have a drinking (crossed out) nabe party on Wednesday. Please check with your wife.” It is hard to say if the drinking was crossed out to be polite or so that I could check with my wife about dinner without mentioning the drinking. I was verbally reminded about the party and how much fun it would be to drink some alcohol together. It was a subtle hint and reminder that I had not been out drinking with them in quite some time. I checked with Jenny and she confirmed that it would be cool for me to go out with the people I work with in my day to day.
So on Wednesday evening I set off to find the nabe restaurant. It was easy to find, as it was the same location as when we had the first drinking, er... nabe party there. It is hard for me to believe that it is a functioning eatery. The place is a bit run down. In order to describe it best I will borrow a term from my students in Grand Rapids. The place was “broke down.” It is situated in between two railroad tracks so that every twenty minutes or so there is a train going by on one side or the other. I found a spot to park my bike outside which was a sticky wicket as the front of the restaurant was situated along a busy street, so I propped my bike up along the wall hoping it would not be carried away by a train. I entered and was greeted by the oldest restaurateur I have ever met. He must have been approaching eighty and the restaurant he tended must be in the exact same condition as when his father handed him the reigns. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the eatery predates the train line. The room I was ushered to was as dilapidated as the rest of the location. In the corner of the room was a large screen that at one time featured a majestic painting of a large eagle. Today, however, that eagle appears to have undergone drastic surgery. Large portions of the fabric are being held together with pieces of bright white medical tape. But I suppose that the condition of the building has little bearing on the deliciousness of the food. And the nabe at this place is supposed to be some of the best around
Nabe is a complex dish that requires throwing a bunch of vegetables and chicken in a pot of broth and allowing it to cook. It is the broth that makes it special. There is a lot of garlic in it. I happen to love garlic and will put lots of it into just about everything I eat which makes nabe a thing of beauty. Sitting at the bottom of the pot are four or five giant cloves of garlic. The broth is then brought to a boil then the chunks of chicken are thrown in along with bok choy cabbage, mushrooms, carrot, tofu and chicken meatballs. Once the meat is cooked thoroughly it is scooped out and placed in a bowl and eaten. It is delicious. The best part is that it tastes great with a nice cold glass of beer. Then again what food doesn’t taste better when accompanied with a nice cold lager? We ate all of the food including some pork that one of the teachers had brought from the grocery store. The pork is used to make a dish called shabushabu. Shabushabu is very similar to nabe. I picked up a thin slice of pork with my chopsticks and dipped it into the boiling broth and swished it around until it was cooked. When it was cooked I ate it.
We talked, ate, laughed, drank, and ate some more. When all of the veggies and meat were gone it was time to make the rice. Cooked rice it added to the broth along with a couple of beaten raw eggs and some chopped green onions. The rice, egg and broth mixture is allowed to cook until the egg is done. Then it is all scooped out and placed into a bowl and eaten. My favorite part of eating the rice is getting one of the big cloves of garlic in my bowl.
The entire time the eating is going on the beer is flowing like wine. Well in a way. You must never pour a beer for yourself, it is considered rude to do so. So when you need a refill you grab the bottle and fill up your neighbor’s glass and they, in turn, do the same in return. Well this leads to one seldom having an empty glass, which makes it difficult to gauge how much you have consumed. When this happens the most reliable method is to judge how fast the room is spinning. If you find it hard to stand then you turn your glass upside down. This gets tricky when you are drinking sake because the bottom of a sake glass is just a smaller cup and people will continue to fill it. I, how ever made an early evening of it leaving before the sake even came out. I retired about nine and was home tucked safely in my spinning bed around nine thirty.