Family Recipes Are Stories #TFNP

Captura de pantalla 2015-12-04 a la(s) 18.36.54

Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside Japan. Nowadays, their descendants are a fundamental part of this South American country, contributing their traditions and heritage to its very rich and varied culture.

Yuji Kawasima, a grandson of Japanese immigrants, is very attached to the Brazilian culture, but also preserves part of the legacy of the Japanese culture from his parents.

When he was a kid, his parents spent hours almost every week making a delicacy that not everyone had the luck to taste in the artisanal way: Tofu.

Both of them had well defined tasks. His father was in charge of the initial part of the process. After soaking the soy, he peeled and washed the beans. Then, he mixed the grains with mineral water little by little in the mixer to elaborate the white paste. Later, he strained this mix to obtain the milk needed to make the so called “soy cheese”. His mother was in charge of the fire. For hours, she stirred the milk in a gigantic pot, and after adding some white vinegar she picked up the pieces and put them in a wood recipient made by Yuji’s father.

As a kid, Yuji watched amazed that big white block on the center of the table. Without completely understanding how it was made, or without enough patience to share the process with his parents who had established it almost as a couple ritual, Yuji would eat this white dough that melted in his mouth, soaking it in soy sauce… black sesame… wasabi….

He grew up with Tofu, and nowadays, thousands of kilometers away from his parents’ home, he buys it and eats it almost every day.  “This is my legacy”, “My heritage”, Yuji thought as an adult. And so, he felt the need to learn how to cook it. He asked his parents to teach him, and that´s how, for the first time, Yuji participated in the full process. He bought the grain with his parents and chose the fabrics to filter the milk; he drained, peeled, mixed and cooked. Then, after several hours of hard work, he was able to experience once again that flavor that for him is more a feeling than a taste. Family recipes are not rigid; we usually don’t have a manual: “Family recipes are stories”.

He loves the texture of the soy… of the freshly made tofu. Something that for many is almost insipid, for him, is the definitive mark of his memory, his childhood, his cultural identity.

“I hope I’m able to make it the day my parent’s hands won’t be able to make it for me.”

Based on an interview with Yuji Kawasima. Picture from his family’s archive.

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Brasil tiene la población japonesa más grande fuera del Japón. Hoy en día los descendientes de esta gran cantidad de inmigrantes hacen parte de la sociedad Brasilera aportando también, sus tradiciones y su herencia a una cultura rica y variada.

Yuji Kawasima, nieto de inmigrantes japoneses, muy arraigado a la cultura brasilera aun conserva el legado de su herencia japonesa.

Cuando era pequeño, sus padres, invertían horas, para poder tener en casa un manjar que pocos tenemos la suerte de probar de manera artesanal: el tofu. 

Cada uno tenía sus funciones definidas en la elaboración de este producto. El padre se ocupaba de la parte inicial, después del remojo de la soja pelaba los granos y los lavaba. Luego, mezclando poco a poco con agua mineral elaboraba esta pasta blanca, separando al colarse la leche que serviría para la elaboración de este “queso de soja”. Su madre, se ocupaba del fuego, calentando la leche durante horas, recogiendo la materia que se iba formando luego de agregar vinagre y depositándola en el recipiente de madera con agujeritos elaborado por el padre.

Yuji, niño, observaba fascinado ese bloque blanco en el centro de la mesa los fines de semana sin entender del todo, o sin tener la paciencia para compartir este espacio que sus padres habían establecido casi como un ritual de pareja. La complicidad de elaborar juntos esta masa blanca que se derrite en sus bocas acompañada por salsa de soja.. sésamo negro… wasabi.

“Este es mi legado”, pensó Yuji, adulto. “Es mi herencia” y así, sintió una necesidad imperante por elaborar el Tofu, por aprender esta receta con la que había crecido  y un alimento que en su casa,  a miles de kilómetros consume cada día. Pidió a sus padres que le enseñaran y fue así como él, por primera, vez  participó del proceso completo. Compró el grano, eligió las telas para el filtrado de la leche; coló, peló, batió y cocinó. Hasta que pudo probar, de nuevo lo que para él, más que un sabor es un sentimiento.  Le gusta esa textura de la soja… del tofu recién hecho. Algo que para muchos resulta insípido para él es la marca definitiva de su memoria, de su infancia, de su identidad cultural.

“Espero poderlo preparar el día que las manos de mis padres ya no puedan hacerlo para mi”.

Basado en una entrevista a Yuji Kawasina. Foto de su archivo familiar

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