This month’s Guest Blogger and Mom is Judy of Bebe Love Okazu : An Asian-American Journey of Cultural Traditions Through Food. Just as the name implies, Judy leads you on an exploration of her favorite Japanese foods and the cultural traditions associated with them as well as new traditions that she’s creating as she cooks for her beloved Bebe E and Bebe dada, her Chinese-American husband.
My first visit to Judy’s website had me wondering what does Bebe Loves Okazu mean? I guessed that Bebe meant “baby” and, after reading further, found out that, while Judy was growing up, one of the Japanese phrases she heard her mom say on a daily basis was, “konban okazu nani shiyoue?” which literally translates to, “what should I make for dinner tonight?“. So okaszu refers to a side dish accompanying rice (which is considered the main dish, but Judy didn’t like rice when she was a child so that caused some frustration for her mother).
The post was about Obon – a Japanese Buddhist custom honoring the spirits of one’s ancestors, beginning in July and extending through August. I learned that an Obon Festival favorite is Okinawan dango, also known as sata andagi which, in the Okinawan dialect, sataa means “sugar” and andaagi means “deep fried“, so basically its a deep fried doughnut hole dusted with sugar. Thankfully, Judy’s website includes a glossary of Japanese words that she links to from her blog posts.
Feeling that she should “integrate” more into Orange County since it’s likely that Bebe will grow up here , Judy decided her family should attend the OC Obon Festival, rather than the West LA Obon Festival where she went as a little girl with her mother (pictured above). She was delighted to find a dango booth at the festival. But the line was long and it was time for Bebe E’s bedtime so she vowed to make dango at home instead! Plus, that way she could add them to the cookbook she’s creating for Bebe E which was the basis for her becoming a food blogger. This totally resonated with me because, although I didn’t start until the Young Baker was in middle school, that’s one of the reasons behind my madness!
I’m learning about Japanese food and traditions through Bebe Loves Okazu . Even though my mother is third generation Japanese, born in Hawaii, she married an American meat & potatoes guy and cooked only a few Japanese dishes. As children, I don’t recall her telling us stories of Japanese festivals or traditional celebrations. She is now 83 years old and slips into memories from her childhood more readily, and I know now that one reason why she didn’t talk much about her life on Kauai has to do with WW II and that her family was saved from the Japanese internment camps because her parents operated the grocery store that was vital to the sugar plantation where everyone in the community was employed.
After reading Judy’s recent blog post about sunomono (Japanese salad) I’ve also been inspired to dust off the mandoline that’s been sactioned to the garage because I’m scared of it 🙂 It’s still in the box, but I’m determined to put it to use for the first time!