Meals at the orchard were memorable for their deliciousness and abundance. Mr. K’s sister in law (Mrs. Y) cooked multi-course Japanese meals for dinner every night, and Mr. K cooked up simple, delicious meals at lunchtime.
I remember being surprised at my first lunchtime with how it was set up. We got to Mr. K’s house and he disappeared inside the kitchen door. J pulled a bench from the side of the house and set it down in the middle of the driveway. “This is our table,” he explained, and sat down on the foundation of the house. Within a few minutes, Mr. K popped his head out of the door and handed us two bowls full of rice and veggie stirfry, then disappeared again. J had already started eating, so I did too. A few minutes later, the door opened again and Mr. K gave us some bowls of miso soup. I had only just started on that when he came out again with cups of green tea and a handful of peanuts. After we had eaten all that, he peaked out once more to hand us a peeled and quartered apple. Each lunchtime went like that, never knowing how many things would come out or in what quantity. Our only job was to wait, jump up whenever the door opened, and dig in to whatever goodies came our way.
Dinner was a different affair. After each busy day we went up to Mrs. Y’s house and took off our shoes at the doorstep. After being outside most of the day, her house felt like a tropical heatwave. We took off several layers and still had rosy cheeks at every meal. The first thing was to grab rice, then sit down to whatever spread she had cooked up that day. Mrs. Y’s major in school was Home Economics, and it really showed in her meals. Dinner time was quiet and relaxed, usually watching and remarking over the tv that played news, dramas, and comedy shows. Pikotaro’s Pen Pineapple Apple Pen video was still going viral, so about 25% of the tv ads made reference to or spoofed it in some way. My favorite program was Shōten, a rakugo comedy show. A host puts a challenge to 6 comedians to come up with a witty statement or response to a prompt. Depending on how well they do, they either gain or lose a pillow to sit on. Technically, the person with the most pillows wins, but mostly it’s just about making the best (or worst) puns.
And breakfast? That was always something simple we prepared at the Volunteer House, like toast, yogurt, cereal, or fruit.