Today did not start off smoothly.
It’s cold, it’s wet. I had more errands than I like to run on a Saturday to run. Today did not start off well. By the time I had finished my errands, I was near soaked to the bone, shivering cold and miserable. I wanted to sit down. I wanted lunch. I wanted to warm up. In an act of small rebellion, I opted for comfort food and that may take just a little bit of explaining.
Culturally, I’m painfully abandoned and we’ve talked about it a lot (see examples here and here). My idea of comfort food is at times very different from the image you’d expect from a Southern black girl (though, don’t get me wrong: I love soul food). But today was different. I didn’t want mashed potatoes. I didn’t want cream gravy. I wanted chicken katsu. And there was only one place in the city that I would trust to make chicken katsu and to make it without disappointing me or breaking my bank.
Fujiya’s is a local spot. I’ve taken my anime clubbers here. I’ve had dinner with my senpais here. I’ve had lunch with friends here.This place is traditional, beautiful and delicious. I asked for a table for one and was asked if I wanted to sit at the bar and watch the sushi master at work. She was a wonderful woman, kind, and very skilled with a knife. I sat down, ordered hot tea and almost on impulse said a few words in Japanese because tucking into a bowl of the only soup I’ll eat outside of miso. She laughed and asked me how much Japanese I knew. I told her not as much as I wanted to. We exchanged pleasantries and I waited for my meal.
When my chicken katsu arrived I was thrilled. A perfect piece of fried chicken, a sauce that’s almost too damn sweet. Sticky, fluffy white rice that almost runs black with soy. I was home. The woman serving me was essentially a surrogate: she was just Oba-san for what it was worth. She ordered around the staff in Japanese and I got to sit, watch and enjoy as the rain fell outside.
The tea was hot, the meal was filling and the atmosphere was great. And for a brief moment, it didn’t matter that my morning was stressful. Or that traffic was bad. Didn’t matter that it was cold, dark and wet. What mattered was that Oba-san was worried about me and that I was eating enough. She was worried that I wouldn’t be satisfied (I was very satisfied). We chatted about the nature of language and how easy it is to lose and to gain one. I felt the more at home in this restaurant than I had anywhere else in recent memory.
And for the moment, I could just forget. I’m grateful to the lunch I got to have. The conversation I shared and the meal I got to take home. One day, I’ll attempt to make chicken katsu at home because everyone should know how to make the food that makes their heart sing. And while normally these moments are filled with cultural remorse and a feeling of not belonging to the culture that I do so love, it was in that moment remarkably irrelevant. What mattered was that I enjoyed myself and truthfully, I did.
This was a short post and a very timely one. What a treat, huh? Maybe I’ll do more of these.
Stay warm, readership.