Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Dead Animals In My Tendon, Jero And Atsuhime

I don't know about other hapas, but whenever I spend time with either one of my parents, I take on the cultural qualities of that one's particular ethnic group. For instance, if I'm hanging out with my dad (my folks have been divorced for decades), I end up reading all of the Ebony and Jet magazines laid out on his coffee table. Now, that's not to say that all black people read Ebony and Jet, but you get my meaning. My dad and I will often discuss politics, too--the state of black folks today versus the Civil Rights movement of yesteryear. However, I don't tend to eat the food my dad eats mainly because he's from Texas and his parents owned a barbecue joint. I am, after all, vegan (even though I'll admit to stuffing many a pig's foot into my mouth back in the day when I didn't know any better).

Whenever I visit my mother, though, I'm always ready to chow down. Mindful of my special diet, my mom tends to make me my own meal separate from what she serves her husband. And, like a true Japanese mother, she will eat what I (the guest) eats instead of what she cooked for her husband. A couple of weeks ago, she made me tendon; that's slang for tempura donburi. Tempura, as you may know, is veggies (and shrimp for those who insist on murdering the poor crustaceans) dipped in batter and fried. Donburi is a dish served in an individual bowl featuring veggies and/or dead animal flesh (call it what it is!) simmered in a slightly sweetened shoyu-based sauce and heaped on hot, white rice. The tendon my mom made me was tempura carrots, onions and pumpkin on top of fresh gohan. I was also treated to her home-grown edamame (steamed soybeans). Oishi!

Earlier, we were watching our favorite show--The NHK Amateur Singing Contest (aka Nodojiman)--when, lo and behold, the phenomenal Jero appeared as a guest singer. This is the kid who hails from Pittsburgh, whose mother is hapa Japanese and black, and whose Japanese grandmother taught him to speak her language and sing enka--a type of music that reminds of me the old R&B songs where the man is begging, crying and carrying on over a woman. Enka is very emotional like that, and is almost always about love. So, I don't think it's necessarily a stretch that a brother like Jero is so into it. Like the old school crooners, he feels the lyrics deep down in his soul. True, he's singing in Japanese, but he knows what the words mean because he knows the language. There's also some very specific expressions that go along with singing enka. One can't be too showy and drop to one's knees like James Brown because Japanese culture isn't about that. Even though Jero wears his signature baseball cap and baggy jeans, he's got the Japanese inflections down.

Later on in the day, my mom's husband and I watched another episode of Atsuhime. My mother claims not to care about
Japanese history, but her Caucasian husband and I can't get enough of the taiga series. Sadly, Atsuhime's husband, the shogun, dies in this episode and because of the turmoil surrounding the choice of heir, no one tells Atsu about his demise until a month later. Now, she's mad because weeks before the shogun instructed her to attend the cabinet meetings and become a part of the political process because she's so smart and beats him at go all the time. But now that he's no longer around, none of the guys are taking Atsuhime seriously. I can't wait 'til she starts kicking some butt. Her kimono may be wrapped around her legs like a mermaid's tail, but you watch--she'll figure out how to strike back. That girl is baaad!

Hey, drop me a line and tell me how your parents' differing cultures affect you. Do you act the same way with each of them, or not?

Above are pix of my tendon dish, my mom's garden-fresh edamame, Jero's appearance on Nodojiman, and NHK's Atsuhime.

Until next time, I swear to be...

Your Hip Hapa,


Japanesesoul said...

Hey, just happened upon your blog site after googling Jero. I'm a hapa also. Love the watermelon sushi thing. I often refer to myself as sushi and grits because of my Southern and Japanese roots. I'm going to subscribe to your blog. I have see I have some reading to do.

If you'd like to read my blogs...

Ches Kanno

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Konnichi-wa Kanno-san,

Can you email me at I'd like to discuss your sushi grits.

Your Hip Hapa,