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November 25, 2011

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But what do you *eat*? That's the important question!

Or on the other hand, is there a fall Harvest Feast, where the Japanese traditionally celebrate that there will be enough to eat this winter?

The big feast is for New Year's and they have what is called osechi ryori. According to Wikipedia, there's a traditional thanksgiving celebration for the rice harvest that is celebrated by the Emperor's family, but I haven't been able to snag an invite to that...

I feel like, with the exception of the osechi above, Japanese really don't have specific festive foods (even osechi doesn't have a kind of specific menu, but can be western or chinese style). One reason might be the lack of space, making a cook at home dinner very difficult for more than one or two additional guests at most. Generally, you have your meals with lots of guests at a restaurant and generally at a family restaurant so it isn't tied to a particular menu as such.

This being an open thread, and ObWi being a community of catholic interests, just wanted to note the passing of two remarkable people this week.

Jazz drummer Paul Motian passed on Tuesday, the 22nd. He was 80. Motian is notable for developing a highly influential and idiosyncratic style of playing. He played in time, but didn't really play the time. Instead, he played gestures, sounds, textures.

Motian had phenomenal 'ears', with an acute ability to listen to, complement, and support all of the other players on the bandstand. Over the course of his career, he was part of some of the most remarkable ensembles in the history of the music.

Here is Motian with the Bill Evans trio, probably one of the truly landmark ensembles in jazz history to date. These guys had an incredible, intuitive mind-meld, and Motian's unusual style of playing really let the trio breathe.

Here is Motian much more recently, with the Anat Fort trio.

The other guy who passed this week was Italian cymbal maker Roberto Spizzichino, who passed in Pescia Italy on Monday the 21st at the relatively young age of 67.

Spizzichino began as a jazz drummer. Unable to find cymbals he liked, he decided to make his own, and over the course of a few decades essentially taught himself the art of hammering flat plates of brass into musical instruments.

He made his cymbals himself, one at a time, in a small metal shop in Pescia. His goal was to make cymbals for jazz drummers, specifically, and he had no desire to expand his business beyond what he himself could make.

His cymbals sold, depending on size and details of production, for about twice what a mass-market, mass-produced cymbal would cost. He could easily have charged much more than he did -- easily -- but insisted on keeping the price of his cymbals at a level that a working musician could afford.

Spizzichino's cymbals were available from exactly two people in the world, a guy in Italy, and a guy down in PA. Or, you could go to Pescia and buy them directly from Roberto, which many people did. If you took that route, you also got to hang out with Don Roberto, meet his family, have a meal, and play some drums.

He was a truly beloved figure, and was widely considered to be the finest living cymbalsmith in the world.

Here is a brief documentary about Spizzichino.

In my only November during my stay in Japan, I decided to cook an American Thanksgiving dinner for a close friend of mine, so I broke my vow never to shop at National Azabu Market (known I'm sure to lj if he lives in Tokyo, and the home of incredibly expensive imports from the US, UK, and Australia). There I bought a whole chicken (I didn't want to have leftovers for months), a bag of Pepperidge Farms stuffing, a couple of jars of Scottish mincemeat, and Pillsbury pie crusts. White potatoes and sweet potatoes were easily available at any Japanese market.

It was a real indulgence (I think I figured the cost of one mince pie was like $30), but it was fun introducing a friend to an
American tradition.

It's gotten a lot better, there are 12(!) Costcos in Japan now. We had a English retreat last week so I bought 6 of the large pumpkin pies (the place we stay doesn't have big ovens, or I might have thought of doing a Thanksgiving meal)

The New Years' feast tradition continues among Japanese Americans as well. Among my in-laws, it is the big holiday festival. (Possible because there are a fair number of Buddists among the Catholics, and for them Christmas doesn't really resonate.) And wow, do I eat well that day!

Plus, it means we get to do Christmas with my family. And then turn around the next week and do the big celebration with my wife's. So nice not to have the struggles some people have over whose family to do what holiday with.

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