Madam is served
Maeda Haruyo doesn’t always have time to cook, but just like many other women, she’s found a clever remedy to this.
Daily life for a shufu – or house wife – is very busy. When you also have a job, there isn’t a lot of time for cooking, especially if you have hungry children. Usually I prepare the main dish ahead of time, something like nikujaga (potato stew with meat), curry, stew, or gyudon (a bowl of rice with beef), but I don’t always have the time to cook the fukusai (side dishes). On days like this I will stop off at the supermarket on my way home, where I can find everything I need to solve such a culinary conundrum! In the self-service agemono (fried goods) section you will find all kinds of ready-to-eat treats, such as potato croquettes (available in plain, curry flavoured, with seaweed, etc.), or fritters made of shrimp, potato, pumpkin or even mackerel (aji), all for 70 yen each. Next to these there are whole ready-made meals that just need to be heated up for about 400 yen. You’ll find okonomiyaki (see Zoom Japan, number 44), tendon (a bowl of rice with tempura), yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), pasta or even gratin dishes. Then further on, a whole sushi section awaits you, with single or family portions that cost less than the equivalent in restaurants. Because each store has its own kitchen, all the dishes are dekitate (freshly made) and with a little luck, you can usually buy tempura while they are still warm! You can also get a great deal, as prices drop at the end of the day, between around 6.30 to 7pm because the food cannot be kept overnight. I also take advantage of this when I have lunch on on my day off. It’s nice to eat in a fast food restaurant from time to time, but the supermarket delicatessen has a larger variety of healthy dishes on offer. This service is also especially helpful during the new year celebrations, the most important event of the year. It’s a family celebration, like Christmas in the UK, and tradition calls for some special dishes to be prepared in advance called osechi ryori. These special new year celebration foods are similar to the kinds of dishes seen in bento lunches, but richer and more luxurious. They take about a week to prepare if you decide to make them yourself, and you need to choose quality produce, of course, so it becomes quite expensive. Once upon a time, there was no question of anyone buying them ready made, but today’s way of life has changed and it is no longer frowned upon. Starting in November you can find catalogues for osechi ryori in almost all department stores. The catalogues from the former offer a much wider range and some even have have display shelves with samples made of wax. This year, I saw some for sale for 200,000 yen! That’s way too expensive! However, there are also some on offer for 20,000 yen. That’s still pricey, but if you needed to buy all the ingredients for yourself it could cost much more, in addition to all the time it would take to prepare the dishes. My choice is obvious. The dishes from the delicatessen are the ones who save shufu!