Hot Pot and World Peace
This weekend I’m going camping with some friends. We’re bringing a big ceramic pot, a nabe, in which we’ll set over a flame and toss in a heap of meat and vegetables. It’s a tradition this time of the year for nabe ryouri, or “hot pot” cooking, because when the temperature drops and the nights grow cold it’s nice to huddle around a boiling pot of food.
Most people eat their nabe in the comfort of their home. Though in some regions of Japan, they take the pot into the wilderness of their local park. Hardcore enthusiasts push back their sleeves and kindle a fire with two branches, but most just turn on a gas stove. Just like cherry blossom season, friends, family and coworkers gather, crack open a beer and revel in the changing of the fall colors.
Cooking your own pot of goodness is fairly simple. First you fill the pot with water. Then you add dry fish powder. From there you can experiment with flavors like miso or spicy kimchi. The rest is optional: tofu, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, green onions, fish cakes, slippery jelly noodles… I’m not a fan of raw fish so I like tossing it into the mix until it’s well-done. (Some people accuse me of not being very Japanese. =/ )
After the pot is filled, put a lid on it and sit back. By now, all your friends have pulled up and are ready to feast. Once the lid is off, let the games begin.
Nabe is the Japanese version of fondue where everyone casually dips their utensils in a communal vat of bacteria-laced liquid. Some people take issue to this, assuming they’ll catch whatever disease their friends carry. That’s why some Japanese will flip their chopsticks around and use the clean end. Wouldn’t want Mono with that fish cake~ !
The best thing about nabe is that everyone is facing each other in a big circle, as opposed to staring down at their plate. This forces people to talk to one another and share what’s on their mind. It can certainly do wonders for feuding families and quarrelsome couples; even warring nations.
Imagine Israel and Palestine hovering over a nabe pot, lovingly jostling for a cube of tofu. It just might do the trick.
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