One of the highlights of my recent visit to Osaka, Japan was to meet up with Sachiko. Where would you like to go? I can spend time with you on my off days on 3, 6, 9 April. Sachiko wrote in her email exchange with me prior my travel.
I got to know Sachiko along the streets in Adelaide in 1997. Both of us were travelling alone ~ she on a 6 month working holiday (ie. work while travel) in Australia and New Zealand, and I was on 2 week holiday in Adelaide. Since then, we visited each other’s country and home and had travelled within Japan and around Singapore together.
I would like to make Japanese bread! I told her I would like to visit a Japanese pastry kitchen but since it was not going to happen, I was going to learn to make bread instead. I found a culinary website by ABC Culinary, it conducts casual classes but I couldn’t understand the content in Japanese. So Sachiko made the enquiries and we registered ourselves for Japanese pan (pan = bread in Nihon-go) making class for 500 yen. 500 yen? Is it just demo? 500 yen is equivalent to US$5, and I was doubtful. Yes. Sachiko confirmed it cost only 500 yen and the session was hands-on. The promotion price was meant for first time attendees at ABC Culinary Studio, as an incentive to understand their courses and join their membership and sign up for certification courses. All the classes were conducted in Japanese, Sachiko told me she would translate for me. Ha!
On that day of lesson, we were to bring our own apron, a pair of indoor slippers and a towel.
The Topic: Mayonnaise Egg Pan and Cranberry Pan.
We met at Umeda branch of ABC Culinary Studio. We were introduced to our Instructor, Yamaguchi-san. Actually both of us didn’t catch her name, I translated her Japanese name in kanji from the photo. It turned out that Yamaguchi-san speaks Japanese, English and Italian, and pretty fluent in them even though she humbly pronounced her insufficiency in the foreign languages. It was interesting because Sachiko had picked up Italian language too, spending a half year in Italy a few years ago to learn the language.
The group ratio was 1 instructor to maximum 5 students. In our session that day, there were only 2 of us. All the different sessions for bread and cakes were ongoing at the same time in an open concept. One working table was shared by 2 sessions. Initially I was surprised, then I realized it was possible because the Japanese are generally considerate in their manners and behaviour.
The recipe was in Japanese, so Sachiko helpfully translated for me loosely over dinner later. I had also taken some notes during the session so it helped. The steps were simple – mix all the ingredients together, knead well, 1st proof, roll into balls, 2nd proof, form the shape, 3rd proof, into oven done. Over the 2 hours there, the proofing time was a time for coffee break, chit chat and washing the equipment used. I was joking to Sachiko that I felt like a Japanese housewife instead of a student.
I shared my observation with Sachiko – I noticed the instructors and students acted in manner so different from the speed and actions in the kitchens I am familiar with, whether at CIAML, at home or the hotel. Take for example, the act of egg washing the final bread dough, the action was meticulously slow and looked nice. Sachiko told me that in their society, they are conscious of what others thought of their actions and behaviour. We both agreed though that as long as we are doing right in principles we do not really need to bother too much.
At the end of the session, we each ate 2 breads, and got to bring back 3 others in varieties. It was an interesting way to interact with a friend other than the meals we shared together. I also learnt a basic Asian bread dough to make, bake and eat all within 2 hours. Cool!