Nakano-san is a special lady and deserves her own entry. She is an assistant teacher at my school, maybe in her late fifties, and the sweetest lady you will ever meet. She often brings baked goods to school and distributes them one by one to everyone in the office. The students call her “Baba,” or Grandmother.
My first day of school, Nakano-san asked if it was true that I am a vegetarian, and gave me a bag of eggplant, cucumbers and peppers from her garden. I told her I would sauté them for dinner and the next day I thanked her again and said they were delicious. A couple of days later she gave me another bag of vegetables.
When I was setting up my apartment, she came along and cleaned my rice-cooker, taught me how to use it, and also made sure I knew how to use my washing machine.
This past Saturday morning, I was woken up at 9:30 by my doorbell. I stumbled to my front door and was shocked to see Nakano-san standing there. She spoke quickly in Japanese and then said “bicycle,” gesturing down the stairs. I threw on some clothes and followed her outside, where her (pregnant) daughter, granddaughter, and friend were waiting in a big van. They had brought me a red bicycle. At school I’d been told by Riki-san that he would drive me after work on Tuesday to go buy a bicycle for 2000 yen (about $20), so this was a complete surprise. Especially when they then told me that the bicycle was a gift.
Her four-year-old granddaughter finished the transaction off by handing me a ribbon-tied baggie of delicious gingerbread-ish cookies.
Nakano-san has invited me and my friend Bryna to her house this weekend. I have no idea how to thank her for all she has done and is doing for me. I want to bake her something but have no oven or even toaster oven. I bought her a beautiful flowering plant, but I forgot that she is on vacation this week.
In any case, I know that she is not looking for reciprocity but is sharing herself with me. I could not be more grateful, and am thinking of American customs, foods or something that I can share with her. Besides the flowers, do any of you have suggestions?
Ideas so far:
– Make her an American dish and/or show her how to cook it; black bean burgers, maybe—it has to be something made on the stovetop
– I got the flowers because she likes to garden; maybe get her something typical from American gardens…. like a gnome??
– Is there any sort of dessert that can be made solely on a stovetop?