[1. TL Note: Osechi refers to traditional Japanese food made for celebrating a new year. Most of the dishes mentioned in this chapter are osechi.]
I had no plans on the third of January, so I lazed around at home.
「Is pizza for lunch okay?」 Mom asked, and I replied with a yes, heading to the kitchen.
As I took out some frozen pizza from the fridge, Mom started loudly kneading the dough.
I liked pizza, but it would take 2 hours to make from scratch. It’d take 1 hour just for the dough to rise.
「Dad, Mom is making homemade pizza for lunch.」
Dad smiled wryly, came to the kitchen and persuaded Mom to make udon for lunch and leave the pizza for dinner. Getting started on the sauce, Mom also realized we needed some more ingredients for pizza.[2. TL Note: Udon are a kind of thick wheat flour-based noodles, frequently used in Japanese cooking.]
I wondered how Dad would work out the udon from scratch, but he got some store-bought noodles and cooked them for 10 minutes. We sat in a cozy, happy circle as we slurped our udon.
「Osechi is good too, but I just felt like eating pizza.」
「You just get tired of it, don’t you?」
「Really? I never get tired of it.」
Mom and Dad had gotten tired of osechi, but I could still eat it all day.
「Well then, can I have some of the osechi we have?」
They said it was fine, so I mailed Mizuhara, asking if he wanted to eat some osechi and if I could come over. He surprisingly replied in a few minutes.
The subject said 「Datemaki.」 Maybe datemaki counted as a pastry for Mizuhara?[3. TL Note: datemaki is a kind of osechi: sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste.]
Mizuhara’s mails were just as difficult to understand, even in the new year.
「It’s like I have to play catch with words!」
「Catch and release!」 my mother helpfully added as I fumed.
I didn’t really understand what she said, but I started putting the osechi into a plastic box anyway. 「I’ll be back for pizza!」 I said, and headed towards Mizuhara’s home.
There was no answer when I rang the bell.
「No way… He isn’t home?」
This had never happened before. I groaned, waiting at the door. Deviina was walking around just then, and snuggled into my coat to warm herself.
Mizuhara returned after 40 minutes, holding some large luggage. 「Why are you here right as the new year starts?」 He frowned, letting me in as I shivered.
「You sent a mail that said ‘Datemaki’ so I thought you’d be home!」
「How does ‘Datemaki’ mean I’m home?」
「………Are you saying it’s my own fault?! It’s your fault for replying with ‘Datemaki’ when I asked you if I could come over!」 I yelled, standing at the front door and rubbing my hands.
「I’m kidding. You just came earlier than I expected.」
Mizuhara turned on the electric carpet and untied the strings of his luggage. Inside was a small electric heater.
Freezing, I cheered and jumped to it.
I walked around Mizuhara as he opened up the cardboard and then handed me the heater. I took off the plastic and styrofoam, plugged it into the socket, and felt the air around me warm up.
「Aah, it’s a high speed type, and so effective…」
Mizuhara, sitting in front of me as I delighted in the heat, looked somewhat tired. 「Are the appliance stores always this crowded?」
「They’re more crowded than usual since there’s new year’s sales everywhere.」
Elated at the warmth, I began to set the osechi onto the table. I’d eaten udon already and I was a moderate eater, but I still felt like digging in right away.
「Here’s the datemaki.」
Mizuhara first started work on the datemaki, then the kurikinton. Then he pointed his chopsticks at the datemaki, then the kurikinton. Then again, the datemaki, and then the kurikinton.[4. TL Note: Kurikinton is sweet mashed potatoes with sweet chestnuts.]
「Rotating is prohibited!」
I took away the two dishes, and pushed the rice, some boiled dishes, kamaboko, and dried anchovies towards him.
「Give me the datemaki.」
「Like it, don’t you? Mom made this.」
「So it’s not store-bought…」 Mizuhara closely observed the datemaki, admiring it.
「Mom made a lot of these. Not the kamaboko or herring, though. My dad made the rice. And my grandmother made the black soy beans and anchovies.」[5. TL Note: Kamaboko is processed fish paste, used often in other dishes. It can also be enjoyed as ‘fish cake’ on its own.]
「Hmmm. Is there anything you made?」
「Aah… I did think of making something for new year’s, but the garnish looked like a drowned corpse so I threw it away.」
「A wise decision.」
I thought some sort of chemical reaction had occurred, and it changed into something other than food.
「I made these sweets that my grandfather loves.」 Sponge cake with brown sugar, made through trial and error to get the texture perfectly delicate. My grandfather had lost his appetite as he grew older, but even he could eat this.
It went through several improvements since I kept wondering, should I use wheat flour or bread flour? Should there be less butter? What if I used honey instead of sugar so it’d be healthier?
「The seniors club, protectors of fortune and sweets, would love this.」
「You’re in the seniors club?」
The mystery that was Mizuhara kept growing further, but since I didn’t want to start worrying right at the beginning of the new year, I stopped asking further.