Sometimes it is easy to forget how amazing living in a country like Japan can be. I never feel that I “fit in”, but I have become comfortable as an outsider. I find myself waiting for the train, looking in at the people sitting in the cars wondering what they are talking about, thinking about, or worried about. I wonder why they live in Tokyo. What do they do for work? What will they have for dinner tonight?
It’s funny. I’ve always been fond of people watching, but here I feel like I’m looking through train windows constantly. Looking at an entire culture that I don’t fully understand through a train window as I’m standing on the platform. In an instant I have to move on and start thinking about the next window. The next car. The next train.
During my first Christmas abroad, I am feeling a number of things. I long for my family to be close at this time of year. However, I am endlessly thankful for my wonderful husband and the time we have been able to share this holiday season. I miss snow. I miss crackling fire places and my Uncle Steve’s prime rib. Still, somehow, in the midst of a place so strange and unusual, I am able to find the Christmas spirit. In a country where 1% of the population are Christian, I have found the genuine reason to celebrate.
Tonight, Brad and I went to Ebisu and Roppongi to view some amazing Christmas light displays. We were both in awe of the sparkling lights giving a soft glow to the tall buildings of Tokyo. This was not, however, what put me in the Christmas spirit. What put me in the Christmas spirit was the small changes in everyone around us; seeing the hundreds of couples holding hands in public, smiling at strangers, and genuinely enjoying the spirit of the season. Whether they knew it or not.
I had not intended the recipe today to be tagged to a long story, but I had to share that experience with you all. There is always something new to be appreciated. No matter what your surroundings happen to be. Just take the time to look through those train windows.
So, to end this last post before Christmas Day, I bring you a classic recipe with a Japanese twist: Roasted Kabocha Soup. A Kabocha is a Japanese pumpkin. Roasting the Kabocha brings out a sweet, smoky flavor that is perfect for a hearty, healthy meal. This could even be a great addition to your Christmas Day spread as a simple, warming side dish.
Merry Christmas to you, my dear readers. Thank you for helping to make this year an amazing one! Here’s to the coming year!
Roasted Kabocha Soup
2 lbs Kabocha or other winter squash (such as acorn or butternut)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water, plus extra to adjust thickness at the end
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon honey
6 Tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.
Cut the Kabocha in half, place in a baking dish and drizzle the cut sides with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast for about 1 hour. *Check occasionally to ensure it does not burn.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onions, carrot, and celery and cook over medium heat until softened. When the Kabocha is done, scoop it out of it’s skin and add it to the pot. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 30 more minutes over medium heat. After the 30 minutes is up, make sure the carrots have softened. If they need more time, give it to ’em!
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth. Add the white pepper, salt, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and honey. Season to taste with salt or other spices if necessary. If the soup is too thick, add more chicken broth.