It's finally starting to feel like spring outside, which means it's ~BBQ TIME~ for the foreign community (plus Japanese friends and family) in my little corner of the inaka! In our town there is an older Japanese gentleman, Mr W, who is a retired school teacher and now works as a car mechanic. Mr. W is the hippy grandfather of our local foreign community. He took us all under his wing and taught us where to get home-brewed ale beer in Japan, how to know if you're being scammed or not when buying a used car, and most importantly, he hosts all of our BBQ's at his mechanic shop.
In America, when we have a cookout or dinner party the host usually provides the main dish(es) and guests bring all the side dishes, beverages, and desserts. However, in Japan the host provides all of the food, and the guests have to pay the host a 'participation fee' in order to attend, to help take the financial burden off the host. Most people live in tiny apartments, often inconveniently located far from a train station and with no public parking available, so often in your group of acquaintances there will be only one or two people who have a house suitable for hosting parties. Since these people always get stuck hosting the parties at their house, it would be a significant financial burden for the host to provide even just the main dish for free every time. In America, most people have houses with big yards and plenty of parking, and we take turns hosting pretty evenly, so no one person is stuck hosting every time. I don't like the 'participation fee' system, but I understand the necessity of it. However, since I'm still stuck in my own culture, I always bring a side dish or dessert in ADDITION to paying the participation fee.
For the BBQ this time, I decided to make Peach Crisp, because I've been craving it lately. Peaches are crazy expensive in Japan, so I used canned peaches. It actually came out pretty good, though the peaches were soft and, well, tasted like canned peaches. I think if you could get fresh peaches at an affordable price, they would be a bit crunchier and even more delicious, but everyone seemed to like this version because they ate it all! Kazu helped me make it. Japanese men are stereotyped as being completely unable to cook or clean, but my boyfriend can and does do both!
One thing that surprised me was how many different names there are for this dessert! The foreign people who attended the BBQ with me were mostly fellow English teachers, originally from the UK and all over the US, and depending on where the person was from they had a different word for this dessert. I call it a Peach Crisp, but I also heard "Peach Crumble," "Peach Cobbler," "Peach Tart" and "Peach Pie." What do you call this dessert (if you have it) where you're from?
Another interesting thing that I observed at the BBQ was that there were around 10 international couples there, all of them married with kids except Kazu and I. Out of those 10, there was even one other couple where the wife was foreign and the husband was Japanese! 2 out of 10 (aka 20%) isn't exactly great odds, but I was thrilled. I've met dozens and dozens of Japanese-woman-Foreign-man couples, but besides a few 'internet famous' couples who I've never met in person and one of my bosses who's married to a Japanese man (but I've never met the husband), this is the first Foreign-woman-Japanese-man couple I've ever met! It made me happy to feel that maybe Kazu and I aren't so weird after all.
Also, all of the international couples were very kind to us and gave us some really good advice. It gives me a lot of comfort to know that I can draw on their experience for troublesome issues. For example, one Japanese woman told me that (based on her good friend's hard learned lesson) if Kazu and I want to live in America, we should absolutely get married in Japan and get his spouse visa in Japan, not go to America first as tourists and do it there. Apparently the process is completely different and much, much easier to do here. I never would have known if I hadn't met these sweet and kind couples.
PS: We also got to play with this adorable half Japanese half American baby girl!