Monday, July 18, 2005

On the Importance of Barbeques in the Celebration of Family

Oma-zaki: Sliding Past the Tip of Honshu on the Way to Hokkaido to Visit Yuko’s Family

Fire and flesh have long played an important role in human society for the consolidation of familial ties. Fire sheds its warmth and light upon a gathering, uniting everyone in shared comfort, and the flesh of beasts injects the abdomen with its vital essence and a lusty sense of fulness and satisfaction (there being, of course, significant exceptions and exception taken to this sentiment). To this end my father-in-law began speaking a couple of months ago of making a brick barbeque grill in his back yard. Originally it was supposed to be built by Brother-in-law α (alpha, Yuko’s brother, Yoshiyuki) and me but I ended up being supplanted by Brother-in-law #1 (my sister Anna’s husband, Jun) while away on shopping duty. Between them they managed to put together a respectable and very functional structure with supplies they purchased for just under ¥10,000 ($100 give for Canadians, or take for Americans). My father-in-law did report a couple of missing bricks from the borders of his flower beds, though, so we suspect these may have been commandeered to compensate for a slight deficit in building materials. The genius of their design was in their choosing not to apply mortar to the bricks. The whole outfit is like a Lego set that can be taken apart, stored for winter, rebuilt, reconfigured, and added onto at will. All we need to do to accomodate future increases in the family population is to keep filching bricks from Mrs. Takahashi’s flower beds to make the grill longer.

Left to right: Brother-in-law #1, Brother-in-law α (alpha) and My Father-in-law

My father-in-law, Mr. Takahashi, is a civil servant working for the Hokkaido government’s agricultural department and his current position is at an agricultural school in the mid-eastern region of the island. This position gives him access to cheap farm produce, including meat. Beef is ranked on a five level scale in Japan, five being the highest, and Mr. Takahashi was able to bring home a large quantity of level 5 Japanese beef for the long weekend. It is unlikely that I will ever be able to eat beef of this quality again since it is in the same category as the majestically expensive Kobe beef.

There is a popular picnic game in Japan called Split the Watermelon, and since it is such a complex game Brother-in-law #1 and I felt it necessary to practice on something less valuable than a watermelon before attempting the real thing.

Jun Teaches Me the Ancient Martial Art of Roasting Flesh

Brother-in-law #1 and Sister #1 Enjoy the BBQ

Brother-in-law α and Sister-in-law α with Nephew α1 a.k.a. Souki

Yuko and I Contemplate the Splendour of Grade 5 Japanese Beef Sizzling

The Girls (Including Ai-chan Who Is Often at Our Family Gatherings Even Though There Are No More Sons in the Family Left for Her to Marry, Souki Being, I Think, too Young)

Even the best barbeques must come to an end, and Monday found me sailing home alone since Yuko had to remain in Sapporo to teach some final classes at Hokusei Gakuen University and to wrap up some other loose ends.