Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Actually, I don't know if this is the right name for dinner tonight...

But it sure was good.

When I worked in Japan Katsudon was one of my favourite meals. What was I doing eating dinner in Japan? Well, the long and the short of it was that I worked for a major American TV station that was there to broadcast the Olympic Games held in Nagano in 1998.

This sounds far more glamorous than it really was...

I was employed by an Australian company who were hired to provide a muli-national, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual staff for CBS. My job description was runner with an 'A' class accreditation. The rating meant that I could go anywhere within the Olympic grounds, including the athletes village and behind the scenes at events, in fact the only place that was off limits to 'A' rated staff was the drug testing facilities... My duties were far more mundane than my rating. The runner bit had nothing to do with competition (this was winter after all). Basically I helped set up and break down the temporary studios that were built especially for CBS. And during the Olympics I made coffee and popcorn, ran errands, swept floors and cleaned the 2 bathrooms (with a total of 6 toilets) that were used by the staff of almost 1,800.

But there were perks, which included getting to tell Martha Stewart how much my mom loved her show... Hanging around with moderately famous celebs, getting to see Eric Lindros up close and personal, chatting with Wayne Gretzky's parents on a train, and then sitting 3 seats away from the Team Canada bench during the quarter finals (we love you Wayne!) and watching them lose, and getting to hike up the luge track with one crampon keeping me from slipping all the way back down the hill (we had a pair between 3 of us... hmmm how did we do it?) and then blinking every time the sled zipped around our curve.

But the most memorable and moving thing to happen while I was there was having my boss call me into his office after a 12 hour night shift and hand me a ticket for the opening ceremonies that were taking place that morning. Talk about a rush of adrenaline! I wandered around town for a couple of hours laughing and singing to myself, beyond exhaustion and punch drunk with it! Having been dropped at the Olympic stadium by one of the hundreds of buses that gave free rides to ticket holders, I discovered that I didn't have enough film (though I did have my camera). Fortunately, right at the other end of the parking lot was a gigantic hardware store.

So I waltzed in, only to realize that they hadn't officially opened yet. All of the staff members were lined up in front of me, pledging allegiance to the company and singing the official company anthem. Or rather, I presumed that is what they were doing, because I didn't understand a word they said. Of course they couldn't stop mid-oath to tell me to leave, so they just smiled and continued while I stood there feeling rather foolish for not joining in. At the end, they all bowed to me and shouted Irashaimase! So I got my film and went to line up for the cavity search they seemed to be putting everybody through.

When my turn came, the guard took one look at my 'A' tag and waved me through, not checking my pockets, not looking in my bag, just a big smile and a deep bow, pointing me towards the stadium. So traipsing and floating along in spirits as high as the clear blue skies, I went looking for my seat. I finally clued in that I wasn't at the right place when I saw all kinds of costumes and props lining the corridor leading into the grounds of the stadium. I peaked out, and then was hailed by an official of some sort who saw my tag and did the smiling bow thing and pointed me back the way I had come. So there I was, outside the inner sanctum, watching a pair of obviously Sumo wrestlers having a smoke and chatting away merrily. Not at all the serious side that you see when they toss each other around the ring. I finally found a signpost with seat numbers on it and realized I had to walk halfway around the stadium to get to where I needed to be.

Eventually I made it to my seat, but then had a 1 hour wait before the ceremonies started. This gave me a good opportunity to look around and see the crowds filing in, the different sections reserved for different groups (CBS had their staff colour coordinated, the lowliest of us had orange and black or orange and blue Nike uniforms, while the more important staff had all black uniforms. VIPs had turquoise and purple.) My seat was up at the top of the stands, just below the broadcast booth and right beside the press photographers with their forest of ultra large zoom lenses. Question, why are professional zoom lenses white and black while regular everday people have plain black?

When the ceremonies finally started Ode to Joy was sung simultaneously in all 6 continents as well as by the crowd in the stadium. There was such a sense of unity, such a sense of hope in this song written by a deaf man, that I got a lump in my throat and tears came to my eyes.

This was one of the highlights of my life, and something I will remember forever.

Afterwards, I went back to the hotel, had a bowl of katsudon and slept for a few hours before going back to cleaning toilets...

So not only do I love katsudon because it is so tasty, I also love it for the warm memories it brings back to me.

Well, tonight I didn't have any pork chops, but I really felt like katsudon, so I figured "why not make the basic flavour", and that is what I did.

Tamago-don Aja Style (serves 1)

  • Onion sliced into 1/2 rings 1 medium
  • Oil - sunflower, canola, corn (but not olive) 2 tbsp
  • Mirin 1 tbsp
  • Sherry a good glug
  • Soy sauce (Japanese, not Chinese or Thai) 3 tbsp
  • Egg 1
  • Rice (pre-cooked and re-heated) 1 1/2 cups
  • Furikake (Japanese sprinkles - I had wasabe and salmon flavour) to taste

Sautee the onion in the oil until golden brown. Add the sherry and try to burn off the alcohol. Add the mirin and the soy sauce. There should be enough liquid 1/4 cover the onions, and almost, but not quite, float the egg.

Bring to a simmer, crack in the egg and gently stir the white only into the surrounding onion/liquid, leaving the yolk to heat up, but not cook, in the center of the pan.

Gently pour over the hot rice, trying not to break the yolk. Sprinkle with furikake and enjoy.

I ate this with a simple salad of mayo (home made of course) really ripe tomato, romaine hearts and a creamy, rich blue cheese sprinkled on top. It actually worked well together!

And now I sign off with happy thoughts running around my head...
and memories of little Japanese girls screaming hysterically at the top of their lungs


and I giggle.


burekaboy — said...

ok, no comment.

now i'm gonna wait to read about the post where you fought ferocious tigers in nepal. ;p sheesh, aj.

and how was martha?

tomago-don is comfort food. love it.

aja said...

Actually, I do have a story about a buffalo stampede in Nepal, but there is a video to go with, so it will just have to wait...

Martha was surprised that any plebian toilet cleaner would have the nerve to approach her, but was gracious when she heard the accolade from my mom. There were other, less icequeen types there and they were alot of fun to work with!

burekaboy — said...

g-d love an icequeen. i think, from the sounds of it, prison softened her up a bit. a most humbling experience.

as for nepalese tales (or is it tails?), i had NO DOUBT i would be met back with your confirmation that yes indeed there IS A STORY!! score bigtime ... with a video to boot!!

aja said...

Hey BB,
Are you making fun of me?!? 8^)

burekaboy — said...

yes :-P

aja said...

Hey BB,
8^P back at you!!