Mrs. MaekawaBy Teruko Maekawa
The Hot Lunch program started about 15 years ago. At that time, 1stgeneration immigrants (Issei) and Nisei (2nd generation) Japanese at the Wynford Seniors group began finding the preparation of their favourite Japanese foods a little troublesome. Mr. Sid Ikeda of the JCCC recommended the program, as a possible fund raising activity for JSS by serving Japanese food to these Issei & Nisei. We began by cooking “hot, hot Udon” once a month for the Wynford Seniors.
It was just after the JCCC moved to its present location. To say the least, the kitchen was left in a less than ideal state by the previous owner. When we opened the faucet, smelly dirty water came out. A bucket to catch raindrops from the leaky roof was sitting right next to the sink. It was a totally different cooking environment then. About 150 senior members participated in the luncheon meeting then, we therefore had to cook enough Udon for 150 seniors.
After the initial period, we had a new kitchen, which was located far from the meeting place, our “just made hot Udon” was impossible to serve and we had to change the main menu to Donburi-mono (menu for bowls). Soon we had to increase our services from once a month to twice a month and also multiplied the menu items to more than 10 dishes. By serving meals twice a month, our relationship with the senior group became closer. “Delicious dishes” or “the taste was a bit bland today” seniors frequently commented to our dishes. Later, we had to increase the price to the present $6.00 because of the rising cost of ingredients.
By the popularity of the senior group, we avoided “fresh” food as much as possible, and cooked mainly using meat such as Sukiyaki-donburi, sanshoku (three-coloured) donburi, Japanese style Hamburger, Curry and Rice, etc. To minimize the fat, first we rinsed the meat with boiling water and then marinated it with vinegar. Seniors also prefer a sweeter taste. Considering the health of those seniors, we try to use brown sugar instead of white sugar, when sugar must be used.
The preparation for the Hot Lunch involves shopping for the ingredients one day before and cooking on the day when the food is served. It requires 7-8 volunteers for each task. When shopping for the ingredients, we had to consider the freshness of the ingredients first, then the price. The variety of ingredients is important and we have to drive in and around Toronto city and suburbs looking for some of the less common items. The shop with the best price for rice does not necessarily have the best price for vegetables or meat. As a result of careful consideration and choosing wisely, we’ve become seasoned shoppers in Toronto.
Providing Hot Lunch to seniors is a good fund raising opportunity for JSS, but at the same time, we became well acquainted with many of the senior people and helped them to understand a lot about JSS’s activities and gained their constant cooperation and support.
Unfortunately, the number of seniors at the Wynford group has decreased in recent years, but we still make lunches for about 100 people or so with the expectation that persons from other groups would join in and have lunch.
We have been very fortunate in not having had a single accident or any trouble during those 15 years. I must say this was because of the warm cooperation of the JCCC, the directors of JSS, so many hard working volunteers, and those seniors who enjoy the dishes of amateur chefs like us, and those who are not necessarily senior but still appreciate our Hot Lunch.
I am leaving the Hot Lunch program soon, but I pray for the happiness and good health of the Wynford Seniors, so many volunteers, and people who enjoyed our program. Good luck to everyone involved.