Monday, November 19, 2018

Gagne Family Sukiyaki: This is going to be complicated

My Dad was born in Ontario, Canada, and my Mum was born in Lincolnshire, England. That's already a somewhat complicated life. Now take all that and move it to Bainbridge Island, Washington. That places the ingredients of my background into a cultural mix that includes people from the Philippines, and Japan, not to mention others.

My Mum converted to Roman Catholicism in order to marry my Dad, and that put her into a community by default. She may have been utterly rejected by her new in-laws (she was) but she had a built-in community at Saint Cecelia's Church. I suppose that's where this story really starts.

My God-mother was a woman named Kimiko Sakai, but we all grew up knowing her as Auntie Kim. She and her husband Toshiro (Uncle Tosh) went to our same church, and she and my Mum built a friendship out of their shared sense of being alien. Despite having been born and raised on Vashon Island, Kimiko knew she would alway be 'other' because of her Japanese heritage. To her credit, my Mum understood that, though her own English background was much more palatable to the Bainbridge Island sensibility, that she would also always be 'other.'

I'm not very good at remembering things. I get pictures and feelings, but I'm not the kind of person who can tell you the colour of my sweater on the first day of third grade. I remember being in Auntie Kim's house many times. I remember her beautiful Japanese garden. I remember Uncle Tosh lifting weights in the basement of their house and praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary for strength before hand. I remember her mother-in-law (Botchan) working in the fields. I remember being in the kitchen while Botchan prepared food and helping a little.

So, when I had my very first kitchen of my own, what did I make? Sukiyaki! It was a favourite growing up, and I wanted comfort! I called Mum for the details. How much soy sauce? How much aji-mirin? Never mind the fact that there wasn't a soul within miles who knew what aji-mirin was. I made do.

Through all my years of being a vegetarian, I could deal with missing bacon, but missing Sukiyaki was a lacuna I couldn't accept.

So here, my dear reader, is my current Gagne Family Sukiyaki recipe based on half-remembered formulas and strange emotional attachments but I will promise you one thing: there's nothing but fucking love in the bottom of that pot. I'll wager my soul on that.

Gagne Family Sukiyaki


1 cup soy sauce
1 cup aji-mirin
1 cup sake
1/3 cup erythritol (working on the carbs, eh?)
2 eggs beaten

Warm the sauce ingredients until the erythritol is melted. Allow to cool, then add the beaten eggs.


Brown the beef
1lb sukiyaki meat
(if that's a mystery to your grocer, move on. There's no substitute for paper-thin marbled beef)
3 scant pinches of aji-no-moto
1 white onion
1 bundle green onion
1 bundle celery
3 bundles bok choi
1 carrot made into flowers
(because that's what Grandma Sakai fucking DID, Carole)
1 can water chestnuts
3-4 mushrooms
Add onions

Brown the beef. Add three slant pinches of aji-no-moto
Add the onions and stir until they start to soften
Add the non-green ingredients
Add the sauce
Add the green ingredients
Cover the pot and start to blog about your background.

Then it's all good.

The white layer

Add the sauce

It takes a lot of green

 Bubble bubble in progress

Yup. That's the stuff.

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