Far from the Madding Crowd

Japan whips itself into a shopping frenzy on the last couple of days of the year. Shops are packed, prices are hiked, lines are long, tempers are short. I would just as happily stay home and eat canned soup, but we were invited to a New Years party, and I was asked to teach the ladies how to make guacamole, so I had to get the avocados. They also requested a cake, and since cake here is invariably yellow sponge with whipped cream frosting, I decided to go all American and make a chocolate fudge cake with butter cream frosting. For this I need shortening, not something I ever buy. Little did I anticipate that this would require visits to at least six different stores. Halfway through, I nearly burst into tears at Seiyu as yet another old lady whacked me with her purse, another kid stepped on my toes and another shopping cart hit me in the small of the back.

Something is changing here. Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety, but people used to be more polite, even to the point of being annoying. Someone would bump into me. A nod and a “Sorry” should have been enough but it would take a long string of apologies and ample bowing to get past the moment. Now, more often than not, people bash into me and pretend that nothing happened. It’s not like France where people apologize first and then bash into you. It’s more like people are just oblivious to others. Maybe it has something to do with being so focused on their Smartphones that they’ve forgotten to watch where they’re going, or even that other people exist at all. I’m tempted to start wearing big hats and muttering to myself so people will think I’m nuts and try to avoid me.

Seiyu has become a very weird place, by the way, since it teamed up with Walmart a couple of years ago. Now it’s laid out like a Walmart, but the shelves are lined with mirin and dashi and katsuobushi and all the other makings of a typical Japanese meal. There’s no real cheese and only Kewpie mayonnaise, which is tasty but just won’t do for tuna salad. I’ve gotten used to the Walmart look, but it was very creepy at first.

Thousands of brownie points are raining down on Summit,where I finally found the shortening. Even after all these years, it still strikes me when something so mundane can be so hard to find. But now I’m home again, I’ve got my shortening and avocados and am safely ensconced in my ratty old sweats.

Bring on the new year. I’m ready for it.

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5 thoughts on “Far from the Madding Crowd”

  1. As the now immortal Thomas Wolfe proclaimed: You Can’t Go Home Again…These days it seems one cannot stay home, but we are forced out into the jungles of mega-malls to shop shop shop. Mingle with the hordes…I totally agree with you about the smart phones and desensitization. I would rather stay home.

    I am sad to hear about Japan changing. Somehow, in my mind’s eye, I recall the perfect politeness and manners of the Japanese, even if they were really thinking: “silly smelly cheese eating westerner.” The notions of WA and SHIBUMI still drive a lot of my internal workings…at least I strive for it…knowing I will inevitably fail.

    I just thought: you had to climb to the SUMMIT to get what you wanted…hahaha

    As to mayonnaise, make your own. It is easy and the taste is really the best. It is the second sauce I learned to make, the first being vinaigrette. I will be writing about both of those sauces in one of my next blogs…

    Flez Año Nuevo querida…happy Guacamole…and may the chocolate frostings be ribbons of pleasure for you and yours….

    1. Good one, Tim. Finding the shortening was certainly my Mt Everest.

      Send me your favorite mayonnaise recipe. Ma used to make it with pickle juice but that’s not something I have access to.

      Please don’t say things like “knowing I will inevitably fail”. You’re worth more than that. Remember, you are what you want to be.

      Loved the chocolate ribbons. I will think of them while I struggle with the cake tomorrow.

      I know Ano Nuevo, but not Flez or querida. Babel Fish couldn’t figure it out either. Meaning?

  2. “I nearly burst into tears at Seiyu as yet another old lady whacked me with her purse, another kid stepped on my toes and another shopping cart hit me in the small of the back.”…
    This should be a happy little bit of nostalgia for you, dear Mouse, having spent many years shopping in the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle.

    1. Indeed. The ‘Tiggle was in the back of my mind while I was writing the blog. When I was in Pgh last year, I spent about an hour there, just wandering around looking at things. So familiar yet, at this point, so alien. I felt like a tourist.

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