Monday, September 14, 2009

Potato Salad - For Toru Okada

Here is my entry for Autumn 2009 Novel Food.

Poor Mr. Wind-up Bird. He usually eats potato salad
when things go wrong. The first time
we see him eating potato salad his wife has left him.

There was nothing more for me to do.
I went to the kitchen, filled the kettle, and lit the gas.
When the water boiled, I made coffee
and sat at the kitchen table to take a sip. Then I
made toast and ate some potato salad from the refrigerator.
This was the first time in years that I had eaten breakfast alone.
Come to think of it, aside from a single business trip, we
had never once missed breakfast together in all the time since our marriage.
We had often missed lunch, and sometimes even dinner, but never
breakfast: it was almost a ritual for us. No matter how late
we might go to bed, we would always get up early enough
to fix a proper morning meal and take the time to enjoy it together.

But that morning Kumiko was gone. I drank my coffee and ate my
toast alone, in silence. An empty chair was all I had to look at...

The coffee seemed to have a soapy taste. I couldn't quite believe it.
Shortly after the first sip, I sensed an unpleasant aftertaste. I wondered if my
feelings were playing tricks on me, but the second sip had the same taste.
I emptied the cup into the sink and poured myself more coffee, in a
clean cup. Again the taste of soap I couldn't imagine why. I had washed the
pot well, and there was nothing wrong with the water. But the taste--
or smell-- was unmistakable: it could only have been soap-- or possibly
moisturizing lotion. I threw out all the coffee in the pot and started to boil some
more water, but it just wasn't worth the trouble. I filled a cup with water
from the tap and drank that instead. I really didn't want coffee all that much

Later on Mr. Wind-up Bird spends about
three days down at the bottom of a dry well.
It's a long story as to why he's down there.
But when he comes up he's not hungry at first
even though he only ate a few crackers and lemon
drops while he was in the well.

Later on...

Then I opened a beer, took tomato and
lettuce from the refrigerator, and made a salad. Once I had eaten that,
I began to feel some desire for food, so I took out some potato salad, spread it between two pieces of bread, and ate it. I looked at the clock only once.
How many hours had I been down in the well?
But just thinking about time made my head throb. No, I did not want to think
about time. That was one thing I most wanted to avoid thinking about now.

OK Mr. Okada, aka Mr. Wind-up Bird, here's some potato salad I made for you. You boil a few potatoes. Cut them up, add some celery and some finely chopped onion. Dress lightly with mayonnaise and some yellow mustard. Decorate with green pepper slices and green stuffed olives.Give it a little dusting of paprika.

That's how my mother made potato salad and I don't know any body who makes it better. I hope this dish gives you some measure of comfort.


Lisa said...

Thank you for joining us for Novel Food! The excerpt is so interesting, and I must read the book. And your potato salad sounds (and looks) just right.

Simona said...

Poor Mr. Wind-up Bird. Your excerpts convey well his desolation. Potato salad as comfort food, literally. I did not know the book and it sounds very interesting. Thank you for participating in our event.