Wednesday, December 8, 2010

November Chaji

November is a fine month for tea gatherings. It is the month of robiraki, opening the ro or sunken hearth, and of kuchikiri, opening of the new tea. Robiraki marks the beginning of the tea year; November is a solemn month.

November is also, it seems, a fine month for birthdays. So it's even better when we can combine the two. Harvey Sensei's birthday was the perfect opportunity for us to hold a chaji and wish him a wonderful and long life.

This chaji was a challenge -- our Sensei would not be with us, behind the scenes, to coach and direct us. We planned, prepared and performed to the best of our abilities. Our timing was not perfect (a little late here, a little hurried there) and there were a few overlooked details, but the tea was served with the truest of affection.

Game plan

We had a small army -- actually a platoon plus one -- cleaning, cooking, mending, orgainizing, arranging. Perhaps it's because we're inexperienced, but hosting a chaji does not seem like a solo act. We found it difficult with six people -- how is it that only one or two people can host a chaji? With more experience we might be able to answer that question.

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Candle, kogo and chabana


KakemonoKan za matsu kaze o kiku, “Sit quietly and listen to the pine wind.”
Hanaire (flower container): a gift from Matsui Midori to Harvey on the occasion of our visit to her home
Chabana: early-blooming rhododendrons, chrysanthemum, blueberry foliage
Mizusahshi: porcelain with bamboo designs
Chashaku: Iori no Tomo, "Friend of the Tea Room"
Chaire: high-shouldered style, not named
Kogo: celadon porcelain with crane designs
Omochawan: black raku, a wedding gift from Hirose Sensei
Chamei: koicha and usucha given to us by Matsui-san
Okashi: "Long Life" yam-and-walnut manju, homemade by Annie
Natsume: red lacquer with origami crane design
Chawan:  porcelain, with "Hercules" constellation design, a birthday gift from Jeff Nelson
Higashi: seasonal, provided by Laura from Asakichi


Harvey, Tony and John


Holly, Laura, Annie, Kristin, Pia, Shana. Kristin made koicha; Laura made usucha.

Tenshin meal 

In the box: Gohan (rice) with sprinkle of red shiso; Asian pear slaw (salad, top left, recipe follows), tobiko (garnish, center), squid salad (bottom right); yakimono of marinated duck breast; konomono of takuan (top), kombu (middle), cucumbers (bottom). 

Misoshiru was served with a piece of butternut squash cut into hexagons (tortoiseshell shapes), garnished with hot Chinese mustard. 

Hassun was ginko nuts skewered on pine needles and locally-smoked albacore. 

Hashiarai was hot water with umeboshi. 

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Asian Pear Slaw

The salads in the tenshin were a huge hit. The squid salad came from our local Co-op, sold pre-packaged in the freezer section. I think we can come close to recreating it with a little experimentation (squid, ginger, sesame, broccoli rabe, green onion, seaweed of some variety, a pinch of red pepper, vinegar and sugar).

The Asian Pear Slaw recipe is from Gourmet magazine, Dec. 2000 edition. Gourmet is no longer in print, but recipes are still online. 

Gourmet | December 2000
Active time: 40 min Start to finish: 1 hr
Yield: Makes 6 servings
2 celery ribs
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 firm Asian pears, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
2 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh hot red chile, or to taste

Peel strings from celery with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler and cut celery into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks.
Whisk together juice, vinegar, and ginger and stir in celery and remaining ingredients with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.
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