⟨ Food ⟩

Grilled onigiri

A waste of effort

Texts and Photography / 林琪香
Translation / Iris Heung

1.
「陽太:

你好嗎?最近在網路上發現你要辦展覽會了,恭喜你。
祝成功。 
 


由起子」

陽太再次打開由起子的電郵。發件日期是兩個月前了。收件的郵箱已被他棄用多年,昨天心血來潮再次登入,竟發現了這封電郵,標題雖只簡單寫著「你好」,但他看罷仍然心頭一悸,因為由起子的名字在發件人欄內。十年了,自從他們分開以後,他們便沒再聯絡。由起子,好像去意大利了,這電郵是從意大利傳來的嗎?

2.
由起子把剛煮好的白飯拌一拌,白飯的香氣隨著蒸氣竄進她的鼻子裡。凌晨五時,她早起造丈夫的午餐便當。昨天晚飯時,她胃口不佳,吃不下嚥,這時明明飢腸轆轆,但飯香竟始終勾不起她的食慾。

她感到每種香氣都有各自的重量,白飯小菜都是沉重的,便當菜也沉重,金平牛蒡、蓮藕夾肉餅、拿坡里意粉⋯⋯都沉重如鉛,吸進體內後,她的肺部便直往下墜,壓到地上去仍不罷休,非往地殻探下去不可。只有蛋糕甜點的香氣是輕盈的,她會隨之飄然而飛。蛋糕甜點她不會做,因為不會做,所以才輕盈。

3.
陽太把鍵盤前的杯麵紙杯及數個罐裝咖啡的空罐隨便往裡推,拆開了從便利店買來的燒飯團的包裝紙。被火烤過,本該香脆,但飯團從冰箱裡取出的,飯焦已變得軟扒扒的了。他想看一下新聞網站,但一打開電腦 ,便跑出了由起子的電郵。看來昨天晚上,他忘記把視窗關起來了。

「陽太:

你好嗎?最近在網路上發現你要辦展覽會了,恭喜你。
祝成功。 
 
 由起子」

由起子為甚麼會有他的消息了呢?聽說她跟在意大利認識的日本人結婚了。多年不聯絡,她怎麼突然想起自己?

4.
由起子為白飯拌入醬油、味醂及芝蔴油,手往著同一方向反覆翻動,反覆翻動。自從生了小孩以後,她便感到自己是食物生產機器,乳房生產著乳汁,等候著嘟嘟的粉紅小嘴湊近。到小嘴不再渴望乳汁,期待著千變萬化味道與口感時,她便花時間生產出各種糊狀的、軟綿綿的食品。還有丈夫的早餐、中午的便當,晚飯、宵夜⋯⋯。孩子視食物為接觸世界的窗口,丈夫視飯餐為在世界進進出出時的喘息,但之於她,那不過是將她的世界堵起來的欄柵,餘下的只有廚房。

是她心甘情願被被堵住的,她不甘心的是,為甚麼即使在這小世界裡,她仍然無法把事情做得完滿。她剛為孩子做了蔬菜湯,現在為丈夫準備燒飯團作便當,孩子或會將之吐出,而丈夫,或許會為了跟同事用餐而將之原封不動的帶回家。是她做得不夠好,她知道。

是甚麼把她推往這種以靠討好家人的胃來獲得滿足感的生活?是因為婚姻,還是孩子,又或是更早的時候?例如,突然跟陽太不辭別,獨自往意大利的時候。

5.
幾顆飯粒落在陽太的胸前,他撿起來塞進嘴裡去。他以往一直不明白何以便利店要生產燒飯團,燒飯團獨特的口味,在冷藏過後便消失了,何必大費周章。他記得由起子以往常替他做便當,每當她特意早起,花時間做燒飯團時,他總會說類似的話:「飯團燒過,放進便當,時間久了也會變軟,做了也是白費心機啊。」

他咬著嘴裡的飯粒,他現在懂得了,冷藏會壞了口感,但飯粒的焦香卻不會消失。慢嚥細噣之時,混和著飯粒的甘甜與醬油的咸香,在他嘴巴裡緩緩散開。

6.
由起子握好了飯團,把金屬網架在火爐上,任飯團在火上輕輕地烤,火烤在米飯上時發出啲啲噠噠的聲響。她是在跟陽太同居時,才開始做便當的,怕他工作太忙,食無定時。十年以後,她還是做著同樣的便當,為著不同的人。

她聽到房間內傳來悉悉索索的聲響,大概是孩子在被窩裡轉身,再不多久,他就要起床了,起床後他便會踏著蹣跚的腳步走來,想要掛在她身上。她把火調大一點,得讓飯團趕快烤好,又把火調小一點,生怕焦掉。她想起還得煎個蛋卷,把菜燙一燙再拌點芝麻。噢!還有早餐,丈夫的早餐還沒開始弄⋯⋯怎麼飯餐總是如此追迫著她。飯團發出啲啲噠噠的聲響,飯焦的香味過度濃烈,她趕忙關火,飯團還是焦了點。

「何必白費心機呢,普通的醬油飯團,也夠好吃了。」陽太的話浮現在她耳畔。

「陽太,我是在白費心機吧⋯⋯」由起子自言自語道。

7.
陽太把杯麵的紙杯、飯團的包裝紙塞進膠袋裡去,將罐子裡最後一口咖啡喝掉。點開修圖軟件,打算整理好餘下的攝影作品,軟件仍在載入之時,他又忍不住打開了由起子的郵件。由起子在期待自己的回覆嗎?

8.
「由起子:

你好。謝謝你的電郵。
我最近才懂得,冷了的燒飯團,雖不香脆,卻有著獨特的味美。謝謝你。
祝幸福。

陽太」

1.
“Hatuta,

How are you? I randomly came across your upcoming exhibition on the internet. Congratulations.
I wish you every success.

Yukiko”

Hatuta opened and read Yukiko’s email over again. The email was sent to a mailbox that he has stopped using for years; it was by mere chance that he logged into the account again the day before. Awaiting him in this abandoned mailbox was this email with a simple title: Hello. He was nevertheless shaken up when seeing Yukiko’s name under sender. It had been ten years since they went on separate paths and they have not been in touch since then. Yukiko seemed to have moved to Italy, he wondered if the mail was sent from there?

2.
As Yukiko stirred the freshly cooked rice, she could smell the very nice fragrance of the rice. It was 5 o’clock in the morning. She woke up early to prepare a bento box for her husband. Lacking any appetite last night, Yukiko had skipped dinner and was in fact starving at the moment. But even so, the fragrance of rice could not make her have the desire to eat.

She suddenly realized everything was burdensome — the rice, the side dishes, the bento box, kinpira gobo, lotus root stuffed with minced meat, spaghetti Napolitan… Everything was overwhelmingly heavy, every single smell was like dragging her lung to a bottomless blackhole. The only fragrance that smelled light was that from cakes and dessert. Its smell felt so weightless to her because she did not know how to make dessert.

3.
Hatuta pushed further towards the wall the empty cup noodles and a few empty canned coffee cans which stood in front of his keyboard. He then tore open the grilled onigiri he bought from the convenient store. The supposedly crispy grilled rice had turned soggy after staying in the fridge. He actually wanted to switch on the computer to read some news but Yukiko’s email just popped up; perhaps he forgot to close the browser last night.

“Hatuta,

How are you? I randomly came across your upcoming exhibition on the internet. Congratulations.
I wish you every success.

Yukiko”

How did Yukiko learn about his news? Hatuta heard that she met and married a Japanese man in Italy. He kept wondering why would she suddenly think of him after all these years.

4.
Yukiko poured some soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil on top of the rice; she repeatedly stirred the rice in the same direction. She had a feeling that she had become a food producing machine after giving birth. At first, she produced milk with her breasts and waited for the little pink lips to approach. Later on, when the little mouth began to desire for something that is more diverse and interesting than milk, she made different types of porridge and soft food. She also prepared for her husband breakfast, bento box for lunch, dinner and late night snack. While her child saw food as a window to reach out to the vast world, her husband considered meal time his time-off from his daily life; to her, food is a wall that confines her inside of the kitchen.

She was perhaps willingly disconnected from the outside world, but she could not accept the failure to attain perfection in this tiny confined space. Her child sometimes spat out the vegetable soup she made, her husband would bring home the untouched onigiri she made as he would rather hang out with his colleagues. She knew it was all because she hadn’t done well enough.

5.
Hatuta picked up the few grains of rice that fell on his shirt and put them into his mouth. It was once a mystery to him why convenient stores were selling grilled onigiri, as the unique crispiness would be gone after sitting too long in the fridge. It sounded to him a complete waste of effort. He remembered back in the days when Yukiko would wake up early and prepared grilled onigiri for his lunch, he would say, “The grilled onigiri will turn soggy after staying in the bento box, don’t waste your energy.”

Chewing the rice made him realize that even if the crispiness was taken away by the process of chilling, the unique nice fragrance would not fade. The natural sweetness of rice and the saltiness of the soy sauce slowly diffused in his mouth as he was chewing.

6.
Yukiko pressed the onigiri into shape before placing them onto the grill grid to let them cook under low fire. Rice made some popcorn noise while being burned by fire. She only began to prepare bento box ever since she moved in with Hatuta. He had a busy job and she did not want her to have an undisciplined diet. Ten years passed, she was still preparing the same type of bento, but only for a different person.

There was noise coming out from the room, very likely to be her child tossing and turning in the bed. He would soon be up, then walk to her in clumsy steps and cling to her body. She turned up the fire to have the onigiri done grilling sooner; she then turned it down again, worrying that they might get burned. She suddenly thought of the egg roll that she forgot to make, as well as the sesame to sprinkle on the boiled vegetables. And breakfast too! There was still the breakfast to prepare. Every meal was a chain that kept her imprisoned. The popcorn noise suddenly reminded her of the onigiri, although she rushed to switch off the fire, it could not save them from being a little burned.

“Don’t let your effort go in vain. The normal soy sauce onigiri is tasty enough.” Hatuta’s words came to her mind all of a sudden.

“Hatuta, am I wasting my effort?” Yukiko mumbled to herself.

7.
Hatuta stuffed the noodle cup and onigiri package into a plastic bag and finished the last sip of coffee from the can. He clicked open his photo-retouching software, getting ready to finish editing the rest of his photography. While loading the files, he could not help to read Yukiko’s mail again. He was not sure if she was waiting for his reply?

8.
“Yukiko,

Hello. Thanks for your mail.
It was only until recently did I realize the charm of chilled grilled onigiri. Although it is no longer crispy, it is tasty in its unique way. Thank you.

Best wishes,
Hatuta”

*

燒飯團
材料:白飯兩碗、柴魚片約兩克。
調味料:醬油、味醂各一湯匙。

做法:
1. 把熱的白飯拌入柴魚片、醬油及味醂。
2. 將平底鍋加熱,不用放油。
3. 將調了味的飯團握成飯團。
4. 在平底鍋上舖上牛油紙,再放在飯團。
5. 慢火將飯團烤至一面變金黃色,再烤另一面。完成。

Grilled onigiri
Ingredients: 2 bowls of rice, 2 grams of bonito flakes.
Seasoning: 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of mirin.

Steps:
1. Add bonito flakes, soy sauce and mirin to the hot rice.
2. Heat up a pan; do not put oil.
3. Shape the seasoned rice into balls.
4. Place a baking sheet on the pan and put onigiri on top.
5. Pan fry in low heat until both sides of the onigiri turn golden brown. Ready to serve.