I don’t remember when this tradition started and by the time I was four, Sunday night was curry rice night. Japanese style curry is different from Indian, Thai, or Chinese Curry. The soup is lot thicker and darker in color and always, it’s over rice. Beef curry is perhaps the most popular kind, followed by pork, chicken, and seafood. We always had beet curry rice at home.
In the beginning, everyone ate the same curry rice and by the time I was seven or eight, we had two types of curry: Thin curry for dad and regular “thick” curry for my sister, my mom and I. The thin curry was a watered down version of thick curry, which no one liked, except my dad. I disliked it because it tasted like, well, thinned down curry, less flavor than the thick one and I saw no meaning in that. The reason for thin curry was because, according to my dad, that was the curry he grew up eating, not because it tasted better.
My father grew up post-WWII when the most of Japan was poor, and some people had literary nothing to eat. Though his family was poor, they had food to eat because they had land to grow some vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Once a week, they had curry rice for dinner. But, because the food was scarce, they needed to make it last as long as they could to feed the family of six. The way to do that was to thin down with water, so they have more to eat. It was not necessary delicious, but because it was the style of curry my dad used eating, even after he had his own family, that was the curry he wanted to eat.
Sukiyaki was another dish my dad had a strong say in the flavor, though, luckily, everyone liked the way he seasoned. Sukiyaki at home was one of my dad’s favorite dishes. My mom put portable stove top on the dining table along with Sukiyaki Iron Pot and threw, beef, enoki mushrooms, shirataki (clear noodle made from potato), baked tofu, long green onions, shyungiki (greens) and shredded daikon radish. My dad seasoned it with soy sauce, sugar, and sake and it tasted great.
My mom made both my sister’s and my bento lunch box every day when I was in kindergarten. During cold winter days, there was a bento warmer at school, and all the kids put their bento wax in the warmer to slowly heat them up It was nice and warm by lunch time. The trick for my mom was to avoid putting fresh salad or vegetables because they tasted awful when heated up in the warmer. I remember the smell or rice and other food filled the classroom, making all of us hungry.