Emi Ueda learned how to cook both Japanese and Chinese foods from her mother. Ueda taught one of the first Cooking As A First Language classes on how to make sushi.
In Japan, she is a licensed home economics teacher for junior high and high school. In preparation for the role, she learned how to cook French foods in addition to more Japanese and Chinese recipes.
Over time, Ueda realized her favorite style of cooking was the one that drew her back to what was familiar, what reminded her of home.
“I like to make Japanese food because it looks beautiful,” Ueda said.
But not every recipe comes easily to the home cook.
“When I try to make sweets, it is difficult to get quantities correct, so I have failed often,” Ueda said.
She heard about the Cooking As A First Language classes after a friend invited her to go, knowing Ueda was a proficient cook in her own right. Ueda has since added several new American recipes to her repertoire.
“I have learned how to make American foods for the first time in the cooking class, and I like learning about the ingredients that Americans use because they are so different from Japanese,” Ueda said. “Since we now live in America, I enjoy learning about American food and culture and am happy to make new friends.”
But some dishes still bring the home cook back East. Osechi Ryori is a traditional Japanese New Year lacquered box comprised of several treats such as salads, omelettes, meat and vegetable dishes; candied, sweet or pickled treats; and fish cakes.
Ueda also enjoys sushi, a seven-herb rice porridge called nanakusa gayu eaten during a New Year feast, and tsukimi dango, or moon viewing dumplings made of rice flour and often flavored with matcha, cocoa, coconut or espresso powders and filled with syrups or red bean paste. Tsukimi dango are typically made for festivals celebrating viewing the moon in autumn.