Ode to Oden
When we first met, I was scared of you, not having the slightest understanding of what you were.
My parents once described your appearance as trash floating around in dirty bathtub water.
But I’ve learned better, and I now know you’re the best food in Japan.
I don’t know if the Master has ever changed out the broth you’re floating in. I just think he adds a cup or two more every day to keep up appearances.
I might be drinking some broth from 1973, but maybe that’s why you’re so tasty and delicious.
In Japan, the tiniest of details are always managed for me. Everything is done to the height of perfection before it ever arrives on my table.
But not with you. With you, I’m the hunter. I get up, stalking over towards your steaming vat of goodness, searching for my favorites, eagerly picking at the sticks to see if they’ve been broth darkened, to see how long you’ve been idling away in your stock.
Oden eaters are Oden Otaku, dejectedly frowning when another of our clique comes away with a better array of choices, grinning like lotto winners when we find the best pieces.
Don’t fret when I drop you to take one of your older brothers or sisters, I’ll be back later for you too. My appetite isn’t so easily satiated, and by the end of my meal, I’ll have an entire array of pointy sticks aligned across my plate, 100 yen each.
You aren’t the prettiest of sights. I often find that a vat of Oden looks somewhat like a bunch of old cocks floating in a sewer drain.
In Japan, where presentation is everything, somehow this fact slipped under the bubble, made it past the inspectors.
But we’re all better for it, because on a cold day, there’s nothing better than a plateful of you, some miso paste, mustard and a cold beer.
Somehow it all costs me almost nothing.
When summer rolls around, your numbers shrink, disappearing from convenience stores and restaurants, I can only dream of when the air begins to chill again, when I might find your dirty bathwater goodness once again.
Keep on Keep’n on, Oden.