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    Just saw Atsushi off. He did the dishes after dinner yesterday, so there’s not much cleaning up to do. Of course, the inside of my refrigerator looks like most people’s hall closets–leftover everything wedged in wherever there was still space. I’m going to be having sauerbraten sandwiches and fried potato dumplings for days, but it’s always worth cooking for Atsushi. Like all Japanese boys, he was brought up to believe that he’d live at home or in a company dormitory until about age 25. After that he’d marry and have someone to take care of him.

    The mouthy, hairy, oversexed American man he finally found to take care of him at 32 is not exactly what his acculturators had in mind, but, while he learned to do laundry and brew coffee while passing through his twenties, he fortunately remained innocent of cooking know-how of any kind. Thus, he still gets that priceless look of delighted surprise whenever I put food on the table: Wow, hon. How’d you turn those three bags of groceries into this?

    The only close call I had was with the dumplings. I didn’t try to cut corners by paring them before boiling, but I did kind of start making the batter before they’d been chilled really thoroughly. And we all know what happens when you don’t chill your potatoes thoroughly before you make your dumpling batter, don’t we? Your dumplings fail to hold their shape, that’s what. Luckily, they don’t taste any different as cumulus-cloud-like oblongs from what they would as perfect spheres, and with the breadcrumbs and butter mixed in and the meat and gravy and vegetables joining them, shapeliness was beside the point.

    With dessert we had coffee made in the coffeemaker that was half of Atsushi’s Christmas present to me. The other half is the much-needed vacuum cleaner I’ve been doing without. Yeah, I know, it sounds a little Fred-and-Ethel, but we’ve gotten into the habit of giving each other something practical for Christmas and something more romantic for our birthdays. Today is the last housecleaning day I’ll be faking my way to clean with a push mop between washings.

    This was a bad weekend for weather and other natural forces in multiple parts of the world, so I hope everyone was able to stay safe. Only three or four more workdays until Atsushi comes home for the New Year’s holiday, which is when life really stops for family-and-friends time in Japan. Best to everyone else who still has a few more days of the grind to go.

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