Autumn food memory: oden

Oden is a Japanese one-pot soup dish that is very popular throughout autumn and winter seasons in Japan. The dish consists of boiled root vegetables, eggs, and processed fishcakes, all stewed in a large claypot. When the air gets cooler and the leaves start falling in autumn, oden starts to make a frequent appearance at family dinner tables. One can even buy oden at a convenience store for a quick snack and warmth.

On the contrary to the popularity of this dish, however, growing up, I never liked oden. Whenever my mother announced that we were going to have oden for supper, I would make a bitter face and protest,

“Oden? I hate it! Can’t we eat something else?”

That was rather rude of me both to the dish and the cook, but that was how much I disliked oden.

But when I was about nine, two events happened that changed my attitude toward oden forever.

One autumn morning, my mother was out for her chorus practice, and my father and I were sitting at the table, eating breakfast. My father was checking a few mails on the table when his face suddenly lit up.

“Sweetie, we have two coupons for a FREE oden boiled egg!”

There was a convenience store right behind my primary school, and the coupons were sent from the store in the form of postcards.

“Let’s go there and have some oden today!”

A few hours later, my father and I hopped onto our bikes and made a quick visit to the convenience store. Once at the store, my father handed the two coupon postcards to the person behind the counter and asked him for two boiled eggs. In front of my eyes, the shop person took out a plastic container and scooped up two boiled eggs from the steaming oden pot on the counter.

As soon as we got back home, we opened the container, and each had one boiled oden egg. The egg was so juicy and hot like no other boiled egg I had ever tried before.

“Wow, this is so delicious!” I exclaimed, and my father smiled.

“Of course, it’s oden. What else do you expect?”

A few weeks later, a local college hosted its annual festival event, and one of our family’s acquaintances invited us to the festival and told us to visit their outdoor stall. It so happened that they sold oden.

At the stall, my father ordered one potato oden. In a plastic bowl, a huge, boiled potato was served with soup. I was first amazed by its size, but as soon as we sat down on a bench and started eating the potato, I was impressed by its taste.

“How delicious it is!” I exclaimed. “I’ve never had such a delicious, boiled potato before!”

It could have been because of the cold air outside why the hot boiled potato appealed to me so deeply that day. But in any case, after these two memorable incidents, my opinion of oden was never the same. I stopped complaining about oden when it was served at home, and slowly, I started to appreciate the dish.