Up early on a Saturday morning. Uwajimaya.
I like to do my grocery shopping early in the morning or late at night, because I hate crowds. I haven't been to Uwajimaya for a while, that Japanese supermarket on the edge of Seattle's International District. The original one was a few blocks north, smaller and a little bit dingier. There was a café at one end, and a bookstore upstairs; I would go up there and read comics while my mom went shopping. Sometimes, if I was lucky, my mom would buy me Pocky crackers, sweet pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate, or strawberry frosting, or bags of White Rabbit candy, chewy milk-flavored candy wrapped in translucent rice-paper, which dissolved on the tongue as you ate it.
Later Uwajimaya moved to a much bigger, new building, with apartments upstairs and a parking garage below. Now there is a food court with sushi, Korean barbecue, Chinese noodles, different stalls selling whatever you might be craving. Everything is bright and gleaming under the high ceiling, from the fresh fish at the seafood counter to the plastic-wrapped meats in their refrigerated cases. There is a hair salon, a shop for trendy eyeglasses, a separate bookstore, an enticing housewares department with dozens of different kinds of rice cookers and a dazzling display of glazed ceramic bowls.
As you enter you see the bank of cash registers ahead and to the right. To your left is the produce section, piles and piles of fruits and vegetables. You could get your ordinary carrots and onions and mushrooms and zucchini, but why would you when there are jade-leafed baby Shanghai bok choy, shiny dark slender Japanese and Chinese eggplants, crisp little cucumbers. I buy some bok choy and cucumbers (which will be sliced and marinated with soy sauce and vinegar and sesame oil) and scallions (of which I am almost never without) and a white limb of daikon radish.
And then I need some pork (for soup) and cornish game hens (also, for soup). I've promised C. homemade wontons, so I get some ground pork for my filling. Wander towards the tofu aisle. There is soft tofu (which I need for my wontons) and firm tofu (for soup) and dried soy-marinated tofu (for...whatever). I haven't cooked like this for a while, and it is like slipping into something old and comfortable. I find some wide wheat noodles (for soup); a small bottle of sesame oil finds its way into the cart. Perhaps I will slice the dried tofu into strips, sprinkle them with finely chopped scallions, and drizzle everything with soy sauce and sesame oil. There is some sashimi, pale slices of white tuna. Hamachi collars will be sprinkled with salt and broiled until the skin becomes crispy. I need chopsticks; I need to liberate the rice cooker from my mother's kitchen. It's time to cook like this again, the way I used to.
On my way to the cash register I spy a gigantic pile of strawberry Pocky, which I can never resist. I am so elated that it is not until I am home unloading the groceries when it hits me. I have forgotten the wonton skins.