Tonight I saw the first snowflakes of the season.
Serendipitous, as my roommate and I had already decided tonight was the night to celebrate the coming of cozy season. En route to stock up on supplies for the evening’s festivities, I struggled to keep my hands steady on the wheel as the first sight of snow always sets me off in childlike exuberance.
Snow! Snowflakes! IT’S SNOWING!
One of the very first pieces of writing I ever had published was a poem I wrote, “Ode to Snow.” I tried to dig it out for you but it’s buried somewhere in a digital dungeon or possibly even an actual paper copy in an even more deeply buried box.
So instead, I’m going to share with you one of my favourite ways to kick off cozy season, the way my roommate and I did tonight. It’s a tradition I’m carrying on from my four years of living in Japan: NABE!
How to Nabe
Disclaimer: this is not a cooking or recipe blog, and I have no intention of making it so. But nabe isn’t really cooking, it’s more an assemble-way-more-food-than-you-need and then eat-way-more-food-than-you-should kind of situation.
Disclaimer 2: One should not attempt nabe alone. Do it with family, or roommates, or friends, or acquaintances you want to become your friends. It’s very much a communal meal and you’ll see why… it’s pretty much impossible to do in small portions!
Step One: Make a shopping list and check it twice
…Or just go into the supermarket and throw stuff you feel like eating in your basket until it’s overflowing.
Step Two: Assemble the ingredients!
There are really no rules to what you can put in nabe. I usually start with choosing a soup base flavour (in this case, tonkotsu shouyu, basically a rich and flavourful pork broth soup). Then vegetables of choice, meat/protein of choice, dumplings of choice, noodles of choice, beverage of choice and sides of choice… lots of choices, you get the idea.
Step Three: Put it on the stove and start the fire
In the meantime, get your feasting space ready and assemble anything else you need for the eating part!
Note: leave things that cook quickly like thinly sliced meats, noodles and bean sprouts out until almost the end so they don’t overcook.
Step Four: Select appropriately-themed entertainment
Nabe gets me feeling nostalgic for Japan so I usually opt for something on theme.
Step Five: Check on your nabe often, it doesn’t take long!
Once it’s almost ready, add the rest of the things and turn the flame way down or off so you don’t cook off too much soup.
You can add more things in several rounds, this is a slow meal and if you do it right you will not feel like moving after so make sure everything you need (extra things to add to the pot, beverages, blanket, TV remote) is in arm’s reach so you can stay put for an hour or three.
Step Six: Serve up some nabe!
Then, add more things to the pot! Eat more nabe! Repeat indefinitely / until you are incapacitated!
Step Seven: Don’t plan to do anything after
I am breaking this rule, just this once, for you. Go Team Peppers!
Have you ever had nabe, and if so what are your go-to ingredients? What is your favourite cozy season meal? Do you have any traditions you’ve picked up from other places or people that you carry on? Share your thoughts in the comments below!