Making Soba, Then Having Lunch

We placed our shoes in the book shelves near the door and stepped into the small cafeteria where a table full of older Japanese women pointed and whispered about the huge gaigins that had just slid into their domain. We were in central Japan, a small farming and mountain area known as the Southern Japanese Alps.

We tied on blue striped aprons that covered all of Cassidy and the bottom of her feet and barely made it to the top of Dad's jeans. An old man missing two fingers led us into a room filled with cutting boards, knives, wooden bowls, and bags of buck wheat, all the ingredients of good home-made soba noodles. We piled in around one of the wooden cutting boards and watched as he filled a bowl with buck wheat flour

The Worldhoppers at 'Soba School"

and used his years of experience to add just the right amount of water. He demonstrated how to knead the goo against the side of the bowl and then motioned us into action.

We each took turns, squishing, compressing and pulling the tan mass. When he was satisfied that our labour had churned the dough to the right consistency he showed us how to use the large rolling pin to thin the dough out. Of course we massacred the beautifully timed movements that would make our noodles all the same thickness and had to turn over our Soba for the instructor to finish. He folded the flat dough over on itself and pulled out a huge cutting knife that looked more like it was used to chop small redwoods down. He told us to cut it into very thin stripes and motioned how to line the blade up against your fingers and push down and forward.

We all shuddered as we stared at the lack of two of his fingers. He laughed as he explained that those had been accidentally removed when he was seven and cutting silk worms on his families farm. This was no problem if you did it just right, and since we had demonstrated our obvious talent for making soba already, he had confidence in us. We shoved everything over to dad first.

Once our noodles were cut we boiled them for about a minute and then rinsed them with cold water, tossed them in a wood box and took them to a table. Um, um good!

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