Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Gifts 2008

What secrets are hidden inside?

As the Japanese population continues to decline, many English schools have been specifically targeting having kids take their classes. The not-so-dearly-departed chain conversation school Nova had a "Nova Kids" class to attract parents who wanted to give their off-spring a leg up on their English learning. It's not that parents care if their kids speak English so much as they want them to do well on university entrance exams.

Teaching kids is a whole other kettle of fish than teaching adults. You have to have a different bag of tricks since they are likely complying with a parents' directive to study with you, not seeing it as something they want to do. Some people (God bless them) are all for teaching kids and know how to handle them. They can make them laugh and learn at the same time. I'm not one of them. I have no rapport with children. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'd get along better with an alien if it dropped from the sky and perched on my sofa with the intention of learning to communicate with me.

My CH, on the other hand, has a natural rapport with kids. However, he still has little interest in teaching them for the aforementioned reasons. Fortunately, his school doesn't tend to attract many children and the ones he has taught have been pretty cooperative. Incidentally, his school doesn't attract them because its raison d'etre is pretty much one to one lessons and kids don't tend to like being on the spot all the time so much as being in groups where they can hide or carry on with friends.

One of the two kids he has taught has a very traditional mother who follows the tradition of giving summer gifts each year. This tradition is fading more and more as time goes by. Yesterday, the lovely boxes pictured above were proffered.

The kind of tasty secrets that need refrigeration.

Inside them are sweet treats. We haven't sampled the cake yet, but it's very, very dense and heavy. It's rather reminiscent of a fruitcake in terms of its weight and by touch. All we know right now is that it's chocolate and has walnuts. I'm betting it'd pair well with some vanilla ice cream. The other cakes are like dense madeleines with an ultra-thin slice of somewhat bitter orange on top.

Though these gifts in no way indicate affection as they are from the mother and a formal gesture in accord with very traditional Japanese culture, the student himself is rather partial to being taught by my husband. There was a scheduling mix-up at one point and my husband wasn't available to teach the young man. The secretary at the school said he (the boy) could just take another teacher's lesson but this made him somewhat visibly upset and he declined and told them he'd have his mother speak with them as he always took my CH's lesson. The next day, he got the lesson he wanted.

Of course, it's not like I don't sympathize with his sentiment. I would accept no substitute for my CH either. ;-)


1tess said...

Those look very beautiful. I'm curious how the cake will taste. There is a recipe in my book for a "light and delightful" steamed chocolate cake in my book. It was not exactly light! And it tasted very rich, though it had no butter!
It has wheat and rice flour, bittersweet chocolate, and 6 eggs (for 8 or 9 servings). The whipped egg-whites provide the leavening. The flavor was intensely chocolate and delicious but I don't know if it was like a cake in Japan!
I served it with a candied orange rind-orange syrup included with the recipe, and orange segments (or fresh raspberries).

Orchid64 said...

Tess: I tried the cake since posting and it seems to be quite similar to what you describe. It is dense, but moist and very chocolatey. The distribution of air is quite reminiscent of of leavening by folding in egg whites (as it is uneven and has flattened oval-shaped air pockets rather than rounder ones).

It also seems to have been made with slivered almonds (inside) and orange peel.

It's quite good, much better than I'd expect given how heavy it is.

Thanks for commenting!

Helen said...

I just wanted to comment on teaching children.

It's basically a skill like any other teaching skill. It has to be developed in the teacher.

I had no interest in teaching children when I came over here and didn't have to for years, but got thrown into the waters of teaching kids, kicking and screaming about it all the way!

I think that when I stopped thinking of children as "kids" and started thinking of them as "small people" I got a lot better at teaching them. I've been lucky to not have any real monsters, although some of my students have added greatly to my grey hair!

There's a certain amount of pride that comes when I'm teaching a child and they spontaneously say something in English that I taught them.

I'm not a "great" children's teacher, but I hope to be a good teacher of children.

I need adult students for my own intellectual stimulation, but the sad reality of English teaching in Japan is that parents would rather spend money on their children's classes than on classes for themselves.

Anyway, enjoy your cakes!!

(PS...can I put a link up from my blog to yours? )

Orchid64 said...

Helen: I agree it certainly is a skill to teach children! I think though that some people have a better knack for it or adapt to what is required better than others. I'd be the first to admit I might not be good at adapting, though I think I could muddle through. Kids are very perceptive and less inhibited. I think they'd know you're (that "you" would be, er, *me*) uncomfortable with them and be more likely to act out against your discomfort.

I applaud your flexibility and ability to learn how to manage them!

I'd be very pleased if you linked to my blog from yours. I posted a comment in your rhubarb thread (along with what I hoped was a working URL for the Japanese page that didn't work before) which addressed that question, but I guess the comment got lost in the ether or delayed.

Thanks for your comment!

Helen said...

I think the comment was lost in the ether. Darn that ether anyway! I just checked, I didn't have any unmoderated comments.

I added your blog. Thanks!

1tess said...

Thanks. I have wondered if the recipes in my study book reflect actual, real, homemade Japanese food. So maybe (??) some of the recipes do.
The Japanese woman I've known for about 20 years is very private. She is interested in my cooking exploration, but does not want to comment except to say that she does not cook much Japanese food anymore.
Her (Jewish) husband died suddenly a few years ago. My (Jewish) husband helped her learn to back a car up and to cut her grass...
Anyway, you are not going to teach me about my friends, but I'm glad to hear a confirmation that the recipe was possibly close...

Orchid64 said...

Hmm, Tess, I wasn't trying to teach you about your friends, so I'm not sure what your comment referred to. If I said something which offended you or overstepped some boundary somewhere, I apologize.

I'm not trying to teach anyone anything, really. I'm just offering my thoughts on things.

Thanks for commenting!

1tess said...

Oh, sorry. I think I was talking to myself: I got to wondering about my friend and sort of forgot I was typing... Apologies.
I never asked, but would you mind if I update the link on my site to your new blog?

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Tess! No problem on the misunderstanding!

And it'd be great if you included a link to my blog. :-)