Building bridges

Trends & Culture - July 19th, 1974

by Yurie Horiguchi

As most foreigners are aware, very few Japanese entertain in their own homes, with the exception of inviting immediate relatives and a very intimate friend or two.

Now that so many urbanites consider themselves to be middle and upper-middle class, living in so-called “mansions” or owning their own small homes in outlying districts, that trend seems to be chang­ing.

In a recent Tokyo Shimbun supplement, four pages were devoted to ways and means of giving a “homu partei” (home party), as the Japanese call it.

Some of the ideas are so interesting that I thought I would pass them on.

First, says the writer, the hostess must rid her­self of the idea that a “homu partei” necessitates setting a sumptuous and expensive meal (gochiso) before her guests.

Now that summer is here, she suggests a yukata (cotton kimono) party or a muu-muu and aloha-shirt party. Let the guests be comfortable!

If the house or apartment is small and one has children, arrange with relatives or neighbors to have them stay overnight. Then clear your main tatami rooms of superfluous furniture—push every­thing into one room or against the walls.

Don’t worry about laying in expensive drinks. Serve beer. For a yukata party, the ideal food would be inexpensive cold somen or soba which can either be made at home earlier in the day, or ordered from a local sobaya. Your own addition would be to see that there are interesting soba “dips” and plenty of small side-dishes to add to the dip.

Or make a large platter of gomoku-sushi (sushi rice mixed with a variety of ingredients), and prepare another plate of mixed Japanese pickles.

Another suggestion is to serve a large platter of cold kara-age  (seasoned deep fried) chicken, which can be cooked in the morning or the day before, together with a mixed salad.

Bowls of cold tofu (bean curd) swimming in ice water, is another party suggestion, with a variety of sauces into which to dip the pieces. As this would not be enough in itself, it would be a good addition to a kara-age or gomoku-sushi spread.

If you want to show off your Western cooking talent, make several meat loaves, to be eaten cold with sliced tomatoes and/or potato salad.

With the current “wine boom” it is possible to buy inexpensive bottles which can be offered as a beer alternative.

All the suggestions are practical and eminently economical, and everything can be prepared before­hand so that the hostess is not flushed and tired from cooking at the last moment, nor is the apart­ment over-heated from the kitchen gas range.

A final suggestion, which I rather enjoy, is to let your guests use your shower if they arrive hot and sticky.