From sushi to meatloaf

Madison's Stewart bridges cultural divide

She holds cooking classes for Japanese women

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (January 2004) – When Yaeko Kakimoto, a native of Japan who now calls Madison, Ind., home, asked Jane Stewart for her spiced pecans recipe, “I thought that instead of sending her the recipe I’d just ask her to come over and show her how to make them,” said Stewart.

Japanese Cooks

Photo by Ruth Wright

Japanese women in Stewart's class.

The invitation was the beginning of what has since become an informal cooking class Stewart now offers to several Japanese women living in the area. Twice each month, Stewart invites the ladies into her kitchen, where she teaches them to prepare traditional American recipes.
Keiko Hattor, who has lived in Madison for three years, said that tuna and salmon are some of her favorite recipes. Meatloaf is a favorite of Akira Shibata’s family.
One primary difference between American and Japanese recipes is the way ingredients are measured. In Japan, where the metric system is the standard, scales are often used to weigh ingredients. Natsuko, who has lived in Madison for three years and just recently joined Stewart’s class, said she had to adjust to using a different measuring system.
The cooking class favorites are as varied as the dishes they make. Sayoko Ogata favors desserts, “Because I like sweets,” she said. Hisae Michimoto said her family likes the salmon. Eiko Masahiko said she just enjoys learning typical American recipes, particularly different sauces.
Fumiyo “Sue” Oshimi, who has only lived in Madison for seven months, is new to Stewart’s class. Oshimi said she hopes to learn to make vegetable soup.
The class started last February with five or six ladies who began meeting at Stewart’s house every other week. Soon, Stewart received so many requests that she had to divide the class into two. Each class now meets once a month.
Stewart said she typically likes to help the ladies prepare an entre, a vegetable, a salad and a dessert each class. After the work is done, she sits down at the dining room table with her students to enjoy the fruits of their labor. “Jane’s recipe’s are very good,” Kakimoto said.

Jane Stewart with cooks

Photo by Ruth Wright

Jane Stewart (center) with students.

Stewart admitted that, although most of the women had studied the English language before moving to the United States, communication in the beginning was sometimes slow. “They understood a third, I understood a third, and the other third we less pass,” said Stewart.
The use of a hand-held computerized translator and an Japanese-English dictionary helped the process. “I think we’re doing much better now,” said Stewart.
A retired registered dietitian, Stewart has worked as a food service director at the Madison State Hospital and at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in Tallahassee, Fla. She also worked for several years as the director of food services for the Lake County, Fla., school system, which included 30 kitchens.
Stewart moved in 1990 into her downtown Madison home, where her spacious kitchen provides plenty of elbow room for the students. Before starting her cooking class, Stewart said had put her house up for sale and had considered moving away from the area. Now her students are hoping she’ll decide to stay around for a while.

Back to January 2004 Articles.



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