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Please Just Call me Masako

Just the other day, one of my fellow workers at the restaurant I’ve been working at for the past year or so offhandedly called me “chef.” I felt so uncomfortable that without thinking, I immediately responded, almost pleadingly, “Please just call me Masako!” But this back and forth is a common occurrence for me, and so I started thinking about why exactly I feel this discomfort, unease with being called such a thing.

In my childhood home where I grew up, my parents would have guests over for dinner or lunch so often that our family often felt bigger than the four of us. Our house was very small, which meant that our kitchen and dining room were one and the same. Therefore, when someone was coming over, we would turn our tatami-floored guest bedroom – the “shinshitsu” – into a makeshift dining room, moving the temporary table into the space. The shinshitsu was also where I slept, which meant even when I was young, I always stayed up with whoever had come to eat until the moment they left. These guests were from all walks; my parents ran a steel fabrication factory, so our employees were always a given, but other nights our home would open to my parents’ friends, my school teachers, even my parents’ doctors from the hospital. I think an invitation to dinner was how my parents showed their care and generosity. What I remember so clearly from these dinners are the thoughts that hid in the corners of my own elementary school brain of “wow, these important guests, these wealthy guests,” but now I know that the kinds of friendships and bonds that my parents were creating through these evenings ran much deeper than my marvelings, and that in fact my thoughts could not have been further from the truth of their experience.

In the past few years, I too have had the blessing of getting to know people from all walks of life through communion and food. Like my own parents, I yearn to build connection, warmth, and shared joy through cooking and eating with others. I always hope I’m slowly getting there. Maybe this is why getting called “chef” feels so wrong, so uncomfortable for me.

When I was little, the majority of desserts I ate at home were made from azuki beans and rice; cakes and pastries were reserved exclusively for birthdays and Christmas time. Thus, when guests would sometimes come for dinner and bring a box of colorful, beautifully baked cookies from an upscale shop in Tokyo, I would spend hours upon hours for weeks afterwards opening the tin, deciding which cookie to eat that day, marveling and looking through each sweet. This activity was the great joy of my childhood. And when finally we had finished all of the cookies, my mother would give me the empty tin and I would use it to store all of my trinkets. To this day, these memories stick with me as vividly as yesterday. And so this year, after all this time, I am realizing my dream of making my own tin of cookies that will, I hope, make someone happy and taste delicious too. I’ve sold different cookie combinations in the past, but this time, I’ve re-tested and improved many different recipes and have settled on six different cookies – all textures and flavors unique from each other. And all organic flours, of course. I hope this little tin is something you can enjoy with family, with friends, or as a gift to someone else. To see a list of the cookie types, please take a look at the website. And there will be a surprise when you open up the box.

I will be doing just one sale this month. I will also be selling a collection of jams and marmalades that I’ve made over the course of the year using seasonal fruits. I will be waiting for you at my house with coffee and a pastry for you to eat, so give yourself a little extra time when picking up! As the end of the year approaches, I look forward to getting to see you all!








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