Soba

2014年01月29日

Soba

Grateful Crane

In the Edo era, there were soba stands here and there called ‘Ni-Hachi soba,’or ‘2-8 soba.’
Because a cup of soba-noodles were served for 16mon (Mon was a fractional monetary unit in old days in Japan.)

One evening, a soba seller pulled his yatai (a small movable booth with a small equipped counter and a bench) to the road and waited for customers.

A man approached the soba booth, and said,
“Hey, Soba man. ”
“Good evening, sir, may I help you?”
the soba seller said.
“What kind of soba are you serving?
Oh, you are serving shippoku and hanamaki?
I’d like a cup of shippoku.
It’s cold out, isn’t it?
I need something hot to warm me up.”

“All right sir.”
“How is your business?”
“Not so good,” the soba man answered.
“Is that so? That’s good for you?”
“Good? I said not so good.”
“That’s why I said it’s good.
After a good business, follows bad things, and vice versa.
Everything in the world is rotating.
Don’t let it get you down too much.
What you need is patience.”

“You are right. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Oh, look at your andon. (a paper-covered lamp stand)
It has a good sign on it, a target and an arrow.
I have plans this evening.
Because I’ve just encountered this sign, I’m sure I’ll be a lucky man.
As I like soba noodles, whenever I see this sign, I’ll come again.
“Thank you, sir. And here’s your soba.”
“Oh, so soon?
Every soba man should serve like you do.
We are quick-tempered.
If the order doesn’t come soon, we complain.
If it still doesn’t come, then we eventually lose our appetite.”
In this way he continued talking.
“Oh, you’re using disposable chopsticks.
I’m impressed.
Most soba-sellers have used-chopsticks.
I don’t like the ones someone has already used, especially the ones whose tips are wet.
Yucky! But these are nice—.
(The man began to eat blowing on his hot noodles.)
You use a good bowl.
Soba in a good bowl gives you a good appetite, because it makes the food you serve look delicious.
Even restaurants around here might not use bowls as good as this one.
—Smells good. You must use a lot of dried bonito for the stock.
They say making good stock is a hard job.
It isn’t easy to make this taste.
Some ‘Ni-Hachi soba’ is pretty salty—.
I’ve tried soba here and there— But— uh, these noodles are really thin, very good.
Soba noodles should be thin, but sometimes I encounter such thick soba noodles they are like udon.
We don’t eat soba as a substitute for rice, so they should be thin.
I don’t like thick ones—I’ve never eaten such good soba as this.
Oh, I’m not making lip service to you —.
Uh, your chikuwa (steamed fish cake) is thick.
Do you make a profit from serving this thick chikuwa?
You said all right, huh.
Uh, somewhere I ate soba that was served with imitated Chikuwa-fu.
(Fu is wheat-gluten bread.)
I didn’t like it.
But it’s all right for patients, you know.
Yours is genuine—oh, how nice.
To tell you the truth, the soba noodles here are so good, but I came here to kill the bitter taste I’ve had before.
So I don’t need another cup. Sorry.”

“Oh, that’s all right.”

“How much do I owe you?”

“Well, it has some ingredients on the top, so it’s 16mon.”
“I only have small change, so I’ll put them into your palms.
Hold out your hands.”
“Yes, sir, here you are.”
“You said 16mon, right? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, what time is it now?”
“Well, nine, isn’t it?”
“Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen— See ya,”
he said, and left.

Another true-born foolish Edo man, who was standing near the booth, saw it from the beginning.
“What a man he is!
He spoke too much.
He kept talking to the soba man from the beginning to the end.
I wonder if he could eat soba noodles without talking,”
he thought to himself.
“He said, yatai.JPG
‘Hey, soba man. It’s cold, isn’t it?’ yatai.JPG
Then what did he say? The low temperature isn’t the soba man’s fault.
‘How is your business?’
‘Not so good,’ he answered.
‘Is that so? That’s good?’
‘Good? I said not so good’
‘That’s why I said it’s good.
After a good business, follows bad things, and vice versa. yatai.JPG
Everything in the world is rotating.
Don’t let it get you down too much.
What you need is patience.’
He is clever, isn’t he?
‘Oh, your andon has a good sign on it, a target and an arrow. I have plans this evening.
Because I’ve just encountered this sign, I’m sure I’m going to be a lucky man.’
He’s going to be a lucky man?
I don’t think so.
All his talk was nonsense.
About disposable chopsticks, a good bowl, good stock, fine noodles, and thick chikuwa—.
He talked so much I thought he would leave without paying his bill.
If he’d left without paying, I’d have given him a lesson.
But he paid. Ruts!
I didn’t enjoy it very much—. He asked,
‘How much do I owe you?’
Why did he ask the price?
You know soba is always 16mon for one cup.
‘I have some small change, so I’ll put them on your palm. Hold out your hands.’
The way he counted was— like a child.

‘You said 16mon, right?
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, what time is it now?’
‘Well, nine, isn’t it?’
‘Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen—.’
Gee-whiz!
He asked the time there.
Very unusual.
Why did he ask the time in the middle of counting?
If I were him, I’d have miscounted.
Very strange.
‘How much?’
’16mon..’
‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, what time is it now?’
‘Well, nine.’
‘Ten, eleven, twelve—‘ I can’t get why the guy asked for the time there. Wait a minute. How much?’
’16mon.’
‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, what time is it now?’
‘Well, nine.’
‘Ten—‘
Ten! It’s not ‘Ten’, is it?
See, he miscounted! ‘Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen—.’
He counted one less!
Actually he saved 1mon.
How sly he is!
The soba man will never notice.
It went really smoothly.
‘How much?’
’16mon.’
‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, what time is it now?’
‘Well, nine.’
‘Ten—.’ Hmm, it sounds easy. I’ll try it.”

But he had to wait until the next evening because he had no change on him that night.
The next day, he prepared some change and went out earlier than he did the previous night and waited for a soba man to come along.
“Hey, Soba man. I’m here.
I’ve called you a couple of times, but you’re going ahead so fast.
What kind of soba are you serving?
Oh, you are serving shippoku and hanamaki?
I’d like a cup of shippoku.
It’s cold out, isn’t it?
I need something hot to warm me up.”
“Well, sir. It’s rather warm this evening.”
“Oh, actually, it’s warm.
It’s warm all right. But it was cold last night.”
“You are right. It was cold last night.”
“How is your business?”
“Not so bad. I have some good customers.
So the business is going well.”
the soba man answered.

“Is that so? —Oh, boy.
I can’t handle this conversation—.
But you see, don’t feel at ease.
After a good business, follows bad things, and vice versa.
Everything in the world is rotating.
Don’t let it get you down too much.
What you need is patience.”

“I think so too. I always keep it in mind.”
“You seem like you know everything I’m about to say.
Oh, your andon has a good sign on it, a target and an—.
No. Your sign is kanji 孫 (mago, that means grand children) in a circle.
What do you call it?
Hmm, Magoya, or something?
That’s good. I have plans this evening.
Because I’ve just encountered this sign, I’m sure I’ll be a kind of magnet this evening.
Never mind—. We are quick-tempered.
What we ordered should come soon—.
If it doesn’t go that way— Well, it’s all right.
Some Edo men can’t wait, but I’m one who can wait.
I can wait. I can wai—t. I can wai—t. Hey, you haven’t finish yet?

“I’m terribly sorry, sir.
I didn’t have enough hot water.
That’s why I needed extra time.
Here are your soba noodles.”

“Well, I finally got my noodles.
Oh, you’re using disposable chopsticks.
I’m impressed. Most soba-sellers have used-chopsticks.
I don’t like the ones someone has already used, especially the ones whose tips are wet.
But these are—. Boy, mine are a pair of used-chopsticks!
Yucky— Well, come to think of it, I don’t need to break them.
The most important thing is the bowl.
Soba in a good bowl gives you a good appetite.
It makes the food you are served look delicious.
Even restaurants around here might not use bowls as good as—.
Wow! It’s dirty, and has some cracks.
How does it keep soba in it without leaking?
Well, it’s all right if the soba is good.
Smells good. You must use a lot of dried bonito for the soup.
I was so sure that. (He slurped the soup. He almost threw up, but he just held himself.)
Give me some hot water.
The taste is rare.
Sometimes I’ve had salty one, but this one is bitter—.
They say good medicine is bitter.
It must be good for my health—.
Soba noodles should be thin, but sometimes I encounter such thick soba they are like udon.
We don’t eat soba noodles as a substitute for rice, so they should be thin.
I don’t like thick ones—.
Look, my noodles are thick.
They must be udon.
What! You say that they are soba noodles?
All right, all right.
But these noodles look swollen.
Maybe they are developing beriberi.
Don’t worry about that.
I can eat thick noodles for a change.
But too soft!
They are as soft as oatmeal.
Great! — I have a weak stomach, so they are good for my stomach.
Uh, where is my chikuwa?
I can’t find it anywhere.
You really put one in the bowl?
Oh, here it is.
It’s too thin.
Maybe you planed the chikuwa.
What did you say?
You chopped the chikuwa with a kitchen knife?
Really?
How can you chop chikuwa this thin? br />
Um, somewhere I once tried soba that was served with imitated Chikuwa-fu.
I didn’t like it.
Oh, no! It isn’t chikuwa, but imitated fu.
I can’t believe it—. (He finished eating.)
Well, how much is it?”
“It has some ingredients on the top, so it’s for 16mon, sir.”
“I only have some small change, so I’ll put them into your palms. Hold out your hands.”
“Yes, sir, here you are.”
“You said 16mon, right? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, what time is it now?”
“Well, it’s four.”
“Five six, seven, eight nine—”
Oh, oh—it seems like he paid far more than 16mon!

The end