Mrs. Sugiyama, my karate teacher’s wife, taught me Japanese cooking in 1989. I went to their house every Friday morning to help Mr. Sugiyama paste up his new karate book, 25 Shotokan Kata. This was in the dark ages when we used a waxer to coat the backs of the pages and an x-acto knife to trim the edges. After I arrived at 10:00, we would have some tea, and then Sensei and I would get to work on the pages, while gossiping about the people in the dojo. “Gordon-san,” he would ask me, “How do you think of Miss Fallon? Who would be a good match for her?” And so we would talk about good match-ups for all of his students. At around 11:00 it was time for a break, and my cooking lesson with Mrs. Sugiyama began. I would go into the kitchen where she taught me the art of stuffing and hand crimping the little dumplings, and frying-then-steaming the little pot-stickers or gyoza. She used fresh pork and cabbage, seasoned with green onions. They were lovely. I remember how to make them, and every couple of years I will go to the small effort, but the easiest way to capture that crunchy, chewy dumpling experience is to head to your nearest Asian grocery store, and buy a bag of the frozen. That’s what I’m doing tomorrow. I’ll post a picture after I fry them up. Go out tomorrow and buy a bag — you can get vegetarian ones as well — and we can enjoy them together (virtually). Also, pick up some soy sauce, rice vinegar and some chili oil so we can make the dipping sauce.
My most memorable gossip session with Sensei Sugiyama was when I asked him what he thought about Mr. Walker. “As a boyfriend, Gordon-san?”
“I can not recommend him. There is a certain sharpness in his eyes.”
While I respected Mr. Sugiyama, thankfully I did not follow his advice, and 20 years later Mr. Walker and I are still enjoying gyoza together. And, I should add, that when Mr. Walker announced our engagement right in the middle of a karate class, Sensei ran over to him and gave him a big bear hug.