Happy 24th Garlic-Porkchops, Potato Towers, Sautéed Zucchini, and a singing cake

My name undergoes an interesting transformation (and gains a syllable) when translated into Japanese. Bu-ri-a-na, I become. Despite the unfortunate name (which sounds like a variety of fish — buri— when Japanese people say it), I was touched when a student’s mother brought me an array of red flowers, this card (which reads, “Happy Birthday Buriana”, and a cake last Thursday. They turned my ordinary teaching day into a really memorable 24th .

Then Dustin cooked me a sweet dinner in between our evening-classes. He made pork chops seasoned with salt, pepper, lots of garlic, and dried chilies, and pan fried them in olive oil until they were crispy and golden brown.

Next on the menu? Well, have you ever played the game Jenga, where you have to pull out wooden blocks and place them on the top of the tower without knocking the whole thing over? Well, we play that game at the end of every kids’ class (an average of 8 times per week). When I saw his presentation of the hash browns, I laughed. His response: “I wanted to make them fancy.” That he did. They tasted even better piled like that. Sometimes we buy these potatoes from the prepared foods section of our supermarket and re-crisp them in a little olive oil (no, they’re not healthy, but a satisfying accompaniment for pork chops).

He also made a quick side dish of Zucchini and onions sautéed in butter with one of my new favorite seasonings, Northwoods Seasoning from Penzeys Spices, a yummy blend of paprika, rosemary, thyme and chipotle.

When we opened the cake box after dinner, it began to blare a high-pitched rendition of “happy birthday”. How festive. The cake was good, though. A white cake with a layer of buttercream and fruit on the inside. They don’t usually write on cakes in Japan. Instead, they include a little chocolate plaque with your name on it.

But the real icing on the cake was this sign crafted by my clever husband. You know, my birthday is supposedly a lucky day in Japan. It’s called “いいふうふの日” or “Good Couple Day.” My students tell me it means that we’re a good couple and will be happy together. I think I agree with them.

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