Cooking was not a chore for Tengo. He always used it as a time to think -- about everyday problems, about math problems, about his writing, or about metaphysical propositions.
"Does this mean we’re going pretty far from the city?”
“What were you just doing,” she asked, ignoring his question.
“Nothing special, just cooking for myself. Grilling a dried mackerel and grating a daikon radish. Making a miso soup with littlenecks and green onions to eat with tofu. Dousing cucumber slices and wakame seaweed with vinegar. Ending up with rice and nappa pickles. That’s all”
“I wonder. Nothing special. Pretty much what I eat all the time,” Tengo said.
Fuka-Eri stared straight at Tengo again for a time. She seemed to be having some kind of thoughts about intercourse. What she was actually thinking about, no one could say.
“Hungry?” Tengo asked.
Fuka-Eri nodded. “I have hardly eaten anything since this morning"
“I’ll make dinner,” Tengo said. He himself had hardly eaten anything since the morning, and he was feeling hungry. Also, he could not think of anything to do for the moment aside from making dinner. Tengo washed the rice, put it in the cooker, and turned on the switch. He used the time until the rice was ready to make miso soup with wakame seaweed and green onions, grill a sun-dried mackerel, take some tofu out of the refrigerator and flavor it with ginger, grate a chunk of daikon radish, and reheat some leftover boiled vegetables. To go with the rice, he set out some pickled turnip slices and a few pickled plums. With Tengo moving his big body around inside it, the little kitchen looked especially small. It did not bother him, though. He was long used to making do with what he had there.
Sorry, but these simple things are all I can make,” Tengo said.
Fuka-Eri studied Tengo’s skillful kitchen work in great detail. With apparent fascination, she scrutinized the results of that work neatly arranged on the table and said, “You know how to cook.”
“I’ve been living alone for a long time. I prepare my meals alone as quickly as possible and I eat alone as quickly as possible. It’s become a habit.”
“Do you always eat alone.”
“Pretty much. It’s very unusual for me to sit down to a meal like this with somebody. I used to eat lunch here once a week with the woman we were talking about. But, come to think of it, I haven’t eaten dinner with anybody for a very long time.”
“Are you nervous.”
Tengo shook his head. “No, not especially. It’s just dinner. It does seem a little strange, though"
Either I’m funny or the world’s funny, I don’t know which. The bottle and lid don’t fit. It could be the bottle’s fault or the lid’s fault. In either case, there’s no denying that the fit is bad. Aomame opened her refrigerator and examined its contents. She hadn’t been shopping for some days, so there wasn’t much to see. She took out a ripe papaya, cut it in two, and ate it with a spoon. Next she took out three cucumbers, washed them, and ate them with mayonnaise, taking the time to chew slowly. Then she drank a glass of soy milk. That was her entire dinner. It was a simple meal, but ideal for preventing constipation. Constipation was one of the things she hated most in the world, on par with despicable men who commit domestic violence and narrow-minded religious fundamentalists.
Tengo chopped a lot of ginger to a fine consistency. Then he sliced some celery and mushrooms into nice-sized pieces. The Chinese parsley, too, he chopped up finely. He peeled the shrimp and washed them at the sink. Spreading a paper towel, he laid the shrimp out in neat rows, like troops in formation. When the edamame were finished boiling, he drained them in a colander and left them to cool. Next he warmed a large frying pan and dribbled some sesame oil and spread it over the bottom. He slowly fried the chopped ginger over a low flame.
I wish I could meet Aomame right now, Tengo started thinking again. Even if she turned out to be disappointed in him or he was a little disappointed in her, he didn’t care. He wanted to see her in any case. All he wanted was to find out what kind of life she had led since then, what kind of place she was in now, what kinds of things gave her joy, and what kinds of things made her sad.
Thus began Tengo’s days at the cat town beside the sea. He would get up early, take a walk along the shore, watch the fishing boats go in and out of the harbor, then return to the inn for breakfast. Breakfast was exactly the same every day -- dried horse mackerel and fried eggs, a quartered tomato, seasoned dried seaweed, miso soup with shijimi clams, and rice -- but for some reason it tasted wonderful every morning. After breakfast he would sit at a small desk and write. He hadn’t written in some time and found the act of writing with his fountain pen enjoyable.--Haruki Murakami, 1Q84