Konnichi Wa, Ogenki Desu Ka

When I was a teenager I attended the local high school that was only a short level walk from home.  There was nothing terribly remarkable about this school however it did become known for having educated a girl named Elanor McPherson who for many years has been better known as ‘Elle’ or ‘The Body’.

Asparagus and Prosciutto on bar-be-cued on skewers

Besides educating Super-Models the school taught Japanese which was unusual because the standard languages on offer were typically French and German or, if you attended a private school, the obsolete language of Latin would also be offered.

Bucking against the traditional, I decided that one of my subjects would be Japanese.  The Japanese teacher was Australian but she had learned to speak Japanese by living and studying in Japan.  On days that were special in the Japanese calendar she would come to school dressed in a kimono and wearing the little wooden thong shoes.


The Japanese room was different to all the other classrooms.  Firstly, we had to take off our shoes as we entered and this wasn’t always pleasant on hot days with unhygenic boys sending an odour of sweaty, smelly feet through the poorly ventilated room.  Instead of carpet the room had traditional Japanese matting on the floor.  The desks had had their legs chopped off and instead of sitting on chairs there were cushions on the floor and somehow we crouched on these and tried to write kunji or hiragana with good posture.

Takoyaki are usually filled with squid but these were filled with bacon and corn

I actually enjoyed these difference as I found it a welcome relief from the monotony of the other classrooms.  And I really liked the teacher because she wrote very easy exam papers and I used to achieve over 90% and so in one part of my schooling I felt like a total scholar.  I did well in the oral exams as well because if you became stuck she would almost prompt you with the right answer.

Takoyaki filled drizzled with Japanese mayo and dried tuna

Recently I was ‘talking’ with Nami from Just One Cookbook and she asked me if I could still speak Japanese.  Sadly, after graduating from the school not only did I fail to achieve super-model status but my brain cells that once knew and understood Japanese, have gone walkabout.

Miso Wagyu Beef

Recently good friends of ours invited us to their beautiful home for a relaxing and leisurely lunch.  Bec always cooks with a theme in mind and on that day she was cooking Japanese cuisine.  It is always such a treat to be invited into a home and be spoiled with  not only good food but excellent company.   I know Bec wouldn’t mind if I shared with you some of her wonderful cooking.

Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Black Sesame Seeds

Oh, and although I was nominated for The Sydney Writer’s Centre Best Blog Competition I failed to make the finals.  However, within seconds of opening the email advising me of my losers badge, I discovered I have been written up on the Australian Women’s Weekly website as a ‘mummy blogger’ who has one of the best ‘undiscovered’ blogs.

A very big thank you to everyone who is ‘un-discovering’ me.

Oh, and I have a few brain cells left that tell me ‘Konnichi wa, ogenki desu ka’ means ‘Good Morning, how are you?’

Caramelised Apple Tart with ice cream – not Japanese but I’m okay with that!

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  1. You know what? I think you’ve got the better deal as opposed to Elle! Think of the pressure to maintain that status she has? Lol…

  2. I always kind of wished I’d learned japanese or chinese or some non-traditional language in school…my high school offered Japanese and Chinese but having to learn all those characters just seemed so daunting at the time!

  3. So you are a Killara High girl? I went to Kuringai and then Abbotsleigh. I may have seen you on the train!

  4. This brunch looks amazing Charlie, I’d live to see what’s in the Takoyaki.
    I am sorry that you didn’t win, you definitely deserved it in my books. And it was not for a lack of trying, I did vote for you!
    I’m not sure I would have gone for the Japanese class, too far out of my realm of understanding. I did rather well in French, we had to take it from grade 6-10 (now the kids go from grade 2-3, which is way better). I went all the way up to first year university, but sadly had no immersion do I can’t really speak; I’ve lost most of my vocabulary too! Sigh.
    You are Best Australian Blog forever in my books! xoxo
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Eva, thanks so much. I didn’t win the Best Blog but there’s still the people’s choice award but I think my chances of winning that are even more remote. But thanks so much for your vote. It was nice to be nominated however. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose a language. My husband was born in Chile and he only spoke Spanish until he was eight. Now he speaks English but can’t speak a word of Spanish. What a loss! xx

  5. “Hai, genki desu!” Is about the only Japanese I remember from school, too! It was my favourite subject and also one I did quite well in 🙂 Bad luck about the best blog competition, but nice work in being ‘un-discovered’ 🙂

  6. Congrats on that undiscovered blogger award. When one door is closed, another opens.

    Learning Japanese, I expect, would be a challenge. True?

  7. I am intrigued and love Japanese traditions. It’s very impressive to know that you did so well In a foreign language.
    The food looks outstanding and I wish i could have a bite of it. I love the apple tart, perfect way to end a fantastic meal.

  8. Our language options were Latin, German, French and Spanish (being so close to Mexico, and South America). I took eight years of Spanish and only know enough to ask for a bathroom, a beer, and new shoes. I consider what I have retained the most critical knowledge. Now children are being offered Chinese. I guess as the world financial culture changes, so too do the language options.
    Those drizzled and filled Takoyaki made me drool a wee bit.

  9. Good Morning Charlie.Thanks for the Japanese delights … and for you tie to Elle!

  10. Almost different for me all of them but seems so beautiful and delicious… I took note too. Thank you dear Charlie, have a nice day, with my love, nia

  11. Fabulous roundup on Australian Women’s Weekly site. It’ll be hard to get a nose in soon with all the new readers you’ll have. Congratulations!! Great looking food too, Wagyu beef for the bbq very delicious. GG

  12. That food looks so interesting. I would love to have a friend cook exotic dishes for me! The black sesame seeds on the noodles is so visually striking.

    I learned Latin in high school. Took a year of it again in grad school, too. I can conjugate amo, that’s about it. My German is equally forgotten. But I can say, Heute ist mein Geburtstag. Ich bin neun Jahre alt. That’s all I remember from German class when we lived in Germany for a year. (I was nine; you might have guessed that.)

  13. What a lovely post. I feel this though, I took Japanese in high school but unfortunately my conversation skills are rapidly diminishing. Sukoshi nihongo o hanashimasu ;(~

    I’m literally drooling all over these photos, especially the takoyaki! Yum!

  14. What an adventure learning Japanese as school! Awesome.
    When one door closes, another opens – great news to be featured on the Australian Woman’s Weekly website.
    🙂 Mandy

  15. Congratulations on being an undiscovered blog! That is great.

  16. I would think being “found” as an undiscovered blog is a big honor…think of the numbers of blogs! Most of our Southern California high school now teach Japanese, Chinese and Korean…I don’t have an ear for the languages, and think it must be very challenging, but I also wish I had some level of understanding! I would have enjoyed the feeling of being immersed in the culture through the room set up! The sitting on the floor and bamboo mats…probably not the taking the shoes off 🙂 Debra

  17. I wish I had had the choice to learn Japanese at high school too! Your dinner looks extraordinary! I still am hunting for the takoyaki mould here…
    Congratulations for the blog nomination!

  18. I think your post more than shows your inner Japanese – who could resist dishes like these 😀
    And congrats – you sure have been discovered now! 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  19. Thank you for sharing your memories and pictures with us. Congratulations on your award and I’m sorry that you were not one of the finals in the other contest. I’m happy to get exposed to some more of the rich panorama of Japanese cooking. It gives me hope that I can expand my own repertoire past various sushi rolls, miso soup, tonkatsu/donburi and yaki onigiri. 🙂


  20. Hi,
    The food looks delicious, I will definitely have to have a go at some of these, something a bit different for the barbie. You just cannot beat good food and good company, I’m sure you had a great time at your friends place. 🙂
    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get in the finals, but how great about the magazine, that is fantastic news, very well done. 😀

  21. Great-looking food to go with a great story. You make me laugh–and that is always a good thing. Sorry you didn’t get into the finals, but it is great news about the write up on the Australian Women’s Weekly site. I always buy their books when I’m visiting the Middle East–terrific cookbooks. Quite a compliment to you and well-deserved!

  22. That does look like it was a very special lunch – a far cry from the burgers I would have served. 🙂 I’m on the look-out for takoyaki now. They look really tasty and I hope one the Japanese restaurants I frequent serves them.

  23. The japanese class sounds like fun and the recipes look delicious!!!

  24. Oh… I was just that kind of teacher.. I would have coached you as well:) Those dishes.. I kept scrolling thinking where are the recipes:) She’s an amazing cook!! Very healthy as well!

  25. Littlej takes Japanese at school too, and she live loves it. I always like to cook with a theme in mind as well, it ties everything together so tidily.
    I’m so glad I ‘discovered’ you before you got all rich and famous, being featured in the W Weekly and all:) Congratulations Charlie Louie!

  26. Hi Charlie – I watched an article recently on the news about some Australian girl who had become the “first non-Japanese geisha”. Found it rather interesting… seemed a bit of an curious career choice but she’d even started her own geisha house (or whatever they’re called) over in Japan… your article made me think back to that.

    Lovely looking food – takoyaki especially… yumyum!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Amazing how way over on the other side of the world you have heard of this woman yet I probably live next door to her and haven’t heard of her. I have no aspiration to be a geisha – all that being silent business and painting my face the colour of death and having to permanently please – it would drive me nuts. Good luck to her! xx

  27. Congratulations on being discovered! I love Japanese food; it always looks so beautiful as well as tasting good, and I enjoyed these pictures.

  28. That does sound like a fun classroom and a great way to break the monotony of a normal school day. And I too have nearly forgotten nearly everything I learned in my foreign language classes. 😉 Fabulous looking skewers! I’ll be making those soon. 🙂

  29. You’ve lead the most interesting life, Charlie Louie!

  30. There is so much I could comment on I don’t know where to start!

    (1) Congratulations on the write up 🙂
    (2) If’d have done Japanese too if the classrooms were like that – albeit the smelly boy feet would have put me off – but I did French and have also forgotten all of it, so I’m going to say that’s completely normal and not at all a reflection on our memory abilities
    (3) You went to the same school as Elle McPherson?!

  31. Congratulations on being a ‘mummy blogger’ 😉 and can I just say that your friend is such a good cook. Look at that takoyakiii!

  32. That’s a shame Charlie that you didn’t get into the finals but don’t worry your blog is definitely a hidden-gem 🙂 lol i did the same thing too learnt Japanese in high school but now I can barely understand any of it hehe but Mr Bao loves Japanese food so I m gonna try this recipe soon hehe 😉 thanks for sharing!

  33. Oh yes Ms Macpherson went to Killara high school didn’t she? And why do I know that? So random! 😛

  34. Hehehe! My mum taught at Killara! The world gets smaller… 😉

  35. When we were in Japan the first time, my husband ordered takoyaki. We didn’t realise they contained squid, which I don’t eat. But those with bacon and corn… yes, please!! I just adore Japan.

  36. It would be kinda awesome to own a takoyaki pan! They’re so delicious I’m intrigued to actually make my own! haha.. Wow, and learning Japanese as a 2nd language sounds like a lot of fun! Although, sadly it’s easy to forget a language whenever you stop using them. haha..

  37. that sounds like so much fun!

  38. I saw your last two headlines and I thought ‘Have I come to the right blog? This doesn’t seem to be in English!’ I used to always get the takoyaki at the markets, but I haven’t had them for a while.

  39. Those Takoyaki remind me of my corn dog muffin recipe I did a while back…similar but different of course. Love the idea of the sauce on them.

  40. Who knew all this time you were un-discovered … Congrats!

  41. Hai, Genki Desu! Oh Charlie, I was so happy to see this title on your home page! It made me smile! And you made takoyaki! Tako is octopus, but we put in all kinds – like corns and cheese for kids etc. Did you buy Takoyaki maker or is this Ebelskiver pan?

    I’m sorry you didn’t make it to the finals, but we go for next year! Thanks for mentioning my name and the blog. 🙂

    Sayonara! 🙂

  42. I took Japanese in high school as well. It was so much more fun than the traditional French and Spanish.

  43. Well, shoot! You should have won! Interesting post – such a different culture, Japan – I love that you studied the language! And taking off your shoes – that’s perfect!

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