Tonari Gumi is about to get heated as Vancouver’s Shako Club comes to an end.
A group of elders prepare hiyashi chuka (cold ramen) together as part of the grunt gallery’s Shako Club project, organized by artist Cindy Mochizuki, at Tonari Gumi in Vancouver, B.C. Photo by: Kayla Isomura
The Japanese community’s volunteer association recently hosted to a two-month project that combined socializing and cooking for seniors.
With the project wrapping up on July 2, the final piece of the project is the creation of 60 custom bento boxes over the next three weeks.
“We gift the 60 lunches to lucky participants in the lower mainland that have come in and ordered bento using our Shako Club questionnaire,” said club organizer and host Cindy Mochizuki.
Box recipients were asked questions like, “What was the last book you read?” and “What is your favourite song?”
Shako Club members will face the challenge of preparing 20 bento boxes based on these questions in two hours during each distribution week.
The participants will then meet with the seniors at Tonari Gumi and exchange a gift for their meal.
“It ends that loop of reciprocity,” said Mochizuki, who came up with the idea of Shako Club, or “social club,” for Vancouver artist centre grunt gallery.
The idea was based on a confectionery shop Mochizuki created three years ago with Tonari Gumi and other seniors in the Japanese community.
“There was something interesting about how we collect stories in a kitchen space,” she said.
Since its first gathering, Shako Club members have practiced an assortment of recipes with ingredients some have never used before.
Mix that with a dozen women in the kitchen frantically mixing, chopping, frying, and draining, and you have “a crazy Japanese cooking show.”
Regardless, it’s the social element and prospect of food that keeps them returning.
“We’re quite busy but we make sure we come,” said member Lurana Kikko Tasaka.
Tam Tanaka, another Shako Club member, agreed.
“I really like it,” she said. “She (Cindy) made different kinds of sandwiches using a lot of ingredients that I have never tried before so it was a very interesting experience.”
Distribution of the boxes began on July 9 and ends on the 23rd.
The next phase of the project is a catalogue of recipes to be released through grunt gallery.