As You Like It

Kaori, 26, is part of an okonomiyaki family dynasty in Hiroshima. A regional specialty, okonomiyaki, literally meaning “as you iike it,” is a savory pancake usually consisting of cabbage, pork belly, and in Hiroshima, Chinese noodles. When her father dies, her uncle takes over the eatery and kicks Kaori out of the business, forcing her to try to introduce the family recipe to New York City, where her best friend now lives. While Kaori is ambitious, she’s also naïve and is taken advantage of in both business and romance. Will she learn from her mistakes, or will her family’s okonomiyaki legacy die in America?

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Chapter Seven—Food Fight

After I was used by Morgan Taketa, I stay in my bed of Amazon packaging and bubble wrap for almost two weeks straight. Unfortunately for my roommate Risa, whose Manhattan apartment I’m staying in, my bed is in the middle of her studio. Risa is the most kind-hearted person I know, but even she is getting tired of it. Her cat, Tamago, less kind-hearted, just hisses at me from the other side of the room.

“Kao-chan, this cannot continue,” she says to me one Saturday. “You need to get up. Take a proper shower—I mean with soap and …

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Chapter Six—“We Believe in America”

We are sitting in a restaurant in Battery Park, which is on the south side of the island of Manhattan.

Morgan tells me that it is a new restaurant that opened a few months ago. Apparently restaurants open and close in America all the time. I don’t know if he’s telling me this as a cautionary tale. But I won’t be discouraged. Red Okonomiyaki and I will make it in New York City.

I try to order modestly. Yes, I’m holding back. Since this was Morgan’s invitation, I’m assuming that he will be paying. So instead of the duck foie …

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Chapter Five—Death by Yelp

“This was just amazing.” Morgan Taketa says after wiping his lips with a cloth napkin that was hand-sewn by my best friend, Risa. He still has a bit of brown okonomiyaki sauce in the corner of his mouth, but I am not going to say anything. Morgan the banker can make my restaurant dreams come true in New York City. He could have come dressed to dinner as the Kentucky Fried Chicken ojiisan and I would have treated him like an emperor.

“So this is your first time to have okonomiyaki?” Risa asks. She has also sewn a prototype …

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Chapter Four—Deep Like the Rivers

Deep’s Butcher Shop in East Harlem is nothing like the ones I’ve seen in other parts of New York City. Yes, there’s a large refrigerated case of meats, but the walls, for the most part, have cases of books. And not cookbooks, but books of poetry and classics, ones that I attempted to read in translation in high school in Japan. I never was good in literature.

Through two small speakers mounted on the ceiling sounds Bob Marley. I know Bob Marley through my ex-boyfriend, Makoto, who took me to various reggae bars throughout Hiroshima. In between a couple of …

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Chapter Three—The Perfect Cut

My feet are swollen and sore, and it’s all because of pork belly. In Japan we had a special distributor which brought our okonomiyaki restaurant fresh cuts two times a week. They were sliced thin like American bacon with just the right amount of marbling. The slices cooked perfectly on our grill—not too crisp, not too limp.

Risa, my best friend and roommate, had told me about Chinatown and Little Korea. I couldn’t believe how expansive Chinatown was—long blocks filled with restaurants and small businesses all crammed together. Risa had even worked at a Japanese maid café in Chinatown for …

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