Drumming in Ashiyagawa

This week was filled with trauma and cooking. It was time for my ten yearly visit to the dentist. I am a coward when it comes to going to the dentist, so mostly I just don’t go. But, at some stage you can’t avoid it, if only to have the old pearlies made pearly again, instead of looking like a row of old coffee beans. I thought I was on the safe side this time, I had no pain, there could be nothing wrong – oh, how wrong could I be.

After an hour-long cleanup session – after ten years, it takes an hour, the assistant told me – the dentist came in to deliver his smiling verdict. Why do they always smile when they say “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news – that one’s got to come out.”? And so it was decided that my last wisdom tooth would be extracted, and the one next to it crowned.

Thursday was d-day (dentist’s day) and I was shitting it. I told him about my resistance to pain killers and my low pain threshold, and he smiled as he said, “I just need to do a little cold test on that tooth there” – looking at me quizzically as I jumped three foot in the air from a sitting position, “my, we are jumpy aren’t we? I think we’ll double the dose on the injection – you won’t feel a thing.”

And I have to say that he was right. I did not feel a thing as I bit viciously into my own tongue, nor did I feel anything when he drilled away at the other tooth. Or at least I felt no pain. What I actually felt veered between plain miserable and abject terror as I tried not to look into the eyes of the two faces bent over my mouth. I even took the precaution of listening to my iPod to try to dumb down the noise of the drill which works to a certain extent, but still didn’t cover the crack of the tooth in the bone as he extracted it.

But the ordeal was over quickly and it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined it would be. I even tried to thank the dentist for his work because I thought it must be terrible to be faced by such fearful thankless people day in, day out, but he only shook his head bemusedly, then shook my hand and rushed off to the next person trying to put on a brave face. And at the end of it I was left with a rather large hole at the back of my mouth which my tongue can’t seem to leave alone, and some rather strong painkillers which made the rest of the day seem rather more cheerful than it probably was.

That was one half of the week. The other half was cooking. We decided to have the troop we went skiing with around for some Sauerbraten. This entails taking a side of beef, about 5 kilos, immersing it in a vinegar and vegetable marinade for a week, while turning and massaging the meat everyday. Then you braise it in a very large pan for about an hour and a half, all the time adding water to the meat to form a base for the sauce. After that you roast it for another two to three hours. You then serve it with dumplings, red cabbage and lashings of thick gravy and sigh as it simply melts in your mouth, which considering the hole in my mouth was a very good thing indeed. Suffice to say all were happy and adequately stuffed to the gills.

It’s getting late now, so I think I’ll retire to my bed, and leave you with another reminiscence of my trip to Japan. You can read it here.