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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Now, our Hidden Kitchen series takes us to the interment camps of World War II. One hundred thousand Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during the war. The Kitchen Sisters producers Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson have a story of Japanese-American culture and cooking - Weenie Royale.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. AKEMI TAMARIBUCHI: My name is Akemi Tamaribuchi and I'm third generation Japanese-American. During World War II, my family was interned in Tule Lake Interment Camp. I'm positive that so many of the dishes that I grew up eating stemmed from what they had in camp and how they incorporated that into their taste. Fried baloney with a little bit of sugar and a little soy sauce on top, hotdogs in everything. They used things like ketchup and hot water for soup bases. We eat ketchup on everything.

Weenie Royale and Hamburger Royale, they're my favorites. Sunday mornings, we always had sliced hotdogs mixed with eggs with soy sauce and a little oyster sauce, stir-fried in with some onions over rice.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HOWARD IKEMOTO (Artist): My father was Ito Ikemoto. Everybody called him Ed. He made that his official name after the war. He was a grocer. He had three grocery stores and he lost them all, of course.

My name is Howard Ikemoto. After the war, a lot of the Japanese came back to places like Sacramento. They had no jobs, and a lot of them got pickup trucks and became gardeners. When I was 12-years-old. I would go every Saturday to work with my father. Every lunch, all the Japanese gardeners would meet in front of people that they were mowing lawns for. We used to eat rice with one plum in the middle. And then we have a slice of SPAM, corned beef hash out of a can. That was part of our main diet in camp. And while they were having their lunch, they will talk about the camps, which was the prime of their life.

Ms. TAMI TAKAHASHI: My name is Tami Takahashi. I'm a native of San Francisco. I went to UC Berkeley in the '30s, the depths of depression. I lived my whole life here except for the four years of World War II.

Everybody if they had a drop of Japanese blood, one-sixteenth, we were all gathered up and put into camps. Our camp, Topaz, each person was given a tin pie plate, that piled our meals. Even now, 70 years later, if I look at a tin pie plate, it brings back memories.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. IKEMOTO: You lined up for your food and then sat down at these long tables. Everybody squeezed in where they could, just broke apart the family because the kids are running around. There was no family dinner.

Ms. JEANNE WAKATSUKI HOUSTON (Author): Somebody else was cooking your dinner. It wasn't your mother. That part of the family life was just institutionalized.

My name is Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. We went to Manzanar. I was seven-years-old.

Ms. TAKAHASHI: The cook in our mess hall in Barrack 11 was a Coast Guard military cook, a grizzly, old, cranky guy, not very friendly, disposed to the idea of children and women. It was determined that only children from birth to 12 years of age would be given six ounces of milk, maximum. And I was pregnant, but he wouldn't give me any milk.

Mr. IKEMOTO: We were very unused to eating potatoes. It's not something that was part of our regular diet. My father and mother ate rice every day of their life. Rice is certainly a soul food for Japanese-Americans.

Ms. TAMARIBUCHI: They had dirt floors in the barracks. My great-grandmother would dig a hole and ferment her own rice wine, or sake, and store it, buried in the dirt. That was a big secret. It wasn't allowed in the camps.

Mr. JIMI YAMAICHI (Director and Curator, Japanese American Museum of San Jose): Every block had sake mixes.

My name is Jimi Yamaichi. I spent three years in Tule Lake.

(Soundbite of cars passing)

Mr. YAMAICHI: Do you see that concrete thing over there? It used to be a guard tower. That corner, that's the slaughterhouse where they slaughtered the hogs.

Tule Lake was one of the biggest farm camps. We supplied most of all the vegetables to other camps. Thirty-eight hundred acres of farmland. Internees did the farming. They would bring a carload of hot dogs in, come in by the tons and we eat hot dogs for days, you know.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. IKEMOTO: My father decided he was going to have a family dinner at Christmas time and he was going around the camp bragging to his friends that he was going to have a goose for Christmas. Everybody was mocking him. There was no place that cook a goose. And then where are you going to get a goose anyway, right?

Tule Lake is a fly way for Canadian geese. So he dug this trench and laid down, put some gunny sack over himself and put feed in the trench, and sure enough, the geese came down and their wings were trapped. My father threw the gunny sack onto the geese. Every barrack had this potbelly stove. And he actually roasted it in there and we had our Christmas goose.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TAMARIBUCHI: Some of my closest friends, they've never even heard of the fact that the Japanese were interned. And there are so many things that have affected our culture at least that came out of there, like the food.

To be honest, I think that the Japanese culture is very silent. Nobody ever complains or talks about any bad times. And my grandmother, my obachan, she's 85-years-old. Now, she is, all of a sudden, become far more sensitive to wanting all of her family to understand where everything came from. You know, we lost so much of it. It's just like call all the grandkids then obachan is making Weenie Royale for breakfast. Come and spend time so that you learn how to make this food, so you can make it for your children and their children.

(Soundbite of music)

YDSTIE: Hidden Kitchens is produced by the Kitchen Sisters and mixed by Jim McKee.

You can hear more remembrances of life in interment and get the recipes for Weenie Royale and other dishes at npr.org.

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