By Emi Suzuki
My name is Emi (Nomura Sumida) Suzuki and I am the granddaughter of Masaru and Norma Sumida, one of the fourth generation of Sumida's to manage Sumida Farm. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the Sumida Farm women and mothers who preceded my 4th generation, and how they shaped our farm and our family.
When people think of Sumida Farm, they often speak of my Grandpa Masaru Sumida. He was the face of the farm for decades and did so much to advance not just our farm’s interests, but the interests of all Hawai’i farms as the first Hawai’i Farm Bureau Federation President from 1959-1966. However, behind the scenes and the camera, was my Grandma Norma Sumida, who ran the home, the books and the sales for the business and the family. When I started transitioning into the farm management role, I often came across old records, and always found the same handwriting—my Grandma’s handwriting, scrawled across old business documents, all scarred by silverfish and browned with time, indicating it was her all along, making the business succeed. My Grandma passed away when I was just 3 years old and I have always fantasized about what my life would have been like had she lived to see me and my cousins grow up; through these old documents and my transition into the management role at the farm, I have formed a deeper connection and understanding of her.
When it was time to transition to the third generation, my Grandma trained the youngest of her four children, my Aunty Barbara. Much of the way we run our farm today, is the same as it was when my Grandma ran the business. My Aunty Barbara went on to run the farm as the General Manager and President for 30+ years, running the business in the same quiet, yet successful manner as my Grandma.
As a working mother of two, I often find myself overwhelmed with the responsibilities of both roles and that ever-nagging feeling of not being enough or doing enough in either role. I wonder what my Grandma went through as a working mother in an era where women were expected to be homemakers. I think of the sacrifices she made and the intelligence and drive she had to allow our business to survive, thrive, and overcome so many challenges that caused other farms and small businesses to fail.
My grandmother was an amazing woman. Not only was she a savvy business woman, but she was also an incredible home cook. My family all remembers her fondly through her food. We believe that food and recipes passed down through generations is culture and our family's culture surrounds food and watercress. One of her famous passed down recipes is her pork watercress soup. My family tells me she would make this soup with the pork bones given to her by the local butchers in exchange for Sumida Farm watercress. She would throw the bones in a pot and let them simmer all day while she made deliveries and ran errands, worked in the farm office, and helped the kids. We now live in an era of Instant Pot and fast food, so this is not the type of dish you should make when you are in a rush (although I welcome any comments on how you make this in an Instant Pot!). With so many people working remote now, this is the type of soup you can easily throw together when you are making breakfast for your family. Let it simmer all day, occasionally checking in between your Zoom calls to add water and season with Hawaiian sea salt to taste as the soup cooks down. By the time the kids are off virtual schooling and your dog needs to be let out, you will have a rich, flavorful broth that only needs a couple handfuls of fresh watercress to finish, and dinner is served.
On this Mother's Day, in memory of our strong female farm leaders Makiyo, Norma and Barbara Sumida, I want to wish all of the amazing women out there a Happy Mother's Day from our family to yours! A special thank you and Happy Mother's Day to my own mom, Gail Nomura, and my mother in law, Joyce Suzuki, my role models and constant support system as I navigate the challenges of motherhood and life; especially the last year as we took on Farm Management responsibilities and all the struggles and heavy moments of 2020.
Nothing brings a family together better than a warm bowl of pork watercress soup. We hope you can enjoy this simple and delicious dish with your family.
- 2 lbs pork bone or pork spareribs
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch watercress
- Hawaiian salt
Chop the top part of the watercress and the leaves into 1 inch pieces and set aside in the refrigerator. Remove twist-tie and tie the remaining stems with kitchen string.
Salt and pepper the pork bones. Heat a large pot or ceramic pot over medium heat. When hot, add 2T olive oil and brown the pork on all sides for 10-15 minutes. Brown in batches if necessary and then set aside the pork and bones.
Add the onion and season with salt and pepper and cook until translucent for about 5-7 minutes. Add the pork back to the pot, the tied watercress stems, and enough water to cover the pork and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, skim fat, and season. Cover and simmer for approximately 3 hours (or more, the longer the better), skimming often and adding water if the water level gets too low. Pull the meat from the bones and add back to the soup while discarding the bones. Remove the tied watercress stems and add in the watercress leaves you had set aside and simmer for 10 minutes longer. Add Hawaiian sea salt to taste and serve. Great with a fresh bowl of rice too!