Ch. 3: “Rice-Sandwiches”
We’ve made it to the sushi chapter, readers!
We’ve made it to the sushi chapter, readers!
This “cake” occupies a nebulous area somewhere between dessert and cornbread. Almond meal, whole-wheat pastry flour, and cornmeal add a toothsome bite to the soft, sweet pears. I brought this to a potluck as dessert, but I liked it even better when I served it for brunch alongside a frittata and baked oatmeal.
Like many chapters, this one starts off well, with an explanation that rice is the staple food of Japan (all 85 million inhabitants; now 1.27 million) and is served in a variety of ways; there follow instructions for washing and cooking rice.
One thing I find off is that the author always uses imperial measurements. Japan has been using metrics since the 1890s, although it does have its own type of measurements (tatami mats, Japanese cups, etc.). An American couple who had the finances or moving allowance to bring all their American kitchen equipment might benefit from using imperial, but I don’t see why not to give both styles of measurement. (This is still a problem with English-language cookbooks for Japan-based cooks.)
Prior post: “Foreword”
Let’s talk learning foodways as part of your culture. If you are told that a certain food is gross by media, peers, family, or society at large, you will probably internalize that message on some level. Case in point: Brussels sprouts and liver and onions for Americans of a certain generation.* Brussels sprouts are divine when they are cooked with care: sauteed or roasted or shaved into salads. They are not very delicious when over-boiled and under-seasoned. Some flavors that taste bad to children are delicious when one has developed an adult palate as well as a personal palate. The child who once rejected bitter foods like coffee; cut their tea with half milk and lots of sugar; turned their nose up at pungent foods like natto or cabbage rolls or fish; found umeboshi or grapefruit too tart; disliked the earthiness of beets or mushrooms may grow into an adult who loves those foods if given the chance to try them again and have them prepared well.
Japanese Food and Cooking (1956)
Charles E. Tuttle Co: Publishers
This was printed 27 times by 1981. Twenty-seven times!
Content warning: a lot of causal historical racism, colonialism, classism, and sexism.
My friends, knowing I love food history, gave me a copy of an English-language Japanese cookbook as a parting gift. It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about SCAP (Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers), the US presence in Occupied Japan from 1945-52. In grad school, I wrote about SCAP decrees regarding film, and the micro-management of Japanese media to “promote democracy.” This is a bit of a different look–not a government decree from above but a cookbook created by and for the post-Occupation (1956) expat who wants to make Japanese food at home in Japan. Griffin’s cookbook is a very telling sociological text in that it captures the general colonialist attitudes of the expats toward Japan as an occupied nation and of gender norms (for both Japanese and American women). Additionally, the book provides insight into the introduction of Japanese cuisine to Americans and to the US through its explanations of ingredients and dishes as well as the translations of some of the terms used.
Happy new year, readers! There’s nowhere to go but up from here!
My favorite weekends now include what I call Hannibrunch, which is my old Saturday-Morning-Fannibal routine kicked up a notch into Brunch with Friends. Not only do I get to relive the psychological thrills of season 2, I get to bake breakfast foods for a group instead of just for myself.
For our last session, I got a request for scones, so used pumpkin puree I had leftover from making pumpkin chili. I’ve made the chocolate-chip version of this recipe before, but I liked the second batch I made with crystallized ginger even better. The orange really makes the ginger pop without overpowering the pumpkin, and the scones are tender on the inside. They’re best fresh out of the oven –no need for jam, although clotted cream might be nice.
I love unagi, but with the endangerment of the glass eel population (as well as the rising cost), it might be best to cool it with the eel. Although I’ve been following the eel news for several months, I hadn’t considered alternatives, but I saw this recipe for “Mock Eel” in the latest issue of Saveur and was intrigued.
I accidentally bought a white-fleshed sweet potato instead of an orange sweet potato, so I decided to make this old favorite from Japan. In the US, sweet potatoes with hard, orange flesh (annôimo, 安納芋) are more common, but in Japan, sweet potatoes with a softer, white/yellow flesh (satsumaimo, サツマイモ) are what you’ll find in the grocery store. This recipe is for satsumaimo, so make sure you have the right potato!