In today’s podcast, we’re traveling all the way to the islands of Japan, where we will contemplate how traditional Japanese reverence for nature is reflected in their respect for the natural flavors of food. Along the way, we’re going to study the elements of Japan’s refined and elegant cuisine, we’ll look at the origins of that most Japanese of meals—sushi, and we’re going to appreciate the aesthetics of ritualized manners, decoration, and presentation in “surprise, surprise”—the world’s first restaurant-based food culture.
Images for this Episode:
Culinary Activities for this Episode:
• Tasting Experiment
A traditional Edo-era restaurant was designed to stimulate all of the senses, evoke memories, and capture the essence of certain seasons. It essentially treated the gastronomic experience like poetry. The next time you order Japanese food to bring home—or, better yet, make yourself—think carefully about the entire setting. That is, choose traditional music that fits the cuisine (perhaps shakuhachi flute music or the shamisen). Put up images that are evocative, and carefully arrange plants or fragrant flowers. Use tableware that will demand careful consideration, such as bowls you can sip from and Japanese chopsticks. If you have reed mats, eat sitting on the floor with the food on a low table.
Think about how the setting changed your awareness of the food. Did you eat more slowly? Did you taste flavors and notice textures that normally would have been lost? Consider what would happen gastronomically if we paid this much attention to the setting in all of our meals. Would we become more mindful of food in general?
Ishige, History and Culture of Japanese Food.
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