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Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan

Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan

Eric C. Rath
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan
    Book Description:

    How did one dine with a shogun? Or make solid gold soup, sculpt with a fish, or turn seaweed into a symbol of happiness? In this fresh look at Japanese culinary history, Eric C. Rath delves into the writings of medieval and early modern Japanese chefs to answer these and other provocative questions, and to trace the development of Japanese cuisine from 1400 to 1868. Rath shows how medieval “fantasy food” rituals—where food was revered as symbol rather than consumed—were continued by early modern writers. The book offers the first extensive introduction to Japanese cookbooks, recipe collections, and gastronomic writings of the period and traces the origins of dishes like tempura, sushi, and sashimi while documenting Japanese cooking styles and dining customs.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94765-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    One of my challenges in studying cuisine in early modern Japan has been to develop a strategy for reading centuries-old cookbooks. Mastering arcane vocabulary was only the beginning of that task. Another task was to enter both the world of the medieval chef—who recorded details about feasts and the ceremonial uses for food for a select audience of professionals accustomed to terse notes jotted down one after another—and the world of early modern food writers, who wrote extensively about banquets and recorded recipes for a popular audience that was not necessarily concerned with how to cook. Fortunately, I...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Japanese Cuisine, a Backward Journey
    (pp. 11-37)

    Although Shōsekiken Sōken lived almost three centuries ago, his ideas about food seem quite modern. He dismisses the false assumption that people in the distant past ignored the art of cooking. Yet he acknowledges that conditions in his own time allow greater attention to the pleasures of preparing and eating food, to the point that some people even write books on these subjects. HisCollected Writings on Cuisine and an Outline on Seasonings(Ryōri mōmoku chōmishō) is encyclopedic in scope. In five volumes Shōsekiken included definitions of technical terms for cooking, model menus, recipes, and serving suggestions for ingredients and...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Of Knives and Men: Cutting Ceremonies and Cuisine
    (pp. 38-51)

    At the same time that chefs in the employ of shoguns, elite warlords, and aristocrats in the fifteenth century were developing the arts of cooking and banqueting, they were also doing other, less conventional things with food in demonstrations called “knife ceremonies” (shikibōchōorhōchō shiki) that produced inedible food sculptures. Studying inedible dishes like these might seem counterintuitive in a history of cuisine, which explains why most culinary historians of Japan mention them only in passing, if at all.¹ However, the inedible foods described in this chapter and elsewhere in the book are the ones that most often became...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Ceremonial Banquets
    (pp. 52-84)

    “What did you eat?” would probably be the first question we would ask someone returning from a fancy meal. But in late medieval and early modern Japan a more appropriate question to ask would have been: “What could you eat?”—especially if the banquet was at the imperial court or for a high-ranking samurai like the shogun or a powerful daimyo. This question recognizes the odd fact that avoiding eating was often the most polite thing to do at a formal banquet. On some occasions, manners compelled guests to delay touching certain dishes until important moments in the banquet, and...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Barbarians’ Cookbook
    (pp. 85-111)

    The culinary texts (ryōrishō) by men of the the carving knife (hōchōnin) referenced thus far remained the dominant form of culinary writing until the mid-seventeenth century. These writings never lost their importance in the Edo period, because they provided information about cutting rituals (shikibōchō) and ceremonial banqueting (shikishō ryōri) that continued to be important to the employers ofhōchōnin—the military elite and imperial aristocracy. Yet after the publication of the first culinary book (ryōribon),Tales of Cookery(Ryōri monogatari) in 1643, culinary texts byhōchōninwere no longer the sole writings on cuisine in circulation. In fact, since nearly all...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Food and Fantasy in Culinary Books
    (pp. 112-120)

    The mid-seventeenth century saw the rise of a new form of culinary writing, the printed culinary book (ryōribon).Hōchōnin, the knife specialists serving high-ranking samurai and aristocrats, continued to write culinary texts (ryōrisho) in the Edo period, but as in previous centuries these works were privately disseminated manuscripts not widely read and, before the twentieth century, seldom published.¹ This makes the published culinary books, beginning with the 1643 workTales of Cookery(Ryōri monogatari), the first popular media for information about cooking and dining. Before I examine these works closely in chapters 6 and 7, this prefatory chapter offers some...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Menus for the Imagination
    (pp. 121-165)

    The previous chapter introduced the ironic fact that menu collections (kondateshū), one of the major categories of published culinary books (ryōribon) in the Edo period, included complex meals that most of their readers could not create because of the menus’ expense and complexity and the existence of sumptuary laws that prohibited the use of key ingredients and elaborate methods of serving. Published menus might be thought of as poor substitutes for actual meals, like scripts to plays without actors to perform them, to borrow the metaphor fromText for Banquetscited in the chapter epigraph. But just as a play...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Deep Thought Wheat Gluten and Other Fantasy Foods
    (pp. 166-181)

    By the mid-eighteenth century, published recipe books focused increasingly on the intellectual appreciation of food. Culinary historian Harada Nobuo describes these works as full of “amusements” (asobi), exemplified by the abundance of puns and wordplay in the names of recipes, particularly in the recipe collectionsDelicacies from the Mountains and Seas(Ryōri sankaikyō, 1750) andAnthology of Special Delicacies(Ryōri chinmishū, 1764). He also includes the so-called hundred tricks (hyakuchin) texts, a series of books published beginning in the 1780s that featured a hundred recipes for a single ingredient, albeit he finds them more technical than other texts written for...

  13. Conclusion: After the Fantasies
    (pp. 182-187)

    Sashimi, tempura, and sushi are foods associated with Japanese cuisine found in restaurants worldwide today, and this book has touched on the history of these dishes. But there is more to the history of Japanese cuisine than the stories of just a few representative dishes or even a few esoteric ones like crane soup. Chapter 3 includes the earliest recipe for sashimi, from the 1489 culinary textShijō School Text on Food Preparation. In the period before soy sauce became the usual accompaniment to sashimi, that recipe listed only varieties of vinegar dressing to be used with different fish. Sashimi...

  14. APPENDIX: The Southern Barbarians’ Cookbook (Nanban ryōrisho)
    (pp. 189-195)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 197-225)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-238)
  17. Index
    (pp. 239-242)