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Japanese food history: Traditions and Changes


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New foods and patterns of Japanese food in the Early Modern and Modern era. Particular attention to Sushi.

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Japanese food history: Traditions and Changes

  1. 1. Japanese Food History Early Modern Change Sushi!
  2. 2. Japan
  3. 3. Nagoya: Atsuta Shrine Sake Barrels & Shinto Priest
  4. 4. New Foods • 16th century Foreign Influences: – Korean-style (or Mongolian) Teppan yaki – Portuguese Tempura and Castela cake – "Pan" – Indian pepper. – Chinese Ramen
  5. 5. Early Modern Japan (17th to 19th c.) • Agricultural Boom: Peace Dividend – Columbian Exchange: Sweet Potatoes, green beans, maize, red peppers, pumpkins, watermelon, spinach, chili peppers, peanuts – Spread of beriberi as polished rice became more common – Hunting declined, except wildfowl; domesticated pig, chicken popular • Lunch
  6. 6. Everyday Food "What we think of as the traditional Japanese diet of steamed rice accompanied by soup, one or more side dishes, and pickles, developed slowly... Even samurai families often had a daily diet of coarse grains or rice mixed with other grains with a side dish of fish or something extra for the master, but only soup, pickles and possibly boiled vegetables for the rest of the family and the servants." (Hanley 1997, 86)
  7. 7. Rural Food • "in Japan, one-pot meals had one or more grains - usually including rice - as their base, and other foods, particularly vegetables, were added appropriately during the cooking process." (Hanley 1997, 79) • Shinano: 20 different rice strains, buckwheat, beans, daikon radish, vegetables, grasshoppers, horse chestnuts, wild greens
  8. 8. Urban Food • Restaurants and tea houses • sushi • Tempura • buckweat soba, wheat ramen, • rice cake/bean soup • eel • Box Lunches: Bento
  9. 9. Bento Lunch on Lacquer
  10. 10. Nagoya: Soba Shop
  11. 11. Sushi • Vinegar and salt are preservatives, pickling agents. • Stuffing fish with salted or sugared rice causes fermentation, a technique from China. • Fresher versions, using rice wine vinegar, develop in the 1600s, become urban staples • Usually eaten with ginger, mustard and/or soy, for health and flavor.
  12. 12. Sushi Lunch, Hilo (KTA Supermarket)
  13. 13. Sushi, cont. • Nigiri rice ball sushi develops in the early 19th century in Edo as street food. – Finger food from stalls, chopsticks at the theater. • Wasabi mostly elite seasoning until 19c. • Nori seaweed (actually algae) wrappers were luxury foods until 1950s British botanist Kathleen Drew-Baker discovered their reproductive cycle. Now mass-produced. More popular in US than in Japan.
  14. 14. Sushi Chef, Nagoya, 1985
  15. 15. Sashimi • Raw fish an elite delicacy (and fisherman's food) from earliest recorded history. • Most of Japan is coastline, so elites could always get fresh fish, but seasonal varieties. • Modern refrigeration and ice manufacture makes it middle-class food • Modern fishing technology and prosperity makes it cheaper, available for everyone. • Now fresh and raw fish is the standard, not salted or preserved.
  16. 16. Global Sushi • Japanese restaurants in the US West, but not popular except with expatriate Japanese. • 1970s, with rise of Japanese economy and health food fads, sees West coast sushi become popular • Spreads to other major cities in 1980s. • New Global Ingredients: mayonaise, avocado, cream cheese, spicy sauces
  17. 17. Kansas City Hen House Sushi
  18. 18. The Right Way To Eat Sushi • Diversity of Traditions – Regional (Tokyo/Osaka, etc.) – Common v. Urban v. Elite – Seasonal • Seasonal "rules" develop from pre-refrigeration, pre-industrial transportation era • Purity, simplicity, delicacy based on kaiseki elite Zen influence, blends with pop culture in 20c. • mid-20c Wartime rationing created "eat everything/no preferences" culture
  19. 19. Atom Boy Revolving Family Sushi
  20. 20. Sources • Susan Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture, UCP, 1997 • William Wayne Farris, Japan to 1600: A Social And Economic History, U Hawaii Press, 2009 • Edo: Art in Japan, 1615-1868 by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC • Michael Ashkenazi, Jeanne Jacob. The Essence of Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture. Curzon Press, 2000. • Trevor Corson, The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi from Samurai to Supermarket, Harper Collins, 2007. • Pictures by Jonathan Dresner – • Crocheted Sushi by Karin McAdams