The Essence of Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture

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"It was a most exquisite repast, a veritable feast of the senses." Such is the fond memory of Michael Ashkenazi and Jeanne Jacob of a late summer meal in Japan which in every taste, texture, and aesthetic detail signaled the turning of the season. Vividly describing this and countless other fine meals, The Essence of Japanese Cuisine seats the reader at a table rich in culinary tradition.

From menu arrangement to cooking techniques, course selection to entertainment styles, The Essence of Japanese Cuisine studies the Japanese meal and the historical, social, and economic principles that underpin Japanese food culture. Drawing from extensive fieldwork, surveys, and sources ranging from contemporary shop advertisements to classical writings and paintings, Ashkenazi and Jacob analyze how meals are structured, where food is prepared, where it is consumed, and what rituals and cultural rules define the art of the Japanese food event. Their personal experiences as diners serve as sensory tools for examining Japanese cuisine and its place in Japanese society, and they draw as well on Japanese and other culinary studies from such writers as Goody, Harris, Brillat-Savarin, Fisher, Ishige, and Mennell. The book concludes by assessing some of the lessons that can be learned from the Japanese dining experience, especially as Japanese cuisine takes its place among world foods.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Delicious facts and ideas to savor"—Wall Street Journal
Having written elsewhere about Japanese culture, Ashkenazi and Jacob explore the Japanese meal and the historical, social, and economic principles that underpin the food culture. They draw on fieldwork, surveys, shop advertisements, and classical writings and paintings to describe such details as menu arrangement, cooking techniques, course selection, and entertainment styles. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812235661
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/26/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 917,714
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Ashkenazi has written scholarly articles on Japanese religion, business, and food. Jeanne Jacob is a scholar and author on Japanese art, crafts, and food.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements XI
Illustrations XV
Map of Japan XVI
Chapter 1 Redefining Japanese Food 1
1.1. An Analytical Dimension 7
1.2. Objectives and Methodology 9
1.3. The Questions 11
1.4. The Organisation of the Book 12
1.5. Technical Note: Words, Pronunciation, and Glosses 13
Readings for Chapter 1 14
Chapter 2 A Framework for Discussion 15
2.1. Food in Historical Theory 16
2.2. Some Points of Agreement 21
2.3. The Utility of the Concept of "Rules" 23
2.4. The Food Event as an Analytical Phenomenon 24
2.5. Change in Foods 26
2.6. Food as an Aesthetic and as Art 29
2.7. Food Culture and Total Culture 33
2.8. A Structured View of Japanese Food 34
Readings for Chapter 2 36
Chapter 3 Japanese Food in its Background 37
3.1. Geography and History 37
3.2. Historical Matrix 39
3.3. Religion 41
3.4. Gaijin at the Gates: External Influences 42
3.5. The Business of Food 46
3.6. The Japanese Household: Where One Eats 52
3.7. Gurume: the Rise of Luxury as a Lifestyle 58
3.8. From Wild to Natural: the Rise of the Natural Food Movement 60
3.9. Food as a Symbol: Nihonjin and other-Ron 61
3.10. Summary 64
Readings for Chapter 3 65
Chapter 4 Food Events and Their Meaning 66
4.1. The Schematic Structure of the Japanese Meal 67
4.2. Central Rice Meals 76
4.3. Peripheral Rice Meals 77
4.4. Oratsu: Non-Rice Food Events 81
4.5. Summary 82
Readings for Chapter 4 83
Chapter 5 Food Preparation Styles 84
5.1. Raw Foods: Namasumono 85
5.2. Nimono: Nabemono and Entertainment 87
5.3. Agemono: Frying and the Art of Borrowing 90
5.4. Rakimono: Teppan 93
5.5. Nimono: Men-Rui 101
5.6. Male and Female in the Food Game 105
5.7. Summary 111
Readings for Chapter 5 112
Chapter 6 Food Loci 113
6.1. The Home 115
6.2. Eating Out 119
6.3. Bar Foods 124
6.4. Georgaphical Choice and "Esunikku" Restaurants 129
6.5. Social Correlates of Food Loci 135
Readings for Chapter 6 138
Chapter 7 Aesthetics in the World of Japanese Food 139
7.1. Taste: the Physiological Element 141
7.2. Colour and Shape in Utensils 146
7.3. Texture 150
7.4. Influences of Japanese Religion and Philosophy 152
7.5. Artistic Dimensions in Japanese Food 160
7.6. Moritsuke: the Uses of Framing and Space 161
7.7. Juxtaposing the Artificial and the Natural 164
Readings for Chapter 7 166
Chapter 8 Learning the Cultural Rules 167
8.1. Learning Food as a Child: School Lunch 169
8.2. Learning as an Adult: Social Interaction and Media 170
8.3. The Meibutsu Culture 175
8.4. Changing Tastes: the World of Food Fads 177
8.5. Invention and Innovation in the Japanese Kitchen 185
Readings for Chapter 8 187
Chapter 9 The Art of Dining 188
9.1. Dining and Ritual in Daily Life 191
9.2. Dining Order: the Japanese Course 193
9.3. The Epitome of Taste: the Tea Ceremony as a Food Event 197
9.4. Sushi 200
9.5. The Rituals of Eating 211
Readings for Chapter 9 212
Chapter 10 Japan's Food Culture: Dimensions and Contradictions 213
10.1. Dimensions in Japanese Food 213
10.2. The Economic World of the Japanese Gourmand 215
10.3. Natural Food and Reviving the Community 218
10.4. Japanese Food and World Food: Japan as a Model 221
10.5. Final Word 224
Glossary of Terms 225
References 237
References in English and other Western Languages 237
References in Japanese 245
Filmography 248
Index 249
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