The days are growing longer and two doves coo in the evening air as I make my way down to gather a few fragrant fronds from our sansho tree. I fell in love with sansho on my first day in Japan, long before I knew I would come to call this place home. For years I have been dreaming of a little sansho orchard. Back in the kitchen I slap them between two palms to release the fragrance before laying them atop a steamed chawanmushi egg custard alongside preserved sakura buds.
As long as we’ve kept track of time, the day on which we reset the calendar has been celebrated as an occasion for reflection, for mental, physical, and spiritual renewal. Hemp fibers twisted into rope figures adorn the entryways to purify and protect the home. Inside decorations made of rice and boughs and bamboo, each with a meaning tied to agricultural rituals that pray for providence and abundance, are set out for display.
Drawing back a clump of desiccated fronds, I find an emerald trumpet of delicate leaves cradling a cluster of quilted button like buds. I raise the dirty, wet stem to my nose and drink in the earthy, pungent aroma of spring breaking from winter. This is fukinoto.
There is perhaps nothing more simple and divine at the Japanese table than a pristine bowl of snow white shinmai, new rice, to close an autumn meal. Like the wafer at mass, newly harvested rice speaks to the Japanese soul of the divine, of things both eternal and ephemeral.
Relating to and through flavor As autumn gives way to winter we find ourselves in a season of abundance and loss, of beauty dazzling in the face of death and decay. The maple trees blaze red until denuded by wind and rain. A praying mantis expires in situ moments after laying a frothy capsule of […]
Learning to Cook from the Best Cook of All This month marks a dozen years since I came to Japan. A full cycle of the Chinese zodiac has passed and a new decade begins. I’m inclined to consider it an auspicious moment and a good time for reflection. I still remember those first months vividly, […]
The language of taste and texture in Japan Japanese cuisine celebrates hazawari, the texture or literally tooth-feel of foods, to which the language is full of words to describe the textural aspect of flavor. Most are onomatopoetic, sounds that simulate physical sensations and the feelings they evoke. It speaks volumes to the sensual aspect of […]
Osechi is an epicurean parable passed through generations As long as we’ve kept track of time, the day on which we reset the calendar has been celebrated as an occasion for reflection, for mental, physical, and spiritual renewal. Hemp fibers twisted into rope figures adorn the entryways to purify and protect the home. Inside decorations […]
Comfort Food Eases Any Strain When you marry into a family, you marry into their food. Perhaps my case is extreme having relocated to a far flung country with a cuisine most divergent from mine. But no matter who we partner with, there are just some dishes that come along with them, ones that seem […]
Turnips in a Soothing Warm Broth for Winter Chickadees flit from perch to perch. They are a cheerful bunch, gray-winged little birds of winter with black caps and beards. I remember them fondly, their whistling chatter constant and merry throughout the long snowy months of my childhood in Vermont. It’s comforting to see them outside […]
Yuzu brings the First Citrus Scent of Winter The almanac tells us that it is the season of first winter. Far north in Hokkaido where the seasonal divisions are more pronounced like in New England, first flurries must be falling fast. But here the songbirds still chirp on days warm enough to dry our laundry […]
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