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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Japanese Food Primer - Circa 1885

From the annals of time - and we all know how painful that is - or so I hear - comes an interesting news item from appropriately named Grand Forks Daily Herald of February 4, 1885, discussing the still new and still fascinating concept of Japanese food to its North Dakota audience.

This article was obviously written by someone who is a food writer… and if they were alive today, they would be very fricking old, but if the joints still worked, they would be snapping photos of each bit of food with a digital camera, doing the exact same write-up with a fantastic description and blogging about it, using Twitter or Facebook to get the message across.

I apparently have a Facebook account, but I don't recall setting one up for myself. I have one for this blog, but after one year and five friends I see it's not as rewarding as a personal account.

It is rewarding, right? I'm not sure what I get out of it… more readers or more followers. I'd rather have more readers who are actively seeking out information or perky photos than mere followers - which… I actually have—70 followers of this blog and 1,800-2,200 readers a day… though I know most are just trolling this blog for the perky photos I have posted up all over the place.I did have 3,800 yesterday... most looking for information about Tomino's Hell - the poem that will kill you. No, I don't know why.

Sigh. It's a good thing I don't do anything to be liked. Who's kidding who… that why I do anything. 

Anyhow… below is a food review where by the writer goes to great pains to provide the would-be diner key Japanese words of description - so that he (or she, though the writer expects it to be a he) may order it properly from a Japanese restaurant.

I do think I have eaten all of what is described in the article…

Keep in mind that the world of Japan had only been opened up to the world some 20 years earlier, so while Japan was no longer as weirdly fresh as it was earlier on to the rest of the world, it still was fresh enough to warrant a snippet on its strange and wonderful cuisine.

Contained on the last page of the four-page daily missive, It is simply entitled: 

Japanese  Food  
Lifting the little saucer-shaped ;acquire cover from the soup, and taking advantage of the concession to European prejudices the Commissioners have made in providing spoons, instead of obliging him to drink his soup like tea from the bowl, the adventurous diner-out will find that he has before him a savory compound called on the card mishoshiru. This is made, as the root-word denotes, from miso, a fermented mixture of soy, beans, wheat and salt. Having disposed of this, he will then, if his appetite is good and his taste gastronomically catholic, attack with pleasurable surprise the many little plats on his tray. With these he will wisely play, turning for relief from the white sweetened haricot beans mixed with kawatake (a kind of mushroom grown in the shadows of rocky boulders), and the delicious lobster pudding or cold omlette and other trifles including under the head of kuchitori, to the hachimono, which may happen to be a piece of plump sole stewed in soy. Then for a change he may, with a pair of wooden chopsticks which are laid before him on a bamboo tray, divert himself with trying to pick out of a small china cup, made without a handle, the brown soy colored beans and strips of kikurage, or ear-shaped mushrooms.
Boiled rice is served in a separate bowl. Another substantial dish, wanmori, consists of meat or fish and vegetables, possibly, for instance a piece of fresh salmon and a slice of vegetable marrow with pieces of a soaked fu, a kind of biscuit made from glutinous part of wheat flour. The gravy in which these pieces de resistance are floating is thickened with a transparent starchy substance, obtained from the root of a climbing plant (Pueraria Thunbergiana), called by the Japanese kudzu. For salad there are thin slices of cucumber flavored with scraped shreds of dried bonito, a fish much in favor on the Pacific coasts; the cucumber being dressed with vinegar and sugar, but without oil. One other relish must be noticed, the sliced root of burdock salted and preserved in miso. A sweet kind of sake, described as Japanese wine, is the proper beverage at the mall, which is prepared by cooks from Japan, and served just as it would be in a restaurant in Tokio and without any addition of European dishes.

I made the mistake of trying to go through my lunch hour writing this - hoping to forgo lunch to continue my weight loss… but… reading what I wrote gave me thought for food.

This newspaper was researched via - an outstanding Early American newspaper resource - recommended by Vinnie. Cheers!

Andrew Joseph

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