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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.
List of Illustrations and Tables
1. Japanese Cuisine, a Backward Journey
2. Of Knives and Men: Cutting Ceremonies and Cuisine
3. Ceremonial Banquets
4. The Barbarians’ Cookbook
5. Food and Fantasy in Culinary Books
6. Menus for the Imagination
7. Deep Thought Wheat Gluten and Other Fantasy Foods
Conclusion: After the Fantasies
Appendix: The Southern Barbarians’ Cookbook (Nanban ryorisho)
Eric C. Rath is Associate Professor of Japanese History at the University of Kansas and the author of The Ethos of Noh: Actors and their Art.
“This volume is a cogent reminder that to truly understand the importance of food in our lives, we must examine not merely its material role, but also its symbolic significance.”—Choice
“Finding detailed, academically rigorous English-language research about Japanese cuisine prior to the Meiji period proved exceedingly difficult. Until, that is, the publication of Eric Rath’s Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan. . . . There is no English-language research on the subject of early modern Japanese cuisine as extensive or imaginative as the present study.”—David Eason/University at Albany, SUNY Social Science Japan Jrnl
"Food and Fantasy
offers a fresh look at Japanese cuisine through its pre-modern to early modern history. Rath's treatment of the cuisines that existed in the world of the shoguns and what these reflect of taste and aesthetics, life and politics, offers lush detail. We have a taste of the meals that may have only existed in the hungry imaginations of writers."—Merry White, author of Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval