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inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #26 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sat 4 Oct 03 09:52
    
Japanese women tend to get very nervous when they're in the kitchen
with me, mostly because they worry so much about measuring and "getting
it right," not realizing that it's the subjective "right" that counts,
not the objective right, as they've been taught. That's the hardest
part to teach, and the concept that seems most radical to them. The
measurement thing is a real problem.

<aud>, thanks for the kind photo words. We were lucky to get Watanabe,
who is one of Japan's best food photographers. What I liked best about
him is that he didn't "fuss" at all; there was no stylist there,
removing individual pieces of chive or rice. He just encouraged me to
plate the dishes exactly as I would serve them, which is what we did.
Your hear these nightmare stories about stylists spraying food with
hair spray (and worse), but we didn't do any of that. The dishes were
consumed by the staff the second Watanabe-san gave the final OK. 

And btw aud--don't wait for rubies! You can just use regular
grapefruit, or oranges, tangelos, pomelos  ....

I'm off to the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association
gig in Oakland, today and tomorrow. Will report back!
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #27 of 197: raisin d'etre (peoples) Sat 4 Oct 03 11:21
    
I'm soooooo with you on the idea of flexibility as far as your recipes,
Eric. Inspired by frako's comments about the cauliflower-in-saki dish, I
bought a cauliflower yesterday and made that dish last night.

Except I didn't have an orange, so I used a tangelo. And I didn't have saki
(I thought I did but when I got home from my shopping trip I discovered I
didn't) so I used pineapple wine (! Somebody gave it to me, I didn't buy it)
with a splash of sweet vermouth, "just because." It turned out great. 
What a great combination of flavors! 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #28 of 197: Berliner (captward) Sat 4 Oct 03 11:58
    
Pineapple wine, though, is a deeply frightening concept. Still, better
to cook with it than to drink it. Gack. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #29 of 197: beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Sat 4 Oct 03 13:36
    
I also love the sweet-savory-boozy concept, one that I've been using for
ages but now have a name for ;-)

My local produce market is owned by a Korean family, and they said they'd
get shiso for me!  cool!
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #30 of 197: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Sat 4 Oct 03 14:49
    
How about <gower> shares one or two recipes here, if possible!
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #31 of 197: Berliner (captward) Sun 5 Oct 03 02:55
    
There are some on his admirable website <www.ericskitchen.com>, which
looks like the art direction for the book transferred to the Internet.
There's enough there to get you going, anyway. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #32 of 197: Get Shorty (esau) Sun 5 Oct 03 10:13
    
Thanks for that pointer. I enjoyed reading Eric's essay, "Why I Like
Chopsticks, Even for Ice Cream," at
http://www.ericskitchen.com/selected_essays03.html
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #33 of 197: Berliner (captward) Sun 5 Oct 03 10:15
    
Oh, man, I didn't read that one yet. Hmmm, am I interviewing a madman
here? 

I like chopsticks because they make me eat slowly, something which,
eating alone, I tend not to do, and should. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #34 of 197: mother of my eyelid (frako) Sun 5 Oct 03 12:09
    
Eric, I just read your essay about chopsticks over forks. I totally
agree with you about preferring wood in your mouth (please, no jokes).
When I was a kid summer meant sucking on a popsicle stick long after
any quiescently frozen treat was gone.

Give me wood (bamboo) over metal anytime. Forks feel counterintuitive.
Stabbing and scooping are always less sure and more violent than
plucking. I remember reading some long treatise about how chopsticks
represent a nonaggressive, uniquely "Japanese" way of choosing and
introducing food into oneself. I didn't believe all of its claims.

One thing I have to disagree with you about, Eric, in your essay is
that waribashi (the disposable wooden chopsticks you snap apart) are
not necessarily made from scrap wood. That's what their makers would
like you to believe, that they're made from wood that was left over
from temporary wood forms for pouring concrete or some such. Actually,
one of Mitsubishi's subsidiaries actually mines Canadian forests
specifically for waribashi. That's why, whenever I ordered noodles or
sushi for delivery to our home in Japan, I told them to hold the
waribashi--I don't like to use them. They ARE wasteful.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #35 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 5 Oct 03 17:40
    
Whew, just back from the two-day bookfest in Oakland. Book people are
so *appreciative* if you make them good food! The chefs at the Marriot
made the tarragon squash dish, four gigantic plates of it, I tasted and
added extra salt and pepper, and skewered the pieces and schoomzed up
the book buyers (trade people/bookstore owners). Kodansha gave away
about 40 signed copies, which disappeared quickly! All in all a pretty
fun two days, made even better by the large box of tasty new books I
brought home (no one wants to schlepp books back, so they tend to give
'em away freely). 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #36 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 5 Oct 03 17:51
    
Yeah, there's something relaxing eating with chopsticks; you take a
bit, set 'em down, talk and drink some more, and then later take
another leisurely bite. Tho I have seen plenty of speedstickwolfers in
my day (ramen shops are famous for salarybots downing scalding hot
bowls of soup in record time).....

I wanted to make ALL the recipes in the book available online, but KI
balked annd said only a handful. So sorry for the paltriness of
recipes. There are plenty of new recipes though, in the section called
"recent dinners" : 

http://www.ericskitchen.com/recent_dinners01.html

Most of the "recipes" there aren't official recipes; they're more like
prose descriptions of stuff I've been cooking lately. I like writing
them in this format much better than the whole ingredient list thing.
It also encourages people to read the recipe before beginning! I think
of it as providing a kind of framework ,on which people should
substitute freely. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #37 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 5 Oct 03 17:53
    
Those popsickle sticks were tasty and comforting, weren't they? 

I didn't know that about Mitsubishi clearing off Canuck forests. Ugh.
I dunno though, I still don't feel that bad about using them
sparingly--I use waribashi probably several times per year, always when
picnicing or camping or something, when I don't have access to my
"permanent" set of sticks. It's using them more or less constantly,
like many Japanese do, that creates problems.....
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #38 of 197: onTheGetDown () (belly) Sun 5 Oct 03 19:48
    
Chiming in late here.

Getting a chance to try these recipes out has been a real pleasure, Eric.
We've found them easy to put together at the end of a workday, and
economical for a diversely stocked pantry. It's a comfort to come home to
the thought of a bowl of Edamame Mint Pesto being 15 minutes away.

Which is as good a place to start as any; Edamame Mint Pesto is a terrific
dish. The smoked almonds and soybeans play perfect counterparts; they
combine to fill the dish with a full but delicate nuttiness. Combined with
a good fruity olive oil, the message of full flavors and simplicity
couldn't be more clear. Has this helped to ingratiate foreign flavors into
the Japanese palatte? What kinds of flavors stick in Japan and which ones
fail?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #39 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Sun 5 Oct 03 22:24
    
>Has this helped to ingratiate foreign flavors into
>the Japanese palatte?

No, I don't think it's helped at all! This kind of cooking is not
well-known (let alone practiced) in Japan. The mindset of doing one
thing with edamame--boiling them and eating them as a snack for
beer--is so strong . . . it doesn't occur to a lot of people to do
something else. Japanese people tend to like the new thing, but often
look at it as just wildly radical. It's not radical at all, in fact,
but somehow it takes a different set of eyes/sensibility to "play" with
edamame, and other Japanese ingredients. That's where all the fun is.
But it's not "fun" to most Japanese home cooks--it's very serious
business, and you tend to follow the tried-and-true. Not wholly so, of
course, but enough so that it dominates a lot of behavior (culinary and
otherwise). 

That said, Japanese tend to go for pretty bright flavors--creamy
complex French will be admired in top restaurants, but it's not what
Japanese home cooks reach for when they're faced with putting dinner on
the table; light, bright, and airy is good, and heavy is not so good 
. .. . 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #40 of 197: Nettie Hendricks (nettie) Sun 5 Oct 03 22:44
    
"uniquely Japanese"   what about those few million Chinese who use
chopsticks?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #41 of 197: David Freiberg (freemountain) Mon 6 Oct 03 08:55
    
Whenever we get waribashi in restaurants, we just take them home,
throw 'em in the dishwasher and re-use them.  Feel less guilty.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #42 of 197: onTheGetDown () (belly) Mon 6 Oct 03 14:13
    
If Edamame Mint Pesto causes a stir among Japanese, I can only imagine what
Umeboshi Pork with Walnuts and Dates must do...

So far it's my favorite in the book, because it plays contrasting flavors
against each other in the Chinese tradition (and because it's damned
delicious). Again, the economy of time is observed; in most cookbooks, the
one braised dish typically takes so long to cook it's relegated to Sundays,
yet we had this put together in around a half-hour.

Two questions: did you consider a cut of pork (shoulder roast, perhaps) that
would have made this a Sunday all-day kind of dish? And, how do the Japanese
view Chinese techniques used to prepare Japanese ingredients?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #43 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Mon 6 Oct 03 16:45
    
The umeboshi pork dish might be my personal favorite too. I like using
loins because their relative low fat content somehow mingles best with
that combination of tart/sweet/nutty. I think a shoulder cut might
weigh it down considerably, but I encourage you to try and report back!

I’m so happy to see all cuts of pork available here, after living in
Japan so long and only seeing a few. The most popular is probably the
tonkatsu-cut loin, meant to be breaded and deep-fried, followed by the
usukiri (thin-cut; almost razor thin) buta (pork), used in sukiyaki and
shogayaki (wokked with ginger and some liquids). It’s hard to find a
HUNK of PORK. They do sell something they call momo (thigh) burokku
(block), but it’s hard to make it taste good because there is almost
zero fat on it. I used it in slowcooking, which it seemed to like, and
it took to pressure well (in a broth of ginger, a ton of onions,
usually a hab or red savina, supplied by <sashkenaz>, naturally, and
white wine or stock or fruit juice). Along with ground pork, which was
always somehow really scary, that was about it. 

But I love all the cheap-cut piggie choices here! Shopping at the
Mexican and Chinese butchers on Mission and Clement is kinda like a
personal Exploratorium for me. I get special satisfaction of cooking
cheap cuts of pork and beef; I like to try and coax the maximum amount
of flavor out of cuts that most people don’t bother with because they
take too much time, and braising is a fairly active process (it’s hard
to walk too far away and get lost in other things, as it’s cooking).
That’s an “un”Breakaway approach, in that the time factor does count
for Breakaway food, so maybe I’ll start keeping a log of new things to
do with el cheapo cuts for Those Who Have The Time. 

I think most Japanese cooks,  the wild popularity of gyoza and ramen
aside, would disavow the presence of much of a Chinese influence on
Japanese cuisine (and certainly vice versa). Chinese get squicked out
about raw stuff—you gotta blast it with heat or steam—yet Japan
probably takes the world’s top slot at savoring, even worshipping, the
raw. It never fails to delight my Japanese friends when I call this a
“nama fecchi.” (a raw fetish). Japanese also have what I call a kome
fecchi (a rice fetish), and can’t understand how the world can eat its
inferior, possibly dangerous rice, and that Japanese rice is so clearly
superior in every way conceivable. 

My last day of vacations all over southeast Asia were inevitably spent
in the largest markets, loading up a dedicated suitcase with seven or
eight kinds of rice, since japonica is pretty much the only thing
available in Japan (for those about to point out that other kinds ARE
available, I grant you that one or two stores in Tokyo will carry some
exotic rice, but only at prices that shall we say severely discourage
its purchase, so I don’t count those places). 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #44 of 197: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Mon 6 Oct 03 17:37
    
The umeboshi pork dish is what really won Miz Becky over: She loathes
both umeboshi and dates, but loves that dish.  
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #45 of 197: a meat-vessel, with soul poured in (wellelp) Mon 6 Oct 03 19:01
    
Eric, what bookstores in San Francisco are carrying your book?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #46 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Mon 6 Oct 03 21:38
    
Hi Eric!  I've been so busy I almost forgot about this interview!

To give you an idea of how beautiful this book is:  when I recently
went to the bookshelf, I was alarmed because Eric's book wasn't there.
I looked and looked and got frantic.  Then I noticed I'd shelved it
with my art books!  (I'm pleased to hear how the photography was done
and especially glad to hear everything was eaten up!)

I am a complete novice to this cuisine, so I must ask the elementary
questions, like what is oborodofu and how does it compare to the
organic firm tofu I typicaly pick up at the health food store?  
(And thanks for the pseud.)
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #47 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Mon 6 Oct 03 22:36
    
Hi Eleanor--I think that pretty much every bookstore has it, or at
least that's what I'm told, and I have been in a few small ones that
had it . . . all the large ones, for sure . . . . I'm in a quandary
about amazon: it's the little bookstores that seem to want to promote
it the most, yet the $8 difference in price ($27 cover price, $18.90 at
amazon) is significant for lots of my friends . . . . 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #48 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Mon 6 Oct 03 22:45
    
Thanks Chrys....

Oborodofu is sort of the panna cotta of tofu. It's creamy and and a
little custardy, except the "custard" sense comes not from dairy but
from the soymilk. It's what tofu is before they start putting heavy
weights on it to squeeze out moisture and make it "firm," and, god
forbid, "extra firm." It's sort of "extra silken" tofu. It's a
wonderful blank palette on which to paint things that delight your own
palate. As I said above somewhere, that combo of sweet, piquant, and
savory really does it for me, so it's natural for me to add some fruit,
vinegar or citrus, and fresh herbs + olive oil to it. It's another
fairly radical break from what Japanese do with tofu, but, to my
delight, most Japanese seem to really like it. IT's almost as if
someone in Tuscany or Umbria, someone interested in good food,
discovered some new ingredient, and applied local goodies to it. That,
in contrast to the standard ol' soy sauce/ginger/dried bonito/scallions
thing. More wine-friendly, maybe. 

Here's a sympatico piece on one gaijin's delight in discovering that
there's more to tofu than what is typically done with it: 


http://www.japantimes.co.jp/shukan-st/articles/op20030912/op20030912main.htm
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #49 of 197: Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 06:54
    
Grrr, I hate typos! And there's a big one in the book, Eric: I went to
look up this "umeboshi pork" people were raving about because umeboshi
are one of the few things I managed to find here, and then I saw why I
hadn't marked it: it was headlined BROILED, and I don't have a
broiler. 

But it's not: as you indicate above, it's braised, and, being pig and
all, it's something I can actually do here. The carrot juice is going
to be hard, but I can probably find some bottled at a health-food
store. (No question of fresh, I'm afraid...and I don't much like the
stuff as a drink, but I'm willing to go on faith that it makes a nice
subtle sweetener). 

As a timid improvisor, I was thinking of posting the recipe I referred
to in the bio up there, the fake "Burmese" hamburger curry, and seeing
what you thought you could do with it, what suggestions you might have
for changing or transforming it. It's not really a curry, and there's
definitely nothing like it in Burmese cuisine, but this was the '60s
when this book came out, and who knew from Burmese cooking anyway? 

So, you game for this experiment?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #50 of 197: mother of my eyelid (frako) Tue 7 Oct 03 08:37
    
Reporting here from Richmond, Virginia, where I'm visiting my parents
and brother's family. I was astonished to hear my sister-in-law mention
edamame--of course she pronounced it eat-a-Mommy--but at least she
knew of its existence, and that it was a "health food" that would help
her "lose weight"! I know edamame has arrived in America when my
sister-in-law knows about it!

Also my Japanese mother perused Eric's book and said it looked "very,
very interesting" and "possibly good." This was astonishing to me
because, although she's been in the U.S. for 40 years now, she's still
very conservative about the Japanese food she eats.
  

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