inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #51 of 197: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 7 Oct 03 10:08
    
mmmm... "possibly good." Sounds like that's a high compliment from your mom,
Frako.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #52 of 197: How do you say "Eating Is My Spiritual Path" in French????? (maya) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:04
    
Hey kids.  Greetings from Paris!!  I brought your cookbook with me,
Eric, and my friend Linda and I are compiling our ingredients little by
little.  It's like a scavenger hunt.  I found ginger!  I found the
beef roast!!  I found the soy sauce!!  Monoprix is not the ideal place
to get what we need.  But you know me.  I will not be undone.  And I
will report on one of Eric's recipies from the heart of Paris.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #53 of 197: Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:29
    
Lemme know if you find shiso. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #54 of 197: It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:31
    

I love scavenger hunts.

Sometimes I wonder if I can really understand what breakaway is like for
some Japanese people. When I think of food I think interesting combinations
are fun and good. yes, pb and jelly often go together, but when I saw a pb
and cheese sandwich on a menu I thought, that sounds interesting. Are there
american equivalents to the breakaway idea?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #55 of 197: Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:34
    
I dunno, it seems to me that *all* American food that isn't a direct
copy of another cuisine -- ie, the "Italian" food on the East Coast
which is more properly Italian-American -- is breakaway. Eric?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #56 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:51
    
Maya, I'm totally flattered, but look for cool new French
ingredients/substitutions! And bring back a pile of whatever you find!

Frako's mom, I must say, is supremely typical of a Japanese reaction
(and it says a lot, given that she's been away from Japan for 40
years!)--"hmm, it *might* be good, in theory, but it's awfully weird!"
Frako's sister-in-law, on the other hand . . . . it's amazing that
eat-a-mommy has a "lose weight" image....
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #57 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:53
    
Ed, I'm game for ALL culinary experiments--bring it on, baby!
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #58 of 197: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:56
    
(And a reminder to those reading along: non-members can comment or ask
questions by sending a note to inkwell-hosts@well.com .)
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #59 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:05
    
>Are there american equivalents to the breakaway idea?

What a great question. I think the answer is probably not, but that
the IDEA of breaking away from something (and not just in the kitchen)
is an attitude that seems quintessentially American. So most Americans
still put ketchup and onions et cetera on their hamburgers, but I think
they would genuinely enjoy the Indian-style burgers I've been making:
mix in mango chutney into the meat, along with plenty of star of anise,
cumin, and coriander, fry with shallots and ginger, and top with
tamarind sauce. There wouldn't be a total freakout reaction, as there
would in Japan; I think lots of  Americans would look slightly askance
at it, taste it, like it, wolf it down, and maybe even then incorporate
it into their rotation. Open-minded Japanese might do that too, but
it's that initial wall that's much higher and sturdily built. 

It's kind of an interesting question: I wonder which country on earth
is most open to culinary inventiveness? 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #60 of 197: It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:30
    

in thinking about it Americans can be set on some things - like turkey for
thanksgiving, and not roasting whole turkeys the rest of the year. I
remember how _shocked_ I was that you can't get whole fresh cranberries year
round. My mom said, oh yeah, I always freeze a few bags.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #61 of 197: Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:32
    
I'd pretty much agree with that. There are plenty of American recipes
that incorporate ingredients from other cultures and have gotten
absorbed into their local mainstream. For instance, tamales. I've often
wondered what the tamales Robert Johnson sang about were, the kind
that were peddled from street-carts all through the South. Then there's
"tamale pie," another Southern recipe that no Mexican would ever
recognize. 

In the Carolinas, there's a dish called Country Captain, which is a
chicken curry, basically, and they do something with rice they call
perloo. It's obviously pilau. But Carolinians have long ago lost the
connection. 

And if there's a single self-conscious "breakaway" moment in American
culinary history, it's got to be Alice Waters et. al. inventing
"California cuisine." 

<debbie> slipped in there. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #62 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:39
    
Yeah, the turkey thing is weird. You'd think we'd cook it all time,
given how cheap, easy, and tasty it is. It's always pretty much the
same way too, just stuffed with a heavy-ish bread-based stuffing, and
roasted. I can actually remember dreading eating turkey at
thanksgiving, because it was so dry it would inevitably get stuck in
the throat, and I'd have to panic-drink! 

For turkey fans looking for something new, there's a good recipe in
the book that stuffs the bird with ruby grapefruits, and puts plenty of
fennel and red onion in the bottom of hte roasting pan, ergo creating
a delicious fennelly gravy to be worked into the cut-up meat, then the
whole thing is doused with juices of the baked grapefruit. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #63 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:48
    
>There are plenty of American recipes
>that incorporate ingredients from other 
>cultures and have gotten absorbed 
>into their local mainstream.

Yeah, Texmex being right there at the top. New England and southwest
cooking, too. 

But I think I disagree about Alice Waters representing the ultimate
Breakaway though . . . I think what she did was introduce something
very French, that is, the local farmers' market as best source for
dinner. The Chez Panisse menu is (or was, until recently, I think)
written entirely in French, which I always thought was weird, given the
casualness and freewheelingness of Berkeley. Great food made from
great ingredients, done simply--that was her great contribution to
American cuisine, I think. We really needed it. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #64 of 197: Ari Davidow (ari) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:50
    
I'm looking forward to trying that turkey recipe at Thanksgiving. In a 
three-person household, not too many times a year we cook a turkey.

Too damn bad, because I do love turkey.;
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #65 of 197: Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:58
    
The saltines-with-salsa, mega-gringo end of Tex-Mex is definitely a
breakaway cuisine, although I don't much like the way it broke
(although I'll admit a real failing for Velveeta-origin chile con
queso). And I'm going to have to give the Alice Waters question some
more thought. I was actually thinking of the revolution she inspired,
which has resulted in something maybe better called New American
Cuisine, which follows from it and does its own investigation into
local ingredients and folkways -- when it's done right, of course.

I'll post the "hamburger curry" recipe tomorrow; it's dinner time here
in central Prussia (nothing very exciting, sorry, pasta with tuna
sauce), and I'll post it in the morning. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #66 of 197: speedstickwolfers (chrys) Tue 7 Oct 03 13:27
    
In the meantime, Eric, I'd like to know how you got interested in
cooking?
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #67 of 197: Cynthia Bar (cynthiabarnes) Tue 7 Oct 03 19:58
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #68 of 197: Cubs wookie (cynthiabarnes) Tue 7 Oct 03 19:58
    
Hi Eric,

Love the web site and am looking forward to the book. Japanese cooking
isn't one I've dabbled in, mostly because of the relative
unavailability of ingredients in my Midwestern college town. (Waving to
Ed.)

For a brief moment I mis-read and thought that Maya's feast would
coincide with my SF trip. Sigh. Perhaps I can at least find a good
Japanese grocery while I'm there.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #69 of 197: Berliner (captward) Wed 8 Oct 03 01:59
    
If you can't find a good Japanese grocery in San Francisco, you ain't
hardly trying. I love the one in Japantown, and always cruise the
aisles when I'm there just to dig on the packaging. However, now that
I've been to Japan and seen something of the breadth of its foods, I
can't wait to go back and look again with more informed eyes. 

Meanwhile, I promised my hamburger curry recipe here, an old standard
tune for our culinary jazzman to blow some riffs on. 

1/2 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
6-10 dried red chiles (chile hontaka, chile japones), crushed
1/4 tsp. saffron (essential)
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat the oil, sautee the onion and ginger for a few minutes, then add
the garlic and stir-fry for one minute.
Add the beef, chiles, and saffron, and break up the beef as it
sautees. 
When the beef has changed color, add the water and soy sauce. Lower
heat, cook until liquids are pretty much evaporated. 

I find this dish is the reason brown rice was created. I never use the
stuff for anything else, but boy does it go well with this. 

As for variations, I'm not such a great improvisor, as I said. I've
used different soy sauces with this -- ketjap manis is a very nice
variation -- and then after I moved here, I got this huge crop of
cilantro one year, and had the brilliant idea to stir some in at the
last minute, which was a brilliant thought. There are some variations
that make no sense to me: a friend I sent this to early in her cooking
career announced that she'd put tomato in it. I can't see that, not
with the saffron. 

Anyway, I trust <gower> to be more Charlie Parker than Kenny G on this
one. Take four, and if we like it, go ahead and blow eight. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #70 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:30
    
Chrys, I got interested in cooking through being a fairly hardcore
lover of food. I guess the cooking started in college; my rapturous
appetite combined with my student penury meant buying 25-lb. bags of
rice/beans/potatoes/pasta/anything maximally carb and cooking them, and
breaking up the monotony by attempting new things. The Ed Brown/zen
center books were a big force during this period for me (and before
college, actually; I also sometimes helped out in the kitchen at the
Mt. Baldy Zen Center, about an hour east of LA, when I lived near there
in the early 80s). 

When I was a kid I was exposed to some interesting food. My father was
a pretty zealous hunter, and he’d routinely come home with pheasant,
duck, wild turkey, plenty of rabbits, small game birds, and way too
much venison, the occasional whole elk or caribou from a Canadian
hunting/boozing trip, plus a dedicated freezerful of his fishing
exploits: rainbow and brown trout, walleye, pike, bluefish, several
kinds of bass, and massive quantities of cod, frozen, from our family
(deep-sea fishing) vacations in Maine. Plenty of wonderful booty, to be
sure, but this was the 70s, and no one ever thought to “take it up a
level,” as Emeril would bellow. No sense of balancing savory, sweet,
piquant, no fresh herbs, no wine, no vinegars, no citrus, no
brightening at all. Just a totally disgusting plucked bird (the
cleaning would be done at the kitchen table, gore and guts everywhere,
the very essence of what’s wrong with a gamy stench) which was I think
just tossed in a Dutch oven and baked, and then baked some more, until
taking a bit of it would risk the shut down of all respiratory
functions. But there was plenty of mashed potatoes, some vegetable
right from the can, boiled mercilessly, and some decent bread from the
local Italian bakery that was often my favorite part of the meal. The
fish were always yummy though, I don’t think I’ve ever met a fish I
didn’t like, and I wolfed down vast quantities of all of them (I was
the sole family member, sans father, that pushed for fish for dinner;
everyone else hated it).

And then in Kyoto, which I was then calling my home after moving there
after I graduated from Berkeley, the cooking opened up, in that I was
exposed to so much stuff I hadn’t seen, tasted, or used before. Plenty
of gaijin in Japan, if they cook at home at all, tend to go for the
familiar, to some standards they’re comfortable with (plenty of pasta,
salads, rice dishes, chicken, etc.), with perhaps a little dabbling
into Japanese ingredients—though it must be said that it’s an entirely
rational response for gaijin NOT to cook Japanese food at home, since
superior versions of it could be had conveniently and cheaply enough. I
was intrigued by it all though, and liked buying unfamiliar things and
playing with them. I guess it just kept going. It sort of naturally
led to my interest in using commonly found Japanese ingredients with
commonly found other ingredients. A lot of the combos seemed to hit
nice notes with the people who tried them. 

Karen and I tended to live in out-of-the-way places, so when guests
visited us, those visits would normally revolve around lunches and
dinners that just kept going. One of my favorite ways of eating/serving
is to make dishes in a slow procession, consuming them as they just
finish, rather than putting everything on the table at once, buffet
style, though occasionally that can be fun too. Nothing rushed about
it, it’s the only “event” going on. It permits slow and healthy
digestion, allows for much more wine to be consumed, and seems to
stimulate conversations toward topics that actually matter to people.
The whole thing is really about one massive state of relaxation/waking
up to how pleasant we can make things. 

And no matter how else you look at it, great food presented at regular
intervals makes people almost deliriously happy. 

I don’t see cooking as a kind of waste, or let’s say suboptimal use, 
of one’s time. I try to remember why I’m doing it, why I like it, and
to be mindful of each little task that comes up as I decide to prepare
something. Sometimes I tell myself that there is nothing more
interesting going on in the world than what I’m doing at that moment
(however delusionish that thought might be!), and since I’m there doing
it anyway, I might as well do it and nothing else, including worrying
about whether I’m missing out on something else.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #71 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:41
    
Maruwa in Japantown is really a kind of convenience store, as that
term is used in Japan (recall that 7-11 is a Japanese company, and that
the Japanese have taken convenience store culture several notches up
in presence and intensity). It always me depressed to be in there; it
seems so stuck in the 70s, somehow,  with its polished-over grimyness,
horribly bright florescent lighting, and just general creepiness. Yes,
I am spoiled by shopping at real Japanese markets for so long, but I
can't help but think someone could do better ,much better. I haven't
been to Ranch 99 yet--I hear it's pretty great -- and am looking
forward to it. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #72 of 197: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:41
    
<captward>: add a shot of sherry to your "curry" and you'll have a
traditional chinese stir fry flavah.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #73 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:49
    
Dude that dish with brown rice sounds pretty heavenly as it is. The
only thing I would be tempted to do with it is probably to add some
piquancy, either through some great rice (or other) vinegar, or through
some citrus, and I might be tempted to throw some fresh herb or
another into the mix. Chopping up some fresh mint about three-quarters
of the way through might be interesting, and might add a kind of
middle-eastern note or two. Thai basil, perhaps. Then I would break out
some steely dry nonoaked white wine. But if I happened to have some
red open, I'd probably cook the dish with a ton of thyme and oregano or
marjoram in the beginning stages, maybe add a freshly sliced tomato to
it. And maybe a small hit of sweet basil at the end. I would heavily
salt and pepper both versions, and may omit the water or replace it
with carrot juice or stock. 
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #74 of 197: Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 17:39
    
Carrot juice, stock, or BOOZE.
  
inkwell.vue.197 : Eric Gower: "The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen"
permalink #75 of 197: mother of my eyelid (frako) Thu 9 Oct 03 06:53
    
Maruwa and other supermarkets in the U.S. ARE pretty depressing
because they don't have the very latest stuff. Plus they don't have the
sound effects--the incessant boombox recordings of what's on special
in the supermarkets, and (better) the shouting and touting of
fishmongers and greengrocers in the more hands-on markets. Traditional
homemakers still go shopping for that dinner's ingredients from around
3pm that day--I work at home and still have that habit here in
California. At around 5pm in Japan the markets go wild with shoppers
looking for the last-minute items whose prices go down as the markets
start closing for the day. If you like pandemonium, go to the markets
at that hour in Japan.
  

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