Food Cultures of Japan: Recipes, Customs, and Issues

Greenwood. Dec. 2021. 241p. ISBN 9781440866838. $63. REF
Standing out from other books on Japanese cooking, this entry in Greenwood’s “Global Kitchen” series goes beyond recipes, with history, culture, and a chapter on “food issues” (nutritional and cultural). Jacob (The World Cookbook: The Greatest Recipes from Around the Globe) aims to expand readers’ ideas beyond stereotypes of raw fish and rice: Japan offers eclectic culinary options, and busy modern life alters consumption patterns. Jacob’s concise introduction covers the basics, including geography; topography; the philosophy of mono no aware; the seven styles of cuisine; aesthetics of presentation and hosting; and regional and fusion cuisines. The chronology (35,000 BCE–2021 CE) offers a fascinating historical précis. Throughout, there are abundant, detailed, specific recipes (specifying, for example, Chinese eggplant over Italian), with substitutions and instructions on technique (e.g., how to eat sushi). The writing is pleasantly conversational and there’s a glossary and bibliography (with English and Japanese references and online and video sources).
VERDICT Jacob’s authoritative and comprehensive book will be a revelation to anyone interested in the history or foodways of Japan, and an inspiration to home cooks. For community college and university teachers of cultures and cuisines, as well as the general public, this volume is an invaluable addition to the anthropology, history, and cookbook shelves.
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