Mrs. Santa's Book Bag
Japanese Farm Foodby Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 400 pp., $35)
For anyone who relishes the beauty of cooking with the vibrant flavors in fresh farm food, or has a penchant for Japanese culinary culture, Japanese Farm Food would make a cherished holiday gift. Written as a culinary-infused love story about both her family and her adopted country, Hachisu's hefty memoir strikes a beautiful chord. What began as a long trip to Japan to explore the cuisine turned into two decades and counting of residency when she fell in love with her husband, Tadaaki, an organic egg farmer. As food-education leaders for Slow Food Japan, Nancy and Tadaaki live in a rural Japanese farming community and champion the farm-to-table movement. A passion for seasonal, local dishes brought them together, and this book is a testament to their wealth of knowledge. The stark differences between urban Japanese culture and the Hachisu's simple farm life are captured in Kenji Miura's gorgeous photography. Over 160 recipes explore the exquisite beauty of garden vegetables paired with homegrown rice, fresh-caught fish, and meat straight from a butcher shop. Hachisu uses Japanese traditional methods, explains the importance of ratios and noodles, and highlights the short distance between the earth and the plate.
The recipes – such as homemade tofu, mountain vegetable tempura (even tomato tempura!), and pork belly simmered in okara – explain the process of creating traditional Japanese farm food in a universal manner that can be appreciated in both hemispheres. I am excited to try the clams simmered in sake with scallions, as well as the egg custard pots with asparagus and peas. Some recipes require a trip to the Asian grocery for us Western dwellers, but Hachisu offers suggestions for variations, and keeps the ingredients lists and preparation instructions to a minimum. The helpful glossary and method indexes, combined with Hachisu's special memory-filled introductions, create a learning space that reduces the fear of cooking Japanese food at home. This window into the delightful lifestyle and cuisine of a Japanese farm family will be a welcome addition to any culinary book collection.