American life in Japanese cookbooks

As you know I was recently in New Orleans, and while there I stumbled across an all cookbook used bookstore by the name of Kitchen Witch, what a find! Some cookbook stores can be full of overpriced and rare books that are way out of my price range even if they are books I wish I might own, this was not one of those. The owner not only was well informed and well organized, with different sections for cuisines from different parts of the world or different parts of the meal (e.g. bread or dessert cookbooks), but he also had a very affordable selection.

A couple of years ago in Williamsburg, Virginia I acquired, from another used bookstore, a cookbook called The Art of Chinese Cooking by the Benedictine Sisters of Peking. It is full of amazing and wonderful drawings, and perhaps, if you’re lucky, I’ll share some of them with you here at some point in the future. It did put me onto the fantastic artwork that seems to have appeared in cookbooks particularly in the 1950s and 60s coming out of this country. I love line-drawings and the ones in the cookbooks from these decades are precious, definitely reflective of their time and place in history and so worth talking about with you here.

I ended up buying two Japanese cookbooks from the Kitchen Witch, I guess starting myself down the road to collecting Asian cookbooks from the mid-twentieth century with cool drawings. I’m include the images from one of those books in this post. This book is entitled Buy It ‘N Try It: Hints on Cooking and Living In Japan compiled and edited by The Women’s Society Tokyo Union Church (new revised edition 1967). As far as I can tell, it’s part of a larger series of “Buy It ‘N Try It” books, though I’ve not yet taken the time to explore what other topics they covered. As I said, what drew me to this book were the images. And another amazing thing about the book is that it essentially tells an American audience how to cook Americanized food in a Japanese context. If you happen to be in Japan and you’re an American, for goodness sakes, do not eat Japanese food, why would you do that? Instead, here are a bunch of recipes that use very few Japanese ingredients, but are American favorites, such as meatballs, peanut brittle, cinnamon buns, dill pickles, etc. Perhaps I’ll explore this in theme in another post as well, though I’m contemplating writing a more academic article on it instead.

So for the images below, click on each one for a close up and a few thoughts and further information about the drawing. Do enjoy this little tour through the newest edition to my growing cookbook collection. 🙂

Explore posts in the same categories: Books, cookbook, Food, Japanese

One Comment on “American life in Japanese cookbooks”

  1. Tess Says:

    Your book looks really interesting. Thanks for this post.

    From reading many blogs written by Americans (and other English speaking people) living in Japan, I don’t think it is uncommon for people to avoid eating Japanese food even today. Of course many more blogs I’ve read talk about enjoying the food and culture.

    Many of the the non-Japanese food people go to Japan to teach English and are quite young; I suspect that they don’t know how to cook even American food. Some seem to be picky eaters who are afraid to try anything unfamiliar. Some are vegan/vegetarian, and are surprised that so much of Japanese food does not fit their chosen lifestyles. Dashi is basic to Japanese cuisine, and while it can be made without bonito or iroko, it usually is not. They could eat shojin food (Temple Cuisine), but I don’t think that it is easily available in most restaurants or konbini. Some of the veg. people have written about how when they ask if the food is vegetarian, the Japanese will agree that it is. Or to the Japanese mind, if you don’t see the meat, then it is vegetarian.

    Other bloggers have lived in Japan for many years and can cook and eat Japanese food, but it’s no longer exotic and exciting. Eating Western-style is just more satisfactory. For others, food is not important to them so they eat a lot of snack foods and fast food. There are several who are connected to the military so they have ready access to American products, and fewer opportunities to shop locally.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: