Archive for the ‘Japanese’ category

American life in Japanese cookbooks

June 18, 2008

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. 🙂