Japanese Traditions

History of Japanese cuisine.

History of Japanese cuisine.

Japan has a very peculiar cuisine. The first settlers from the continent in ancient times had to radically change their way of life and switch to fish instead of meat. To survive, the migrants had no choice but to explore about 2,000 islands and islets in search of some means of subsistence. They managed to find such fungi, mosses and seaweed, which still serve as a help in the nutrition of the population.
The lack of food taught the inhabitants to reverently treat everyday food, they tried to give modest dishes at least an aesthetic appearance. Fish, vegetables, seaweed and shellfish are now served in an elaborate setting. From radishes, cucumbers, carrots and green Japanese wasabi mustard , bamboo shoots or lotus roots, inventive Japanese housewives create amazing still lifes on a tray. The lack of fuel forced the Japanese to focus primarily on raw food, and bread was not known here until a few decades ago. True, in our time it is sold in every supermarket, but for the Japanese it is not a necessary product. The Japanese begins the day with soy soup, a little seasoned rice, and weak tea. Vegetables and fish are mostly fried in fat. The fried food is called tempura and originated in 1543-1637, when the Dutch and Portuguese established a network of missionary camps on the islands. The policy of isolation of Japan forced foreigners to leave the country, but cooking by frying meanwhile became widespread among Japanese housewives. The Portuguese taught the Japanese how to cook meat dishes, but meat food took root only among the eta-a caste of pariahs who, even before the middle of our century, lived completely apart from the rest of the population. Japanese cuisine began to use butter and lard in fact only after the Second World War.
In Japanese cuisine, there are no dessert dishes and sweets, except for jelly-like kegashi candies . These candies, which are a kind of artistic work, are served, however, only on public holidays. Usually the meal ends with fruit. When Japan adopted a policy of openness to the world in 1868, elements of Western cuisine began to enter its cuisine. The defeat of Japan in 1945 had a huge impact on the gastronomic traditions. The country was flooded with Western products, and the domestic food industry began to massively produce ready-made dishes and frozen products. The Western style of food became a factor of prestige, and traditional tea, rose and plum wine began to give way to beer.
Japanese cuisine has both philosophy and poetry. Showing respect for nature, the Japanese strive to preserve the original properties of its gifts as much as possible. Therefore, your favorite rice dishes are prepared without spices, and fish is eaten raw. In this regard, the Japanese like to repeat that the true beauty is in simplicity. Perhaps this is the secret of their longevity.
The date of birth of Japanese cuisine is considered the moment when the Japanese began to cultivate rice. According to legend, it was brought to Japan in a cane staff by the rice deity Inari-sama. It happened 2,500 years ago. Rice was everything: food and money. The tribal leaders kept it in special barns – okura. Now in Japan, the Ministry of Finance is called Okura-sho, that is, the Ministry of barns.
The cult of rice dictates strict rules for its preparation. The Japanese cook it without any spices, under the lid. There is also an old saying: “Even if a child cries from hunger, the lid will not be removed until the rice is cooked.” Rice (gohan in Japanese ) also means “food”. And this is an accurate definition, because the Japanese know how to cook seasonings, sauces, sweets, beer, sake and shochu from rice . Sake tastes like sherry. Shochu is a strong rice vodka, an analogue of our moonshine.
The second important part of the Japanese table is the gifts of the sea. They are stewed or boiled here, but more often served raw. And even alive! These dishes are called odori . The fish is scalded with boiling water, cut and immediately eaten with sauce, although it is still moving. A special delicacy is fugusashi . This is a world-famous dish of poisonous puffer fish. Its venom is 25 times stronger than curare venom and 275 times more toxic than cyanide. The poison of a single puffer can kill 40 people, and there is no antidote for it. The chefs who prepare this expensive dish ( $250 – $ 750) graduate from a special school to get a license to open a specialized restaurant. The chef cuts up the fish in front of the guests, removing the poisonous parts and washing the pieces. Aerobatics-leave the poison so much that the eaters have a feeling of euphoria, comparable to the effect of the drug. If the cook makes a mistake, the gourmet is waiting for paralysis, coma and death. However, a Japanese proverb says: “He who eats pufferfish is a fool, but he who does not eat is also a fool.”
However, the most popular Japanese dish in the world is sushi . In ancient times, this was the name of the method of storing fish. It was cut, laid in layers, sprinkled with salt, and pressed down on top with a stone press. After a few months, the fish was ready to eat. At the end of the XIX century, an unknown chef came up with a dish of raw fish under the same name. This idea has conquered the whole world.
Chopsticks – khashi-came to Japan from China in the XII century. This is an everyday personal thing that is not accepted to give for the use of others. According to legend, wands bring good luck and long life. They are given to the newlyweds, wanting to be inseparable, like a pair of sticks, handed to the baby on the 100th day of life. During the “First Chopsticks” ceremony, the baby is given a taste of rice from his personal chopsticks for the first time.