Food and Fantasy in Culinary Books

Eric C. Rath

in Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780520262270
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520947658 | DOI:
Food and Fantasy in Culinary Books

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The rise of the publishing business has been called the most important cultural development in early modern Japan. The mid-seventeenth century saw the rise of a new form of culinary writing, the printed culinary book (ryōribon). Hōchōnin, the knife specialists serving high-ranking samurai and aristocrats, continued to write culinary texts (ryōrisho) in the Edo period, but as in previous centuries these works were privately disseminated manuscripts not widely read and, before the twentieth century, seldom published. This makes the published culinary books, beginning with the 1643 work Tales of Cookery, the first popular media for information about cooking and dining. This chapter offers some general comments on what culinary books reveal about the interplay between food and fantasy that constitutes the definition of Japanese cuisine in the early modern period. Culinary books popularized ideal forms of cooking and dining premised on the idea that these could be enjoyed as forms of vicarious pleasure in the same way in which popular literature and guidebooks offered readers descriptions of exotic locations they might never travel to in real life.

Keywords: Japan; publishing; culinary books; Edo period; Tales of Cookery; cooking; dining; fantasy; food; Japanese cuisine

Chapter.  3866 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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