Chapter

Menus for the Imagination

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520262270.003.0007
Menus for the Imagination

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Menu collections, one of the major categories of published culinary books in the Edo period, included complex meals that most of their readers could not create because of the menus' expense and complexity, and the existence of sumptuary laws which prohibited the use of key ingredients and elaborate methods of serving. This chapter explores menu collections that vary in their treatment of their subject, but share the fact that they are less like shopping lists and guides for actual meals and more like poems written to evoke other things: the dining habits of the elite, the change of seasons, or Noh drama. The menus demonstrate ways that those who wrote about food borrowed from and participated in larger cultural trends ranging from the elite tea ceremony to popular pastimes such as shrine pilgrimage and the puppet theater. Medieval rules for cooking and dining became the guidelines for a literary genre in the Edo period, allowing readers to conceive of entire banquets as abstract meditations on food.

Keywords: Edo period; menus; culinary books; meals; dining; elite; Noh drama; pilgrimage; cooking; banquets

Chapter.  16589 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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