Kansha: Lecture by Elizabeth Andoh at BU's Gastronomy Program

"Kansha" - appreciation - is both an expression of gratitude for nature's bounty and also an appreciation for a particular skill and ingenuity a cook exhibits in transforming nature's raw material into a gorgeous meal. Deeply rooted in Buddhism, Kansha encourages respect for nature, finely tuned attention to it, conservation of energy, avoidance of waste, and preservation of natural resources (even while manipulating it) respect and care for it.

Hence square watermelons, which store more efficiently in a refrigerator, yet require no interference the way Round-up resistant GMO crops do.

I'm propped up by a cuppa Stumptown (Honduran Pour-over) and about to start sending various links promised to others during the inspirational Kansha learn-a-thon today with the fabulous Elizabeth Andoh. Elizabeth (probably should refer to her as Andoh-san?) is in the midst of a US visit (she lives in Japan) to share with us lessons from Kansha: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions -- her second book on Japanese cuisine. The trip fairly defines "whirlwind" and yet her energy and grace are inspiring. After seeing her teach today for the first time, I'm among the smitten.

Washoku is her award-winning first book and I overheard a student today proclaiming "Your book changed my life!" She is well-loved for her humour and her vast knowledge, intimate and deep, of Japan, her adopted country. You may have seen my post on my first attempt at Oden, a sort of Japanese pot-au-feu or simmered meal that is heartier than a soup, lighter than a stew.

So, begging everyone's indulgence, I'm rolling up the various promised links into this quick post, with a few photos of the day and some thoughts on my growing interest in the concept of Kansha. Learning more each day, and loving it.

RESOURCES - Japanese Food and Information

Makiko Itoh is the author of Just Hungry and Just Bento. She's been a source of steady information and clarifications of news from Japan, in English -- especially useful to those of us who dropped out of Japanese school. Here is Makiko's post on how the retailer Takashimaya is handling the sale of vegetables from disaster-affected regions.

Koda Farms Rice - My favorite Japanese style rice. This family grows Kokuho Rose heirloom varietal -- they're the the oldest, continuously family-owned and operated rice farm and mill in California. Just exquisite. Read their stirring family story here.

Kitazawa Seed Company - Every time I introduce someone to Kitazawa, they love and hate me for it. I get emails "I haven't gotten anything done since my catalogue arrived! I'm just dreaming and planning and fantasizing about my garden!" Consider yourself warned. Kitazawa is the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds. Since 1917.

Grocery Resources:

Ebisu-Ya - In Medford - some of the same folks who operated Kotobukiya in Porter Square before they got booted from the Porter Exchange. A very nice selection of Japanese groceries and produce and a pretty decent in-store sushi lunch spot.

Japan Village Mart - Brookline Village. This store is totally new to me and has no website. Looks like they're maybe a year or so old and getting better if Yelpers can be relied upon. 200 Washington Street, Brookline, MA 02445-7623. 617.274.8651.

Reliable - In Union Square, Somerville. If you can get there, it's really pretty comprehensive. Includes a personal fave, the WALL O' Kimchi. It's Korean, I know. I love it. Many Asian groceries are Korean owned and operated so I'm lucky that way!


♥ Of course if it's kimchi you crave, you can make your own or go to HMart (see my Dumplings, Dumplings post) and have the Kimchi Ladies custom blend your very own batch!


Back to our regularly scheduled topic: KANSHA

I will have much more to post soon, but wanted to share a couple photos now:

Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku and Kansha. Ten Speed Press. You may find MUCH more at her lovely new websites: Kansha Cooking. And the Washoku Cooking site, here. Buy these books they are joy to read, beautiful on the coffee table, and FULL of wisdom and insights into culinary traditions we know too little about here.


Kansha sampler: the strips are gourd which is sliced, marinated, then fried. Savory soy marinade makes them quite addicting. The salad is gingery enoki mushroom and carrot. And the yai sakura (cherry blossoms) rice snacks are made with a mold to take the shape of harvested rice bales which are bundled like these "tarawa." The cherry blossoms are something quite beloved in Japan (and here!) and have a very short period. This technique takes the blossoms and lightly salt cures them making a sort of salty mini rice ball. Perfect with "biru" or sake.


Elizabeth Andoh at Boston University. The room lights were dimmed to show the projections, but you can see she's very engaging. She conveys so much information, but lightly and in an entertaining fashion. Really a treat to experience.

I'll say "Oyasuminasai" (good night) for now and post more soon. Follow my Tweets (@LDGourmet) for updates during the day. Thank you to BU for hosting today and Thank you Elizabeth for your wealth of knowledge so generously shared!