December 13, 2018 Thu
Persimmons drying on a porch

Visit modern Japan, and it becomes clear that the convenience store bento box has become the lunch option of choice for many working Japanese people, dispelling visions of the rustic tofu-and-vegetables diet of yore. However, look hard enough–especially in rural areas–and traditional cuisine is still alive and well. Like all traditional cuisines in temperate climates, the seasons dictate the ingredients available, and therefore the type of dishes cooked. As we move into a Yosano winter, this means an abundance of root vegetables (daikon, burdock root), perfect for hearty nabe (鍋) hotpot dishes. Seafood being as important as it is in Japan, winter seafood is also highly prized; in the Tango region, snow crab (間人カニ) is a local delicacy (though fishing is limited in order to protect their numbers). Autumn’s bounty does not go discarded either; persimmons are peeled, dried and hung to dry, often on the porches of houses, in order to make delicious hoshigaki (干し柿: dried persimmon), a sweet delicacy on a cold winter’s afternoon. The winter may not be particularly long, but it is icy and dark here on the Sea of Japan coast; enjoying seasonal produce, and sharing in the pleasure of the culinary rituals passed down from generation to generation, is one of the highlights of these months.

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