About KANSHAcooking...

I created this site as a companion to my new cookbook KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions (Ten Speed Press, 2010). As with my previous book, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Ten Speed, 2005), KANSHA introduces readers to a culinary concept and the food associated with it.

The organizing theme of KANSHA is appreciation -- of nature's gifts and the earnest endeavor of those who prepare nourishing meals from that bounty. The specific instructions, and recipes I offer in KANSHA come from the Japanese kitchen. But whether you have previous experience in preparing Japanese food (or not), or are skilled in the culinary arts (or not), my goal is to encourage and enable you to become a practitioner of kansha in your own kitchen.

The photo-illustrated material (in pdf format) you will find on the KANSHAworkshop page, and the information I have placed on the Kansha Kitchen pages of this site, provide additional recipes not found in my cookbook and details (on ingredients, techniques, tools, menu planning and presentation) that were beyond the scope of the book.

I invite all visitors to this site to try making the recipes featured in the current lesson in their own kitchen. Those wanting access to material from previous lessons will need to register; your confirmation notice will include a link to KANSHAcooking's archive. Each time a new lesson is posted to the KANSHAworkshop page, the previous lesson will be removed and added to the archive.

Although I am not able to correspond directly with each of you, I welcome your feedback -- especially captioned photos with a brief description of your kitchen session. To submit your work, please download this sheet and follow the instructions on it. To further teaching goals at this site, I may post some of the feedback I receive, adding my commentary.

About the KANSHA book project...

I first began to collect ideas and develop recipes for KANSHA about 10 years ago -- simultaneous to researching and writing WASHOKU. Although both projects blend practical culinary instruction with Japanese culture and philosophy, I felt the more concrete set of guidelines for selecting and handling ingredients that washoku extols -- using 5 colors, 5 flavors, 5 ways -- would provide a good foundation to the more considered approach that kansha exemplifies.

Applying kansha to daily meal preparation requires mindfulness -- planning menus that avoid unnecessary time and energy or superfluous foodstuffs (you will soon discover that nothing goes to waste in the kansha kitchen). Kansha also requires a willingness to think (and take action) ahead -- getting in the habit of placing sun-dried vegetables and/or kelp in water before you leave for work to have stock that evening. Would this appeal to busy, city-dwelling cooks living outside Japan and its food culture? I assembled a group of volunteers to provide me with feedback.

My “advisory council” (a geographically scattered, demographically diverse group are named in my acknowledgments on page vi and vii (two names, Caryl Berenato and Sandy Sterner, were accidentally left out of the list; to be corrected in future editions). My advisers helped me test recipes, gave me information regarding availability of ingredients (in their community and on-line shops they googled) and difficulty of procedure (in their kitchen, with their skill level, not mine or that of a Japanese colleague). I also learned a lot about their food preferences: not everyone was enamored with sticky, fermented natto (but my Natto Spring Rolls, page 184, and Natto Pancakes, page 186, found enough fans to convince me they should stay in the book).

SPECIAL THANKS to those who enabled me to launch this site:
Amy Hamilton Lane (web mistress and site designer)
Kristen McQuillin (special design elements) http://www.mediatinker.com/

A bit about me...
I was born, raised and educated (High School of Music & Art in New York, University of Michigan) in America, though I have made Japan my home for decades. As the pictures below attest, I am
not of Japanese heritage (though I do prefer wearing a kappogi to an ordinary apron -- it keeps sleeves from getting messy).

I began A Taste of Culture culinary arts programs in the 1970's shortly after completing a course of formal culinary training at the Yanagihara School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine, in Tokyo. Although format and schedules at A Taste of Culture continue to change, the core curriculum and basic premise remains essentially the same: tasting sessions (to familiarize participants with traditional foodstuffs), market tours (to help those with limited or no language skills "read" labels), hands-on cooking classes and culinary workshops offer an opportunity for foreign residents to explore and enjoy Japan's culture through its food. Visitors to Japan are welcome to join regularly scheduled ("public") programs or arrange for customized ("private") ones coordinated to their travel itinerary. Programs are conducted in English.

I publish an electronic newsletter, sent from A TASTE OF CULTURE about 6 times a year. Each issue includes a short essay/story focused on some aspect of Japan's food culture. Each edition of the newsletter includes links to this and my other companion websites where photo-illustrated recipes related to the chosen theme are stored. Recipes can be downloaded and printed out, making it easy to take into your kitchen when you cook. A Taste of Culture's newsletters are free-of-charge, though permission-based. To subscribe, fill out the form on the Register page

As an author and journalist, I have written numerous cookbooks, magazine and newspaper articles. I was Gourmet magazine's Japan correspondent for decades, contributed dozens of pieces to the New York Times Travel Section, and have written series for several of Japan’s leading English language publications. WASHOKU: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2005) won an IACP Jane Grigson award for distinguished scholarship, and was nominated for a James Beard Foundation award as well. KANSHA: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions was published October 19, 2010. 


 A Taste of Culture

(Making tsukemono in Tokyo kitchen)

photos: Shane Sakata (left), Laurel Swift (right)


An shojin-style meal made by students

at A Taste of Culture (Tokyo)
photo by Laurel Swift

koya-dofu & assorted vegetables

 photo by David Song