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While we do the same, here's a bit of reading to pass the time. Or for planning that cold frame or hoop house planting even!
Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook by Joy Larkcom. (Kodansha, 1991; Frances Lincoln Limited, 2007)
First published by Kodansha in 1991, this book has stayed in print for good reason: it is indispensable. Larkcom's explanations and descriptions of how to grow, what the vegetable in question looks like, and tips on preparing it are wonderful. The product of her own travels and research, Larkcom includes wonderful sketches of the assorted vegetables along with their various names in Latin, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and English. (In hindsight, I wish I had taken it along to China to help identify things in the markets. Maybe next time.) Given as a gift about four years ago by good friends, I keep it on my desk as a handy reference. I have not read it cover to cover, but have dipped in so often in so many places that it almost feels like I have.
A Guide to Food Buying in Japan by Carolyn R. Krouse (Tuttle Publishing, 1986)
While the photos may feel slightly dated, Krouse's book is a classic that every foreigner living in Japan should have. Krouse includes very clear, short descriptions of fruits and vegetables as well as meats, tofus, fish products including some fish, baking products, and a few cleaning items. Also included, and what makes this book even more vital, is the Japanese word written out as one normally finds it whether Kanji, Hiragana, or Katakana. (A pronunciation guide is also included.) Small and relatively comprehensive, Krouse will get folks off to a good start.
Oishinbo ala Carte by Tetsuya Kariya (Viz Media, 2009; Shogakukan, 1983-2008)
This seven-part manga series is a wonderful way to explore Japanese food. I've only read the vegetable volume, while my husband read the one on sake. We both came away intrigued, a little more knowledgeable, and eager to learn more. A good result for any book, I think. I can't say I found the inter-character action that wonderful, I did enjoy the stories told about the assorted vegetables.
Just Hungry by Makiko Itoh
Just Hungry is another go-to resource for ideas, inspiration, and information. Itoh may live in Europe, but she is never far from her Japanese roots. For those living out of Japan hoping to find ingredients and recipes, she is fantastic. For those living in Japan looking for ingredients and recipes, she is also fantastic. She also includes plenty of Japanese along with clear explanations and instructions. During the March, 2011 earthquake, she was a voice of radiation reason. I will always be grateful to her for that. Buy her book. Read her blog.
Anything by Elizabeth Andoh.
I first found Elizabeth Andoh at the Manchester Public Library. I'd checked out nearly every book they had on Japan in preparation for our upcoming move. One of her cookbooks was among the stack I brought home. I couldn't take my eyes off the pages. Andoh came to Japan forty years ago and has made herself at home in the kitchen and the culture. Her culinary program started in 1972 and has been going gloriously ever since. I have yet to join in, but it is a dream of mine to cook with her. Sign up for her newsletter. Attend a class and see how food and culture deliciously combine.
There are loads more I could list here (Yukari Sakamoto comes to mind!), but I'm going to pause here with these. Got a favorite book, website, or person? Let me know and I'll add them to the list. The more the merrier!