Friday, August 21, 2015

Preparations of a Feast Part 2

So in my last post we did a general overview of what is to be served at 30th year, today we discuss exactly what will be served. My menu for the event is thus:

Main Tray (Course 1)

(Fresh Crane soup)
(White Rice)
Kushi ni chīsana tori
(Small Birds on Skewers)
(Uji River)
Painkōn tōfu
(Pine cone Tofu)

Second Tray (Course 2)

Fujisan no sarada
(Mt. Fuji salad)
(Miso soup)
Jā-yaki sunaipu
(Grilled Snipe in Jars)

Third Tray (Course 3)

(Sweet rice)
Mikan to anto furūtsu
(Tangerines and Ant Fruit)
(Blue Sea Soup)

That sure does look like a lot of food, doesn’t it? A proper meal arranged like this does contain many dishes, but portion control is king in this style. One of the things to remember is that the primary eating utensil of the time was chopsticks, so each bite is designed to be properly sized for chopsticks. As well, each person can only eat so much food, and it was rude to snub a dish that was provided for you so culturally at least a bite was required. Over so many dishes, across such a wide variety of food, you would end up eating small amounts of each dish to be full in time for the end of the meal!

So when my guests sit down to dine at 30th year, they will not see mountains and piles of food on a plate but delicate and calculated portions. This is important for each of my guests to understand, so much so that I have created special cue cards for all my servers detailing not just things like ingredients/allergies but also portion sizes. Yes you may only be eating 2-3 pieces of sushi...but after already so much food will you really notice?

Another key detail is talking about some of the food itself. When a Western culture-raised individual thinks of a soup, perhaps you imagine hearty chunks of food and a creamy broth in a full bowl. You’re not wrong, and I’m hungry just thinking about it but that is not the Period Japanese style in terms of soup. A soup for them was light, sometimes savory or sweet, a deep rich broth filled with unique flavor. The soup was not a meal in itself, it was meant to be a part of a meal. With my Fresh Crane Soup for example, there will not be huge chunks of meat floating around to snag; it will be a delicate broth meant to add flavor, heighten anticipation for the next item and compliment the meal. 

Flavor profiles are something huge I also need to discuss, and will in my next post to more detail. Japanese valued a simple style in their art, and food was most definitely an art! You were meant to appreciate and admire the flavor of the white rice, the simple pleasure of melting tuna in edomaesushi, the crisp bite of eggplant or the rich soy flavor in a noodle. These are dishes not heavily spiced, or flavored to change the taste profile; these dishes were meant to be enjoyed as the flavor stood. Light seasoning to enhance the flavor will happen, and there is so much more I need to touch on this that i will on my next post.

In one last example, and another that I’m realizing needs a post all to itself, Japanese food of this period relied heavily on illusion and subtly. The art was not just in how it tastes, but how it looked. This is where things changed dramatically, yes the white rice was supposed to taste like rice but it was also supposed to be sculpted and shaped to look like a swan! Illusion food was such a commonplace that much of the text doesn’t even talk about how you should go out of your way to accomplish this; at the end it offhandedly talks about how you should make the food look. There are even dishes that are served that you are not required, or sometimes not even intended, to eat! The whole purpose of these dishes is to admire, reflect on what they mean to you and let their appearance and beauty enhance your eating experience. I have 3 such dishes in this feast alone; the Uji River, the Mt Fuji salad and the Blue Sea soup (all of which I will be discussing in detail in said next blog post).

What you can take away from this is that the food is going to be art, not just in visual style but in taste. It is my goal to preserve and enhance the natural flavors within each dish, to shape them to be visually pleasing and give my guests a unique dining experience they many not have had before in Trimaris. Portions will be small, but the whole meal will be filing with each bite.

Next time, I will dive deeper into the flavor profiles of my meals. Stay tuned!