Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto
Victoria Abbott Riccardi
Broadway, 2004 (2003)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ntangling My Chopsticks
is the first culinary travel book that I have encountered and it made me salivate on almost every page. I have been to Kyoto, visited temples and monasteries, even stayed at a traditional ryokan, but I did not glimpse the city that Victoria Abbott Riccardi (a freelance food, nutrition, and travel writer) grew to know so well.
iccardi arrived in Kyoto in 1986. She worked there as an English teacher, lived for a while with the family of her Japanese friend Tomiko, and studied '
' (her primary reason for the trip). Many will have heard of the Japanese tea ceremony (or read of it in
) but few know of '
chakaiseki (tea kaiseki), a highly ritualized cuisine that accompanies the formal tea ceremony.
' The author shares her love for the city of Kyoto and its lifestyle, and her appreciation of Japanese cuisine in general, and of the '
' of tea kaiseki in particular. Most chapters end with a set of recipes for food mentioned in the text.
iccardi tells us '
what is so bewitching about Japan: things seem so easy until you try to understand them
' and that '
draw the curtain aside, learn the language, and you face a web of complicated mazes
', a culture that is essentially impenetrable by
(outsiders). Sharing the author's account of her life in Kyoto, I learned a great deal about customs (that I wish I had known while in Japan) - for example expectations regarding gift giving - and enjoyed reading about details such as those involved in Japanese New Year celebrations. I recommend
Untangling My Chopsticks
for anyone planning to visit, or live in, Japan.
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