I have a pile of books that I’ve been meaning to write about, but –whether it’s the earlier drawing in of the night or despair over political inanities –it is these two volumes that I’m turning to at the moment.
Naomi Takayama (高山なおみ), a chef, cookbook author and essayist, kept a daily record of her meals for one year, from January 6, 2005 to January 7, 2006 in the two volumes of Chikutaku Shokutaku (チクタク食卓 上、下). Her husband took the pictures of their meals, and some of his output is endearingly blurry. She notes in her introduction that she usually sleeps 10 hours a day (!), so she usually only eats lunch and a late dinner.
Takayama records the weather and a simple note of what she did that day, and occasionally even gives instructions for her recipes.
For example, for her record of January 8, Takayama draws pictures of the vegetables and abura-age (fried tofu skins) that she bought for lunch, and even notes the price and where they were grown. Dinner was simmered daikon and abura-age; chives in vinegar and miso; gobo (burdock root) pickled in vinegar; miso soup with tofu and green onion; brown rice; salted salmon; nameko mushrooms cooked in brown sugar, sake and shoyu; pickled goya, cucumber and daikon; lotus root; and a salad of salted kabu (turnip).
On the page for November 11, Takayama provides recipes for two of the dishes she cooked that day–although her meals look impressive spread out on the table, this is home cooking at its best, as you can see by the brevity of the instructions. She even notes that she made bento (shown at the bottom of the right-hand page) for her husband and herself while cleaning up!
Takayama does not cook every meal. Her record for January 3, 2006, includes pictures of food she has received as New Year’s gifts and–one of my favorite details–her friend lying drunk on the floor! After all, New Year’s celebrations go on for several days…
Imagining Naomi Takayama and her husband sitting late into the evening over these meals slows my heartbeat after the sometimes frenetic pace of daily life and reminds me of the real comfort to be found in the daily round.