Book Review: Untangling My Chopsticks

As Japan is only days away for us, it made sense for the next book I ready to be about Japan. Since I’m also a big foodie and love to experiment in the kitchen, I chose to read Untangling my Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbott Riccardi – a retelling of her stay in Kyoto studying the art of tea kaiseki.

Now I’m both even more excited for Japan and very hungry for it too…

Riccardi’s adventure is great as it encounters several different kinds of people and gives a great view into an interesting culture as well as a very delicious view on the food – she is absolutely amazing at describing the food in the big meals as well as the process of cooking some of them.

She gets to experience a lot of unique experiences, but goes in with a state of mind that is similar to how I like to go into trips – open-minded, curious but respectful. Japan is a culture that I have heard over and over that an outsider will never be able to truly join, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still get a good view from where they are. She goes in gleefully willing to learn, knowing it will be tricky, and charmingly nervous about upsetting customs or seeming uneducated when trying new things.

Her adventure takes her from guesthouse to living with a not-so-traditional Japanese family and even to Buddhist temple, from all of these she sees Japan from the eyes of other outsiders and gets a bit of info from some insiders. What she learns isn’t always pretty, what she sees isn’t always as grand. And yet there is wonder that is always in her words.

From all this, you honestly learn a lot about the history and customs. There’s a lot of interesting things you can pick up from reading the novel and it not only makes it more interesting, but it is very educational. Like I mentioned earlier, it also increased my excitement to go – all these new things I have in my mind from this book that I can’t wait to get a taste of myself.

Speaking of taste – the food sounds amazing. And I’m so excited to try some of the recipes myself. She includes recipes from some of her favourite meals there, everything from shabu-shabu the Christmas Cake.

If Japan does spike my culinary adventurousness again (and I hope it does!), then I’ve got some recipes to start with.

If you like novels about turning-point adventures and also really like food, this is definitely a book to read!

(Now I have to get back to baking my St. Patty’s day treats!)

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