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The Kitchen Sisters Present #63 – War and Food and Manga

The Kitchen Sisters Present #63 – War and Food and Manga

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Manga, the ubiquitous Japanese comic books written on just about every subject—sports, music, sex, shooting pool—represent about 40% of all books published in Japan. In recent decades ‘food manga’ has exploded. Stories of food and conflict and competition abound in mangas like Soldier of Food, Food Wars, Cooking Papa…The Kitchen Sisters Present—Hidden Kitchens: War and Food and Manga.

“Manga is a cradle to grave phenomenon,” says Deb Aoki, writer for Anime network and Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a visual storytelling medium that people enjoy from the day they first start reading or enjoying pictures to the day they die.

“There’s this Japanese concept, Otaku,” says Sylvan Mishima Brackett, chef and owner of Rintaro Restaurant in San Francisco. “Otaku is a deep, passionate enthusiasm about some obscure part of the universe. Manga tend to cluster around very specific Otaku. It’s a place where people can brush up on the hyper-specifics of their enthusiasms.”

“Food manga, gurume manga, gourmet manga, is one of the major genres within manga that’s just been growing exponentially,” says Nancy Stalker, Professor of Japanese History and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. She wrote a paper called Gourmet Samurai: Changing Gender Norms in Japanese Food TV.

FOOD WARS, DETECTIVE GLUTTON, SOLDIER OF FOOD

Food manga first appeared in the 1980’s when the Japanese economy was very strong. One of the first, Oishinbo, ran for over 20 years and became the basis for an animated series, as have many manga since.

“There always has to be conflict in manga, especially in food manga,” says Zhong. “There is not any real peace in manga. If there is peace it’s really short, maybe one or two chapters, then back to war right afterwards. War produces content.”

Since Japan opened to the West in the nineteenth century, food has been an element of its international identity. “Traditionally the eating of four-legged creatures was proscribed by Buddhist belief,” says Stalker. “The Emperor first publicly ate meat in 1873. Eating beef was seen as something that would help build the national physique and make the Japanese more like westerners.” In order to compete with western soldiers, the Japanese military began to introduce more beef, more meat and fat, into the diet of the soldier to help build a strong army.

The modern manga industry came into being after World War II. It started with Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy, who was influenced by Walt Disney. “That American content was brought over by the American Occupation,” says Leyla Aker, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Viz Media, a company that specializes in Japanese graphic novels and anime. “During the American occupation of Japan a large portion of the Japanese population was subsisting on hand-outs given by the American forces.”

There were severe shortages of food during the Occupation and all foods were strictly rationed. When the circumstances of the war became dire many people resorted to eating bark from trees and replacing sawdust and wood dust in recipes for flour. Many Japanese died of starvation.
Miles Thomas, Brand Manager at CrunchyRoll, remembers an anime called Grave of the Fireflies. “One of the most evocative films I’ve seen, about two orphans during World War II who are starving, hungry. They steal food, trying their hardest to survive.

“It really makes you think about the darker side of food when people don’t have enough of it to survive,” adds Tiffany Chen who is also a Brand Manager with Crunchy Roll. “For a long time, World War II was just a history you studied in class. I never really felt connected to it personally. A lot of young people actually don’t even know about the atomic bomb. After watching this film, it was a pretty sobering moment.”

OISHINBO: JAPAN AND CULINARY NATIONALISM

Oishinbo, one of the oldest of the food manga is very popular with adult men, Aoki tells us. “The main character is this scrappy reporter. His father is this snooty gourmet who sets up this ritzy gourmet club for only rich people. They have dueling palette battles.” Oishinbo is written by Tetsu Kariya who is very opinionated about food. The manga creates drama about different food issues – about growing it and cooking it. “It’s kind of controversial,” says Aoki. “He defends eating whale meat, the history of it, how delicious, how dare anyone tell us not to.”

“Tetsu Kariya has a very progressive, political stance,” adds Lorie Brau, Associate Professor of Japanese Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of New Mexico, “He embeds these social messages inside his manga.” One of Oishinbo’s chief concerns is foreign influences. How do you maintain the important aspects of your culture while still engaging with the world at large? The manga uses food as a lens to address Japan’s place in the world.

YAWEH: MANGA FOR YOUNG WOMEN

There is a different subset of manga targeted at young Japanese women called Yaweh about homosexual love affairs. “Boys love” is one of the most popular sub-genres of manga. “Antique Bakery features a cast of tall, thin elegant beautiful young men. They all work in a western style bakery,” Aoki tells us. “Women fall in love with them because they are so handsome. But they’re not available,” says Brau. “But the cakes are available so they make many young women happy.”

What Did You Eat Yesterday? has become a very popular manga for recipes. The manga tells the story of a gay couple, one of whom is a lawyer, the other a hairdresser and the lawyer is very intent on creating economical, delicious meals for the two of them.
THE HERBIVORE MAN: MANGA AND GENDER NORMS

“In the last 10 years Japanese demographics have been shifting,” says Nancy. “Fewer and fewer people are getting married. The rate of unmarried men ages 30 to 34 climbed from 21% to 47%. For women it jumped from 9% to 34% in a decade. The media has come up with this term “herbivore men” Urban men in their 20 and 30’s who are more into fashion and culture than women. Rejecting flesh, therefore they are herbivores. Other conservative pundits say “well, it’s the increase of carnivorous women, women who are too aggressive and focused on their career and refuse to become a full time housewife they create the herbivore man. This is changing men’s relationship with food. They have to increasingly be responsible for their own meals. That is being reflected in these dramas that show a kind of everyman develop a sense of culinary confidence.”

Aoki tells us that Manga like Oishinbo and Food Wars in a way represent a war within people to be their best. “There’s honor in fighting to be the best you can be. That if you’re going to do it you’re going to be the best damn one doing it. The way of the sword, the way of the chef.”

Episode #62 – Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen

Episode #62 – Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen

Subscribe to the podcast: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS

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Black cake, gingerbread, slant rhyme, secret loves, family scandals, poems composed on the back of a coconut cake recipe —we journey into the steamy, myth-laden, hidden world of poet Emily Dickinson through her kitchen. In her lifetime, Emily was probably better known as a baker than a poet.

Filled with mystery, intrigue and readings by Patti Smith, Thornton Wilder, Jean Harris and an array of passionate poets and experts.

This is the first episode of our podcast under its new name, The Kitchen Sisters Present.

Special thanks to: Emilie Hardman, Emily Walhout and Heather Cole from the Houghton Library, Harvard University; Brenda Hillman, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at St. Mary’s College; Jean McClure Mudge writer and filmmaker; Christopher Benfey, writer and Professor of English, Mount Holyoke College; Aife Murray, author of Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language; and Elaine Hardman who led us to this story; and Zoe Kurland.

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“This is a cake that calls for nineteen eggs!  All assembled it’s 19 lbs. 4 oz! And that’s before you put the brandy in! The black cake first appears in the 1840s in cookbooks. It’s Caribbean in its origin — the cinnamon, the mace the nutmeg, its very tied up with the sugar trade and molasses.

“When you think about Emily Dickinson, the myth in the white dress, and then you think about her in the kitchen. The physicality of that cake — of making that cake that you share with people. It’s a social cake! This is a woman who is doing something that we think so counter to Emily and her remove from the world.”  Emilie Hardman, Houghton Library, Harvard

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Emily Dickinson wrote this poem on the back of her recipe for coconut cake.

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“People have wanted to turn her into a lady poet, a romantic version of her, that is not untrue, it’s just probably partial. She did stay in her room and she did have what she referred to as her “white election,” putting on her white dress and going upstairs, not going out anymore. What choice did she have? In her time, she couldn’t have gotten her writing done by being the spinster in the community, a nice church lady that takes care of bodies coming home from the Civil War. She goes on to write 700 poems in two years. I mean 700! For Pete’s sake!”  Brenda Hillman, Poet and Professor of Literature, St. Mary’s College, editor of The Pocket Emily Dickinson

Almost every year or two a new photograph comes to light that has some claim to be a new undiscovered photograph of Emily Dickinson. And we are all terribly excited because we only have one true recognized photograph with a good provenance for Dickinson taken when she was 16 years old (photo at top of blog).

Most recently a photograph has come to light which may show an adult Emily Dickinson with her close friend Kate Scott Anthon. It was back in the early 1950s that Rebecca Patterson wrote a book called “The Riddle of Emily Dickinson.” And the riddle that she claimed to solve was that Emily Dickinson was a lesbian and that one of her lovers was Kate Scott Anthon. And it is a very tantalizing photograph.

I’ve stared at it a long time. Sometimes I look at that photograph and I say, “It’s her!  Emily!”  And there are other times I look at it and I say, “Uh, nay”.  I’ve always felt that one of the problems with new Dickinson photos coming to light is that they all look too much like the old one.”  Christopher Benfey, author of Emily Dickinson and the Problem of Others, and Summer of Hummingbirds.

“Sometimes her poems are like recipes…

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

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Margaret Maher (left), an Irish immigrant, worked as cook and maid in the Dickinson household sharing the kitchen with baker Emily for 17 years. Emily chose Thomas Kelley (center), who worked as a laborer for the family, to be her chief pallbearer along with five other Irish immigrants who worked for the household.

“The influence of the kitchen and the language around her — Irish immigrants, Native Americans, people who are of African descent, slave descent—in and out of that kitchen, coming and going in that yard and barn. All of these different vernaculars played into the ways in which she approaches language.”
Aife Murray, author of Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language

Emily Dickinson’s Recipe for Gingerbread 

1 quart flour
½ cup butter
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
Make up with molasses

From Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as Cook from Dickinson’s original manuscript.The editors of the book add the following about Emily Dickinson’s gingerbread recipe:

“Cream the butter and mix with lightly whipped cream. Sift dry ingredients together and combine with other ingredients. The dough is stiff and needs to be pressed into whatever pan you choose. A round or small square pan is suitable. The recipe also fits perfectly into a cast iron muffin pan, if you happen to have one which makes oval cakes. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.”

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“Her gingerbread was the first thing that struck me. Emily would bake gingerbread in little oval cakes. She would glaze them, put little flowers on top and put them in a basket and lower them from her window to the children below. A mystery.” Jean McClure Mudge

Jean McClure Mudge (center) lived with her family in Emily Dickinson’s house from 1965-76 while Jean’s husband Lou, was teaching at Amherst. Jean was the first resident curator of the Homestead. She is the author of Emily Dickinson and the Image of Home, co-editor of Emily Dickinson Profile of the Poet as Cook, and most recently Mr. Emerson’s Revolution.

Fugitive Waves Episode #61 – Rattlesden

Fugitive Waves Episode #61 – Rattlesden

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For five years Davia’s father, Lenny Nelson, asked her to go to Rattlesden, England, to visit the Air Force base where he was stationed during WWII and to find an old photograph hanging in the town pub honoring his 8th Air Force squadron. It was still there, over 50 years later, he told her. Finally, one fine Sunday, Davia headed out in search of the pub and a piece of her father’s past—the piece he was proudest of.

Lenny died on Christmas Eve last year. In his honor, we share the journey with you.

Samuel Shelton Robinson helped produce this story with The Kitchen Sisters. He’s from London. It seemed only right.

Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen on NPR’s Morning Edition

Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen on NPR’s Morning Edition

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A journey into the hidden world of Emily Dickinson — through her kitchen.

Special thanks to: Emilie Hardman, Emily Walhout and Heather Cole from the Houghton Library, Harvard University; Brenda Hillman, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at St. Mary’s College; Jean McClure Mudge writer and filmmaker; Christopher Benfey, writer and Professor of English, Mount Holyoke College; Elaine Hardman who led us to this story; and Zoe Kurland. The readings heard are by: Julie Harris, Mary Jo Salter, and Patti Smith.

Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) in collaboration with Brandi Howell & Nathan Dalton. Mixed by Jim McKee.


Here’s Emily’s Recipe for Black Cake. We dare you to make it. Serves your entire community.

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Thank you for Supporting the Stories

Fugitive Waves Episode #60 – Milk Cow Blues

Fugitive Waves Episode #60 – Milk Cow Blues

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A journey into the mysterious and controversial world of raw milk.

Tucked away in the vanishing farm land on the outskirts of Indianapolis, the Apple Family and their neighbors created a kind of fellowship of milking. Milk Cow Blues tells the story of the Apples’ effort to bring raw milk to their community.

Jo Apple and her husband owned the Apple Family Farm in McCordsville Indiana for over 50 years. It was originally a dairy farm, but it became too much for the couple. It wasn’t financially feasible so they gave up the cows and planted corn and soy beans. Their son, Mark told to his father about a vision he had — farming naturally, without chemicals, hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. Just before he died, Mark’s dad agreed.

They started with sheep and chickens and cattle then bought a milk cow for themselves. They quickly found that there was a demand for unpasteurized milk. Women started showing up at their farm with glass jars to buy milk. The Apples had no idea it was illegal. But Indiana, like most states has very strict rules about buying and selling raw milk.

The Indiana State Veterinarian became aware that the Apple family was selling raw milk. He felt there was the possibility of harmful pathogens in these raw milk products and with pressure from other farmers in the area the Apples were served a cease and desist order.

The Apples were ready to give up. But their community encouraged them — they were selling milk, not cocaine or crack. The Apples checked the laws.

They could not trade raw milk, sell it, or deliver it. The only way people could legally obtain fresh milk in Indiana was to own a cow. So they decided, if people want raw milk they will have to buy the cow. The Apples set up the Indiana Cow Share Association and charged people $50. It worked.

A year-and-a-half after the cease and desist order there was a knock on the Apples’ door. A man they had never met before said that he was the one that had turned them in. He talked about how he was furious that they were selling milk for three times more than he was getting for his milk.

He couldn’t make it farming anymore and as a last resort had come to talk to them. His son was bagging groceries — but his heart was to farm. The man wanted to know if they thought he could do the same thing with pasteurized milk — sell directly to the public. He needed to make a change.

It’s a story that is happening all over the country, “All the farmers that are throwing in the towel saying, ‘OK, I can’t afford a $60,000 combine. I have to do something else. Maybe I’ll get some cattle and see if I can just sell them to my neighbors. That’s how it starts.”

Since we produced this Hidden Kitchens story The Apple Family Farm has closed down. In 2014 the Fortville Town Council tried to annex their farmland for development. It was a long, grueling fight. That combined with tax increases and the rising cost of farming became too much for this third generation family farm.

So Many Stories in Store

So Many Stories in Store

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In 2017 we all move into unknown territory. It’s times like these that call for strong stories. Bruce Springsteen said it best, “People need stories in hard times. People go to storytellers when times are like that.” People go to storytellers when it’s hard to decipher the world, when they need to feel hope and possibilities, when they just want a good tale. Here at The Kitchen Sisters we are getting ready to tell some of the deepest stories we’ve done yet. Stories that keep the spirit moving and light the path. Stories that reveal new ideas and new community leaders.

Today we ask for your support, and for your ongoing collaboration. It is our community that makes these stories possible. Our stories, our internship and mentoring program, and our many community visions. To those of you who have supported and collaborated with us over the years, thank you. To those of you who have recently discovered us, welcome to The Kitchen Sisterhood.

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In 2016 your contribution helped spawn so much new work. Our series, Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food aired to much acclaim on NPR’s Morning Edition. Some 14 million people around the world heard these stories of the transformative power of food. There are more in store in 2017.

2017 also has many other projects in store — our new series about archivists as activists — about librarians and historical society curators who are keepers of the history and embroiled in battles and deeply committed to preservation, a free press and the truth. We’re also deep in the weeds on our second book, Show the Girls the Snakes, and working still on our Broadway musical and more. And we are gearing up for a new year of interns, mentoring and workshops.

We have also been asked to create an installation for Prospect.4,the International New Orleans Triennial (sort of the Venice Biennale of New Orleans that was created in the wake of Katrina to help revive the city through culture) where we’ll be collaborating with the Houston-based art collective, Otabenga Jones and Associates. Prospect.4 opens at the end of 2017 and goes for three months. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Deep thanks for your support, your ideas, your music, your stories, all the things you share with us.

Keep the faith,
Davia & Nikki

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Giving Tuesday / So Many Untold Stories to Tell

Giving Tuesday / So Many Untold Stories to Tell

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Dear Friends,

On #GivingTuesday, we’d like to give you a story.

Some fifty years ago, Guy Tyler, an amateur ethnographer from Los Angeles drove out to the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Parker, Arizona with his portable reel-to-reel tape recorder and began recording Emmett Van Fleet, the last of the Mojave Creation Song Singers. Over the course of several years, Tyler spent his weekends and holidays meticulously recording the 525 song cycle that recounts the legend of the creation and origin of the Mojave people. Lost for decades, these recordings became the key for the Mojave to be able to map the boundaries of their tribal lands and fight the building of a nuclear waste site on their sacred sites.

With Standing Rock in our hearts and the events of 2016 on our minds, we are committed now more than ever to telling stories from the margins, stories from voices that might otherwise not be heard.

Listen to “House of Night: The Lost Creation Songs of the Mojave People”

Your support keeps the stories turning. Thank you so much for giving.

Our best,

Davia & Nikki
The Kitchen Sisters

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Episode 59: Weenie Royale: The Impact of the Internment on Japanese American Cooking

Episode 59: Weenie Royale: The Impact of the Internment on Japanese American Cooking

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During World War II, In desolate inland internment camps in the US, like Manzanar, Topaz, and Tule Lake, some 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were incarcerated for the duration of the war— their traditional food replaced by US government commodities and war surplus — hotdogs, ketchup, spam, potatoes — erasing the traditional Japanese diet and family table.

Akemi Tamaribuchi, a third generation Japanese American, artist Howard Ikemoto, Berkeley graduate Tami Takahashi, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of “Farewell to Manzanar,” Jimi Yamaichi of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, and George “Sulu” Takei of Star Trek, talk about how the internment forever impacted their lives, their food and their family table.

Kitchen Sisters Interviewing, Recording & Podcasting Workshop, Dec 8 in SF

Kitchen Sisters Interviewing, Recording & Podcasting Workshop, Dec 8 in SF

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Time again for The Kitchen Sisters Recording, Interviewing & Podcasting Workshop. Davia Nelson is holding a new one on Thursday, December 8 at Francis Coppola’s historic Zoetrope building in San Francisco. This three-hour session is designed for those who want to acquire and hone their skills for radio, podcasts, film, documentaries, storytelling, oral histories, family histories, news, and other multimedia platforms.

The Workshop covers interviewing and mic’ing techniques, sound gathering, use of archival audio, field recording techniques, recording equipment, how to make interviewees comfortable, how to frame evocative questions that make for compelling storytelling, how to build a story, how to pitch a story, how to create a podcast, how to listen.

The session is customized to fit the projects you are working on. So come ready to talk about your stories and ideas too. People who have attended in the past have come from radio, film, multimedia, detective agencies, farms, music, newspapers, journalism, photography, oral history, historical societies, ophthalmology, writing, libraries, archives, web design, restaurants, health care organizations, cheese-making and beyond.

The groups are always lively and surprising and good contacts are made.

Morning Workshop: 10:00 – 1:00pm / Afternoon Workshop: 2:00 – 5:00 pm.

Cost: $150

Come in the morning or come in the afternoon, just sign up for one.

The workshop is in North Beach at 916 Kearny St. on the 6th floor. Of course snacks from Cafe Zoetrope will be served.

Expand your skills, meet new people, support the work of The Kitchen Sisters.

REGISTER NOW.

Fugitive Waves Episode #58 – The Kiosk Strategy

Fugitive Waves Episode #58 – The Kiosk Strategy

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A story from the plazas of Portugal, where small ornate kiosks that served traditional snacks and drinks once graced the city and brought people together. Neglected by time and pushed into abandonment by a dictator’s regime that suppressed public conversation and gathering, this tradition is now being revived, drawing people back to public space.

For more than a century, Lisbon’s public spaces were graced by beautiful Art Nouveau and Moorish-style kiosks — small, ornate structures that provided chairs and shade and served traditional Portuguese snacks and drinks.

These quiosques de refrescos (refreshment kiosks) were the heart of public life in the city. But, under the long dictatorship of Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, which started in the 1930s, laws actually discouraged public gathering and conversation. Many restaurants closed down and the kiosks ­­fell into disrepair and all but disappeared.

That was, until Catarina Portas, a native of Lisbon, former journalist and entrepreneur stepped in.

“From the 19th to the 20th century, there were some hundred different kiosks in Lisbon. The city was full of them in different colors, different designs,” says Portas. She used to take walks around the city and see these sad, abandoned structures. She said, “I started to think, how could we bring this to our times?”

Portas began hunting down these kiosks — some still in place but boarded up, others in storage. She teamed up with architect João Regal to restore the buildings – not just to their former glory, but to their former place of prominence in Lisbon’s public spaces.

“We went to the city council with amazing photographs of the old kiosks, and we prepared all the old drinks and made them taste the drinks,” Portas says. The pitch worked —­­ Portas is fairly sure it was the drinks that convinced the council members. Their first three kiosks opened in 2009.

The kiosks offer affordable and traditional drinks and snacks, conversation and community – and also employment in a country struggling with the staggering levels of unemployment and a recession gripping much of western Europe.

Read more.