Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Japanese Country Cookbook

What are the chances of this book turning up in a local thriftstore over here? I guess the previous owner must have done some travelling. Not to Japan, though, which seems to be the obvious at first glance, but probably to the US.
The book was published in 1969 by Russ Rudzinski, the owner of a country- style japanese restaurant called Mingei- Ya on Union Street in San Fransisco. Apparently (from what I'm able to dig up on the web) this was quite a famous restaurant in the 60s, but was closed down a long time ago.

I love oriental food, and could easily have bought it just for the recipes, but it's the great graphics, layout, colors and paper I fell for. It's a beautifully crafted book, printed with black and red inks on brown textured rice paper. The pen drawings are beautiful and rich in detail. They're done by artist Mike Nelson, who I unfortuneately haven't been able to find out anything about. Anyone? I found a graphic artist by the same name, but too young to having been around, professionally, in the 60s.

The restaurant interior and courtyard must have been pretty amazing too, just listen to this quote that I found in the food column of SF Weekly:

 "I was reminded of a long- gone restaurant in san Fransisco, Mingei- Ya, a woody Japanese country- style place that felt as if you were dining inside an especially beautiful cedar- lined closet." That says it all, huh? I've always been amazed about how much Japanese and Nordic aesthetics have in common, even though they are, literally worlds apart, the simple lines, the love of wood. You see it all over the fields of architecture and design, both contemporary and modernist.

I found some more great stuff this weekend, but decided this deserved a feature of it's own. To be continued!

PS. If you want to see some more amazing graphics, head on over to Potshots and have a look at this beautiful children's book from 1911! Great blog, by the way, highly recommend it:-)
 
 







 



 


8 comments:

  1. Jeg elsker kogebøger. Gamle som nye. Og, har en del, men ingen så smukke som den du har fundet! Indenfor keramikken kiggede mange skandinaviske keramikere i 50erne og 60erne mod Japan. Mon ikke også, at designerne gjorde ?

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    1. Absolutt- og ikke minst arkitektene! Så hyggelig at du likte boken, jeg falt momentant da jeg så den der i hyllen:-) Den er tilsynelatende også en riktig god kokebok, med en grundig innføring i det landlige japanske kjøkken, med alle basisrettene og mye mer! Og best av alt, det ser forholdsvis enkelt ut:-)

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  2. Hello. I live in Sydney, Australia and, I, like you, browse op shops [ thrift stores]. I found the Japanese Country Cookbook last Saturday and was attracted to it for very similar reasons as you. I am professionally a chef, and seek out authentic recipes and techniques in old cookbooks. My delight in the recipes, the art, the paper [ i love the paper ] the index,etc . So... I googled, and found your book. What a happy coincidence for us. I wish you well in any attempt at Japanese country cooking. I

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  3. Hi! How great to hear from you:-) Oh, isn't the book gorgeous? I fell in love instantly. I must admit I haven't done any japanese cooking yet, I guess your skills are far better than mine in that arena... I love asian food, though, so I will dive into it. I'm very curious about your thoughts on the recipes!

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  4. I, too, have the Mingei Ya cook book. I bought it at the restaurant after dining there just after my 21st birthday (it was my first legal drink). The place was fantastic. One truly felt that as if you were dining at a Japanese country inn. Tatami mat floors, no chairs and remove your shoes at the entrance. Kimono-clad waitresses served you and their English was so bad that ordering was often accomplished by pointing at menu items. You want a fork and knife? No such things existed at Mingei Ya. The food was sublime. It was one of the best dining experiences I have had in my life. And the book has been used ever since.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely description! Your experience sounds so wonderful, you really encouraged me to try the recipes, which, I must admitI haven't done yet... Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. My friend, Yero Rudzkinskas, owner of Mingei-Ya.

    CA

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    1. Did you know Yero? Do you have additional stories and/or facts about his life you would like to share? We are collecting information at http://rudzinskilegacy.blogspot.com/ and would love anything you could contribute to this amazing artist/entrepreneur. Regards

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