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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Bringing Homely Table Settings to Life

[From May Issue 2014]

201405-2

IIJIMA Nami, Food Cordinator

NHK’s morning program, “Gochisousan” ended its run this March; the delicious looking dishes featured on the show from the dining tables of ordinary families of the first half of the Taisho era and last half of the Showa era were popular with viewers. Food coordinator, IIJIMA Nami, was in charge of creating those dishes.

“A food coordinator’s job is to suggest dishes that would be suitable for a particular TV commercial, drama, or movie, then to actually create that dish on location and prepare the tableware and tablecloth on which to serve it up on. With TV dramas and movies, directors often ask me questions and request my suggestions about dishes in the script phase. ‘Gochisosan’ was difficult in that I was asked to give logical explanations of the setups that I usually create by intuition.”

These settings aren’t necessarily confined to today’s Japan. In some cases they’re set in the past and in others, overseas. Thanks to the rich knowledge of cookery she’s accumulated over the years, it’s been possible for her to reproduce dishes even when the correct implements or ingredients weren’t available. “I come up with suitable methods and dishes that match the situation by mixing together my knowledge of regional dishes of Japan and other countries, wine lore, Chinese medicinal food, vegetable cultivation and traditional food in my mind’s eye.” As, for example, in the case of the movie “Kamome Shokudo” – set in Finland – Iijima’s dishes, and more particularly home cooking, always give viewers something to discuss.

Iijima says, “I’ll be happy if those who see my table settings think to themselves: ‘I want to make that,’ or ‘I’d like to make my table look like that.’” Such remarks aren’t, in fact, rare and Iijima has published books. “I spend most of my time preparing dishes for shoots, so I never thought I could have my own cookery book. Since I measure by eye when cooking for myself, in order to satisfy readers, I wrote my book series ‘LIFE’ after many experiments.” Because it was made in such a way, Iijima’s cookery book is so popular that readers have commented that: “It looks delicious,” and “It looks like I could make that myself.”

“When I look at recipes from the postwar years, I’m really amazed by the time and energy people put into preparing dishes. They would make a charcoal fire, put a pan on a clay cooking stove and make stew with a white sauce made from scratch. I sometimes wonder how convenient things should get in modern times. Convenience is great, but convenient things, too, are going to change over time. I wanted my book to also be read in the future, so it introduces recipes that employ traditional methods; using neither microwave ovens nor instant stock.”

Iijima thinks Japanese cuisine is characterized by the fact that it makes the most of the natural flavors of raw ingredients. She says, “It might seem unusual, but, because Japanese want to make the most of the natural flavors of ingredients, such as fish, meat and vegetables, we skim the scum from broths. I have a keen interest in the differing food cultures from countries like Korea, in which this scum is considered to be a source of umami (savory) flavor,” she says.

Text: ICHIMURA Masayo


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