Every few months over the course of the past few years, I received a homework assignment from Elizabeth Andoh. I was on the advisory council for her book (just released) Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions (10 Speed Press), and received detailed instructions for recipes in various categories: Rice, noodles, dessert, etc. It was loads of fun, and while I made most of the dishes, I have to admit that I didn’t make the Home-stomped Whole Wheat Noodles or some of the other more involved or complex dishes. However, ever since I first tried her very simple but enlightening recipe for Black Rice with Green Soybeans, it’s become a staple in our kitchen. A few tablespoons of black rice colors the white rice a rich purple hue, setting off the bright green of the soybeans. Simple, delicious and nutritious!
This is very much a companion book to Andoh’s 2005 Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (also by Ten Speed Press). It is not esoteric or difficult to follow, but it’s comprehensive. And deep. Foreigners will learn something about the culture of Japan as well as the cuisine. But at its core, Kansha is a wonderful cookbook with great recipes that celebrate — as Andoh points out — abundance instead of abstinence. This is a book even meat lovers would enjoy, as the dishes are wholly satisfying and delightful.
I especially like her explanation of Kansha, the philosophy (or practice) of appreciation: Of celebrating the bounty of nature; of respecting the work of the farmer; of using every scrap of produce in thrifty and inventive ways. I reflect upon my own refrigerator and feel ashamed at how much goes to waste with good intentions but too little time.
Elizabeth is a generous and caring sensei (teacher) I don’t want to disappoint, and I’ll always try remember her words, keeping this treasured book in a prominent place in my kitchen and close to my heart.