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Archive for Sunday, June 28, 2009

Japanese visitors cook up tributes to sustainable agriculture

June 28, 2009

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Yasuko Takatori, front, and Satoko Miyoshi set out samples of chirashi sushi prepared with locally grown vegetables and a few ingredients from Japan during a cooking demonstration at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Both women are visiting from Japan with the exchange group, Global Partners for Local Organic Foods, that is in Lawrence to learn about sustainable agriculture.

Yasuko Takatori, front, and Satoko Miyoshi set out samples of chirashi sushi prepared with locally grown vegetables and a few ingredients from Japan during a cooking demonstration at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Both women are visiting from Japan with the exchange group, Global Partners for Local Organic Foods, that is in Lawrence to learn about sustainable agriculture.

Food forum, recipes

The Japanese delegation will be host to a forum on local organic foods in their country at 7 p.m. Monday at the North Lawrence Visitor Center. Recipes from Saturday’s cooking demonstration can be found online at gplof.org under the blog section.

At the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, a cluster of Japanese women cooked around a stove, which made Saturday’s blazing heat only hotter.

With many wearing hats for protection and one dressed in a kimono, the women bustled about scrambling eggs, chopping potatoes and carrots and mixing vinegar with a sticky kind of rice.

The results — impressive in taste and presentation — wowed a crowd of about 50 who stood watching the demonstration. In return, the Japanese had been wowed by Kansas’ wide, open landscapes, not to mention its work with local organic foods.

Saturday’s cooking demonstration was just one of the many stops on a week-long tour of Northeast Kansas that 11-member Japanese delegation is taking. The group, composed of farmers, professors, students and a nutritionist, has traveled to area farms and The Community Mercantile.

A group from Kansas visited Japan last month. The goal of the exchange is to glean from each culture ways to improve organic agriculture. The exchange is supported and funded through the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund, Douglas County Community Foundation, Kansas Rural Center and Japan’s arm of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

Saturday’s chief cook was Chiyoko Hijiya, a nutritionist for a private school of about 600 to 700 students. The school uses organic food.

Hijiya was able to produce Saturday’s feast using a few ingredients brought from Japan (seaweed and soy sauce among them). All the rest was purchased at The Merc and Saturday’s farmers’ market.

Farmers’ market visitors were first treated to a dish known as chirashi sushi, which included sushi rice with vinegar, scrambled eggs, beefsteak leaves, pickled ginger, carrot, nori and sesame seed.

In Japan, the dish often has the base ingredient of rice and then changes depending on what produce is in season. Hijiya wanted to introduce a recipe that was flexible and could be adapted to local vegetables.

While Hijiya hoped to expand Americans’ cooking options Saturday, she said she had also been inspired by the trip.

In Japan, it can difficult to break through tradition to introduce new ways, Hijiya said. She was impressed by the frontier spirit that businesses such as Local Burger have shown.

“It feels like to really impact the younger generation is really difficult for her,” Hijiya’s translator Satoko Miyoshi said. “It’s really brave to do new things. And now she wants to do new things.”

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