This project is dedicated to Mistress Minowara Kiritsubo (Elaine Koogler), who got me started on this journey, to Master Edward of Effingham (Anthony J. Bryant), for his encouragement, and Master Tirloch of Tallaght (Tom Bilodeau) for his shining example,
I miss you all.
Also, to my wife, Mistress Abe Akirakeiko (Ellen Badgley), who has put so much of her own time and effort into this project with me, and for keeping me on track.
Finally, to all of our friends who have helped over the years. Takeda, Saionji, Date, Anne, and so many others. Thank you!
Welcome to the English translation of Ryōri Monogatari! It is my hope that this translation of one of Japan's earliest cookbooks is of some use to students of Japanese history, cuisine, and even reenactment. To the left you will find links to the various chapters, as well as appendices and other information about the book and Japanese historical food. In time, I hope to have even more material available, and to expand the site further. Until then, enjoy!
This project started back in 2001, when I was encouraged to do a translation of Ryōri Monogatari by a friend in the Society for Creative Anachronism. With the unbridled enthusiasm that only comes from ignorance, I jumped on the project, which was my first ever attempt at translating anything of note. Many years later, with on and off success, I’m happy to finally be able to present this more publicly, and I hope that people will find some worth in this translation.
Food is an important, yet often ephemeral, part of any culture. Ryōri Monogatari is one of the oldest extant collections of recipes in Japan, written in the first half of the Edo period, though many of the recipes are mentioned in menus and diaries much earlier. By itself, it is just a collection of recipes, and most of those assume some level of basic contemporary culinary knowledge. Unfortunately, what may have been obvious to your typical Edokko may not be so to your typical modern reader. To that end, I’m going to be putting up information that will hopefully help in understanding the text. Appendices will provide information not found in the main text itself, explaining more information on ingredients, the traditional measurements, and the various utensils referenced throughout.
The language of the text was challenging. The Japanese language of the 17th century resembles, but does not quite match, the Japanese of today. Written in sōrōbun, typical of the written language of the day, the text uses a mixture of kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Punctuation seems random to modern sensibilities, and the use of kanji is anything but consistent. Originally written in flowing calligraphy cut into woodblocks and then printed, some of the characters used are variants of their modern counterparts, and may not exist in modern fonts. Despite that, I’ve done my best to present both the original and the English translation. I’ve also checked against modern Japanese transcriptions. All that said, translation seems much more an art than a science; there are many cases where there is much more conveyed than just the words. I hope, therefore, that I have been able to walk that fine line between accuracy and comprehension.
There have also been some unexpected ethical questions that have been raised in this project. As strongly as I possibly can, I want to state that these are historical recipes, and I neither condone nor recommend the use of endangered or toxic plants or animals, to include whale, dolphin, pufferfish (the infamous fugu), etc. There are plenty of recipes and ingredients, and enough to set several feasts without using anything questionable, so please, be sensible. For anyone interested in getting more information on sustainable seafood, there are several organizations that provide assistance, but I truly appreciate the work done by Seafood Watch, established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
In closing, I’ll just say that I fully expect this to be a living work. In the future, I’ll address historical feasts, different aspects of food culture, and see if I can’t get more translations of pre-Edo menus or food references, so please check back for updates.
Joshua L. Badgley
12 February 2015