The recipe book written by Ai Hosokawa is rather hard to follow. Not only are the steps not put in order, but the ingredients are also listed out without the exact portion. This book is probably very confusing for readers who are not good at cooking. Hosokawa does not instruct her readers to measure the ingredient because she believes the amount can always be adjusted based on people’s preference and their mood. As for seasoning, since every family uses different types of cooking utensils that can affect the way seasoning the food, the best solution is to keep trying and taste it ourselves. When it comes to cooking, our own tongues are way more reliable than any cookbook.
To me, a good cookbook teaches us more than just cooking a dish; it can inspire the readers of some lifestyles and show them to appreciate life itself. Yoshiharu Doi is the advocate of “one side dish, one soup”; his way of cooking soup is somewhat unconventional. Instead of using dashi (Japanese cooking stock) as the base, one can easily make tasty miso soup with vegetables immediately available at home. He suggested to his readers that taste is not the most important thing, the ingredients today may not be the best match, even if it is not the most delicious dish, it is, after all, the taste of the day. His suggestion is to put aside the determination of achieving the best flavour but to enjoy the ups and downs of everyday life. Going back to Ai Hosokawa, she teaches us to have faith in our instincts and senses, she also tells us to listen to our inner voice.
Hosokawa is a renowned chef in Japan, she is also the person behind the cuisine of LOG Hotel in Onomichi that we talked about earlier. The Tokyo-born Hosokawa went to Italy to study culinary arts after graduating from university. Afterwards, she has travelled around Europe to learn from different local cuisines. She successfully incorporates her in-depth knowledge of European cuisine into the Japanese dishes that she has tasted ever since childhood. The crossover between the east and the west gave her cooking a magical touch that can be familiar yet full of surprises. Her cooking is very simple, some of them are only seasoned with salt and pepper, but the distinctive way of preparing the food simply brings out several layers of indulging flavour.
Vegetables is a cookbook Ai Hosokawa published two years ago that collects recipes of 60 vegetable dishes. While introducing the cooking steps, Hosokawa also explains to her readers the characteristics of each ingredient that she uses. She elaborates in detail how various types of oil and vinegar can affect the food, as well as the other possible variation of the recipe. Reading her book made me realize cooking can be, in fact, very flexible and full of possibilities. What I like the best about this book is the photography. There are many close-ups of the food she prepared, but none of them is arranged in a pretentious way. Photos of her hands merely show the movement without being an aid to clarify a cooking step. On top of these, there are also photos of her harvesting in the field or enjoying a meal with friends and family. Cooking is, after all, more than preparing dishes that are to be served; it is an activity that is connected to human, nature, the land, as well as the interpersonal relationship.