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Friday, February 13, 2009

Food on the tube: Anime


One of the things that really impressed me about the Pixar movie "Ratatouille" was how technically accurate it was. The norm in American productions is to denigrate animated features as kid stuff, and not bother with things like thoughtprovoking design and storylines.

But I did find, watch, and enjoy a Japanese anime series called Yakitate! Ja-pan. I do believe there is also a manga (illustrated comic book) which goes into greater detail than the anime, but either one is rather enjoyable for the food fanatic. First, being that it is a Japanese humor based animation series, this one needs some significant explanation (many of the jokes are based on puns in Japanese), but more importantly, it gives pretty good insight to the Japanese culture. Notably, the attitudes towards food, contests, and traditions.

That is because the series is about bread, centered around a boy who has the miraculous genius towards baking bread. And bread is a Western foodstuff that is interjected into Japanese culture. The anime explores, pretty much one at a time, the different ways by which bread merges into Japanese mores and concerns. And I do believe that some of the ideas make their way into real life recipes (for example, the squishy fluffy texture of steamed breads is much prized in Asia, but rather denigrated in Europe).

The title, by the way, translates to "Freshly Baked". Bread came by way of French influence in Japan, hence the Japanese word for bread is pan. Thus, the title adds the pun - this is the quest for true Japanese bread - Ja-pan.

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