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Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto Paperback – May 11, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
--Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
“As Victoria Riccardi goes in search of culinary enlightenment in this intimate and beautifully crafted memoir about living, cooking, and falling in love with Kyoto, the reader is seduced and transported by the scenes and flavors she paints with words. Riccardi writes with a sensuous eye for detail that brings alive the extraordinary beauty of Japan and the sumptuous pleasures of its table.”
--Lora Brody, author of Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet
“Victoria Riccardi writes from the heart. A personal story of determination and discovery, Untangling My Chopsticks offers a refreshing glimpse into the tastes, intrigues, and traditions of modern and ancient Japan.”
--Elizabeth Andoh, Japan correspondent, Gourmet magazine, and author of At Home with Japanese Cooking
“Victoria Abbott Riccardi’s Untangling My Chopsticks folds back the screen on a city and its traditions just enough to satisfy our curiosity without diminishing the mysterious allure. Her friendships and experiences are recounted with delightful delicacy, and the kaiseki meal and tea ceremony come alive not only as cultural rites but also as delectable gastronomic and esthetic experiences.”
--Susan Herrmann Loomis, author of On Rue Tatin
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
This book has everything I love to read about from travel, to cooking, to history, to love (yes, it is a bit of a love story!). In summary, it is a fantastic book that captures the reader's attention through wisdom, humor and beauty.
Parts of this book were fairly shallow, especially where the relationships of the friends the author made in Kyoto were concerned. I got the feeling Victoria didn't even like some of them, and despite their kindness towards her, she had little compassion or warmth towards them in her descriptions, with the exception of the couple she lived with for a short time. I also thought the ending was odd - [spoiler] Victoria is offered a year long teaching job at the end of the book but declines it because she feels she might end up like her quasi-friends, a gay couple who have lived in Kyoto for 14 years and never quite fitted in. m...hello? It is a bit different living in a country like Japan for 2 years and living there for 14 years! Basically I think she just wanted to get back to her boyfriend in the US. No shame in that, but at least be honest about your motivations.
The food descrptions in the book were overly detailed and I found myself skimming over ingredients I didn't understand and can't imagine. I much preferred the chapters of the book that detailed living in Kyoto as a foreigner, and I suspect there are better books that explore this theme.
I have visited Kyoto and this was my favourite part of the book - revisiting the landmarks and knowing where the train station is, and where the Philsopher's Walk is and generally enjoying Kyoto again. A good read, but only for those seriously interested in Japan or Japanese food.
Trained in Western culinary tradition and a veteran of a Parisian restaurant kitchen, Riccardi was on the classic culinary track. Until an employee of the Japan Society in New York mentioned kaiseki to her, that is. Victoria's trip to Japan to learn about kaiseki changed her life as her Cordon Bleu training never would.
Kaiseki, I learned, is an elegant, ritualistic cuisine, a degustation of small, seasonal dishes, which developed in Zen monasteries to accompany the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. From page one Riccardi plunged me into exotic Kyoto, the acknowledged birthplace of kaiseki, with tales of her new home dubbed the "bedroom of eels," and her first meal, in a neon-yellow-splashed restaurant under the Kyoto train station. Her story unveils Japanese culture, taste, and tradition in prose that sparkles like the morning sun on a breeze-rippled pond.
Before Untangling my Chopsticks, my knowledge of Japanese food culture could be summed up in a paragraph, the one dubbed "sushi etiquette" sometimes printed on the back of American sushi menus. The story of Victoria's sojourn was like a gift to me: lush with details of friendships forged, life-changing lessons learned, and deeply symbolic, ritual-imbued meals cooked and eaten. It opened my mind.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very nice read, as well as including recipes! If you like Japanese culture and/or love food, I recommend it : ). Read morePublished 23 months ago by Steve W. Heim
Very good. Enjoyable culinary visit to Kyoto, Japan. Easy and enjoyable read. Would recommend it to other readers of travel literature.Published on May 14, 2014 by Mark R. Hoyt
Japanese cooking and living in Japan? What a wonderful combination. It was so fun to travel along on this journey.Published on March 10, 2014 by Merianm
Writer delves deeply into the culinary culture of Kyoto kaiseki. For anyone interested in reading about the history and preparation of kaiseki this book will not disappoint. Read morePublished on January 4, 2013 by PW
As I have in interest both in food and in Japan I was thrilled to discover this book.
It turns out that Victoria and I were both in Japan at about the same time. Read more
Loved this book and could relate to the author and her adventures. It brought back memories of studying abroad in Japan and living with a host-family.Published on August 1, 2008 by katnhwi
Having just finished Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbot Riccardi, I fix myself a cup of tea. Read morePublished on November 8, 2007 by Nancy
For those of us obsessed with Japan and its' fascinating culture, this book is a fun read. The author studied kaiseki cooking at an exclusive school in Kyoto, and the book spends... Read morePublished on March 23, 2007 by Jeffrey Gimble