A bookstore is much more than an establishment where books are sold, it is that place where current trends are displayed. In a gastronomy bookstore, books take center stage on the news tables and with just a glance we already know where ‘the stews’ are going in the coming months.
Just three years ago, bookstores began displaying books about sake, and then, as now, we had no idea what it was, how to drink it, and what use it could have on our table. Obviously, for our Western palates, sake is that unknown liquor that they offer us in certain Japanese restaurants along with that question of “hot, warm or cold?” We answer at random and we don’t have the best idea of whether what they are going to put in that jug and cup minimalism is good, bad or average. We drink it and that’s it.
The truth is that almost all the great mixologists in our country have made a drink with sake and drinks such as Sake Sangría, Sake Tonic, Sake Mojito or sake sorbet, for example, have been born. But what are they talking about when they say sake? The Japanese language is curious. Sake in Japan is known as nibon-shu, which means ‘Japanese alcohol’; Women do not say sake, but OSake, which is a refined and feminine way of calling the liquor. Sake is drunk as a blessing, rice, that sacred grain that fills with energy, purifies and accompanies the sublime: nigiri.
Portada de Oishinbo. A la carte 2. Sake, de Tetsu Kariya (autor) y Akira Hanasaki (mangaka), de Norma Editorial.
The first book that came to us at the bookstore, where the theme was one hundred percent sake, was number 2 of the Oishinbo manga, dedicated entirely to the traditional Japanese drink. I’ll put you in the situation about this collection of comics: It’s the story of two journalists who are commissioned to make a ‘definitive menu’ made up of the most delicious foods in the world. This is how it all begins and this is how the 111 most culinary books in the history of gastronomy in the world unfold. Whoever is going to travel to Japan and wants to know what the country’s gastronomic culture is like, has to at least read the seven books written by a publicist Tetsu Kariya; and the cartoonist Akira Hanasaki, who, thanks to this collection, won the prestigious Shogakukan Manga award in 1987.
The next book that landed on the bookstore shelves was a new gem published by Fun&food Salamandra, written by journalist and chef Matt Goulding, called Sushi, Ramen Sake. A journey narrated in the first person, where while the most traditional flavor of the main areas of the Japanese country is discovered, the author introduces us to the characters who make it possible; supermarkets; street foods; the bento; the Geishas; the Izakayas and, of course!, the sake.
Cover of Sushi, ramen, sake, by Matt Goulding (Ediciones Salamandra).
Later, Planeta Gastro decided to bring two totally different titles to the market. On the one hand, an essay, Sake. Liquid Silk. Written by the gourmet Antonio Campins Chaler. The book breaks down each part of the making of sake: its history (always diffuse like all great things in life), its making process, the importance of water and koji (the fungus necessary not only to make sake, but also to make rice vinegar, soy sauce, miso or mirin, among others) and the artisans who make the variety of different sakes possible.
Image from the book The World of Sake, by Mayuko Sasayama, provided by the Planeta Gastro publishing house.CARLES ALLENDE
The second book published by Planeta Gastro was The World of Sake, by Mayuko Sasayama. The book has a content structure similar to the previous one, however, its edition, in small format, full of illustrations, graphics and photographs, makes it closer for those who want to have their first approach to the world of sake. Mayuko is one of the few women who today have the official title of Sake Sommelier and who dedicates her life to raising her voice so that this part of her culture is understood. “The first time I tried sake I didn’t like it. Until, years later, my father took me to eat at an ikazaya and ordered a sake. When I tried it I felt something strange, that sake was special, very silky, delicate, full of nuances, then I knew that my future was going to be linked to the world of sake.” The book incorporates a bidi code that gives access to the author’s sake masterclasses taught on her YouTube portal. “The spirit of my people is always thinking about how any aspect of life can be improved,” writes the author, “and when it comes to sake, it is about achieving perfection in the set of processes that make it up.”
Sara Cucala is a writer, filmmaker and journalist specialized in gastronomy. The creator of one of the first gastronomy and travel blogs, she has written numerous books, coordinated the culinary content of TVE’s afternoon magazine and directed several films and documentaries. She is founder and co-owner of the food bookstore and cooking school A Punto.
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