Japan: The art of living around a table

Mealtimes dictated by courses simply do not exist in Japan, and the formulaic system of starter, main and dessert is ignored in favour of serving all the dishes together. And in fact, desserts are few and far between in Japan, or at least very few sweet dishes. And despite the clichés, Japanese mealtimes are not restricted to sashimi.

Light lunch menus are perhaps the most well-known, serving tonkatsu, a kind of crumbed, pan-fried pork introduced by the French in the nineteenth century, yakitori, or skewered meats, kare-raisu, which is basically Japanese curry, or tempura, which is an updated version of Portuguese deep-fried vegetables from the sixteenth century; all served with tsukemono, or in layman’s terms, salted vegetables.

As far as rituals are concerned, meals in Japan are eaten with chopsticks, without any serviettes or napkins other than hot and rolled towels. Earthenware bowls and cups are favoured over glass, both for sake and tea. And finally, family mealtimes tend to last much longer in the evenings, with the emphasis on taking time. Nabe, meaning pot or casserole dish, is a kind of stew and the perfect winter dish often prepared for its warming properties.

Okonomiyaki, (an amalgam of okonomi, meaning “what you like“ and yaki, meaning “grilled”), is a kind of pancake, to which almost anything can be added, including cabbage, pork, cuttlefish, prawns and cheese…in Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. And finally Oyakodon (don signifies bowl) is a rice-based dish served with a variety of accompaniments.

Journey of discovery | Published on: 11 December 2012
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