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A 16th Century Japanese Feast
As served at the Sword and Chrysanthemum event in the Shire of Eisental, October 19, 2002.
What to Bring:
What to Expect:
The floor will be marked with 2 rows of X's facing each other, each X representing one seat.
An hour to 30 mins. before dinner time you should place your seat where you wish to sit for dinner. Traditionally, the seats farthest from the kitchen were reserved for the host, honored guests, and the highest ranking attendees. We will not be strictly observing rank-based seating, but it might be fun to try to approximate where you think your Japanese equivalent might sit. Serving will commence farther from the kitchen and end with the people closest to the kitchen (but all attendees will get the same level of service).
The first course will be brought to you arranged on a small low table. Dishes will be cleared only when they are empty or you request that they be taken away, and successive dishes will be added to the table as they are ready. Tea and rice bowls will ideally be refilled as soon as they are empty (but we'll have to see how busy the servers are!).
How to eat gracefully:
Practice with your chopsticks ahead of time if you're not used to eating with them. A good test is to see if you can eat a bowl of M&M's or shelled peanuts with them. But if you're certain you'll starve without a fork, bring one along (nobody is allowed to go home hungry!).
Foods will be mostly served in bite-sized pieces. Pick up pieces and place them in your mouth delicately; if possible don't touch the chopsticks with your mouth at all. Never lick your chopsticks (or if you have to, make sure nobody is looking!).
If you do encounter a large piece of something soft (like a simmered piece of fish or a large block of tofu), use the sides of your chopsticks like a knife and press a bite-sized piece away from the rest. Never skewer food; always pick it up with both chopsticks on either side of the piece.
You may pick up bowls if you are worried about the long distance between them and your mouth. For instance, rice bowls are usually held while eating. But be careful not to shovel the food directly from the bowl into your mouth with the chopsticks! That's considered very coarse behavior - something only uncivilized commoners do.
You may drink directly from a bowl if it contains liquid. For instance, if you have a bowl of soup with various items floating in it, use your chopsticks to pick up some pieces and then sip from the bowl once they are mostly chewed. Noodles in broth should be slurped so they don't lose all their liquid before getting to your mouth.
Keep a paper napkin (yes, paper was period for Japan!) tucked somewhere in your clothing in case you need to discretely wipe your mouth, fingers, or chopsticks. Napkins will be available at the Feastgear Collection site.
When you are served, one small bowl will be initially empty. It is for mixing the condiments (salt, vinegar, and soy sauce) to your liking. You may dip any dish in condiments if you so desire.
It is considered rude to eat all of one dish at a time. It is best to vary between several dishes, taking a bite of rice in between each. So you might eat a bite of fish, a bite of rice, a bite of daikon pickle, a bite of rice, a bite of vegetable, a bite of rice, etc.
Conversations were conducted in hushed tones during formal meals, but after the meal there was usually a tea or sake party where things got increasingly rowdy. Ours will be a tea party because alcohol is prohibited at the site. The servers will announce when the formal meal is over and at that point you may feel free to get up and mingle or entertain. Common entertainments included singing, dancing (by men or women, involves lots of posing with a fan), and telling jokes, stories, and poetry.
All content copyright the author, Jennifer Munson firstname.lastname@example.org The author makes no guarantees for instructions and recipes on this site; neither does she accept responsibility for their outcomes. Verbatim copies may be made for educational purposes only provided they contain original copyright marking.
This page created April 4, 2001
Last updated August 02, 2005