Two years out of Harvard and with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu, Victoria Riccardi left a boyfriend, a rent-controlled New York apartment, and a plum job in advertising she hated, and moved to Kyoto to study kaiseke, the exquisitely refined form of cooking that accompanies the Japanese tea ceremony. Riccardi arrived in Kyoto, a city she had dreamed about but never seen, with two bags, an open-ended plane ticket, and the ability to speak only sushi-bar Japanese. She left a year later, proficient in both the language and the art of kaiseki.
Kaiseke is an ancient Japanese practice that dates back to the thirteenth century. Beginning as a modest vegetarian meal, Buddhist monks ate in Kyoto's Zen temples, it developed into a highly symbolic, uniquely Japanese ritual. Riccardi, through special introductions and favors from numerous Japanese contacts, was able to attend one of Kyoto's most prestigious tea schools, where she was taken under the wing of an American expatriate who became her kaiseke mentor.
Riccardi's story is not only a journey into adventure and adulthood but also an engrossing, knowledgeable account of Japanese culture, food, and the romance of Kyoto. While abroad, Riccardi lives with a Japanese couple, taught at the English school they ran, and explored the beguiling world of Japanese cuisine--the restaurants, food shops, supermarkets, and many fast-disappearing culinary customs. Her memoir is enhanced with 25 recipes so readers can replicated some of the dishes Riccardi encountered.
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