If I recall correctly, drawings of place settings I have seen suggest that so was used more as a condiment than as a major food ingredient. I have a book which is pretty much exclusively about so and it concludes that the stuff resembled parmesan cheese. Regardless, the stuff appears to have been around for a rather long time before falling out of fashion. As for falling out of fashion. The relative impoverishment of the imperial court as time progressed can explain that. Supposably, there were at one time dairies dedicated to the imperial court.
Your Humble Servant
White rice did not exist till the Edo period. White rice dose not exist Until the 1700's. Nobody had white rice in period.
Just in case anyone missed that, the polishing process to make white rice did not exist until after SCA period any more then the 12 inch wide obi did and can't possibly have had any affect on the period Japanese diet or body. Trying to explain the affect of white rice on period society would be like blaming McDonald's for Henry the 8th's weight. It may also be a good time to look at art from post period, witch dose seem to progressively show slimmer builds more associated with the geisha class, most likely affected by changes in government, evolving farming methods, and changes in diet. It may also be a good time to not that white rice is starting to fall out of favor in modern Japan due to lack of nutrition, and more people are looking to unpolished rice once again, though the change is hardly universal.
Stoutly built people in period Japanese paintings had never even thought to eat white rice. It would have been closer to the Korean short grain red rice, of importance to Shintoism due to red being the color of the imperial founding sun kami, and significantly higher in nutritional content then the later polished rice.
While we are on the grains, it is also important to not the historic surviving Shinto scripture notes that the FIVE SACRED GRAINS needed to be offered to many different important kami, and that wile rice was important, it was not the only grain crop in use, but often the only grain the noble class wanted, given the solar association.
"Peasants living in mountain areas with low rice productivity, along with poor people in general, formerly mixed millet with rice. The sweet potato, introduced in the eighteenth century, also became popular as a staple in the south of Japan, where it supplemented a low yield of rice. However, even the poor cooked pure boiled rice and pounded rice cake from pure glutinous rice for important meals. Pounded rice cakes (mochi), prepared by pounding steamed glutinous rice with a mortar and pestle, have been indispensable food items for Japanese ceremonial feasts. People thought that the essence — the sacred power of rice — was made purer by pounding, and mochi was believed to contain the "spirit of rice." Naturally this was and is the most celebrated form of rice and therefore the most appropriate food for feasts. Thus, New Year’s day, the principal annual feast in Japan, sees mochi always consumed as a ceremonial food."
From the link I posted, though there are other resources that say the same thing. It may also be a good time to consider that while the Shinto priest also pointed to wheat as one of the sacred grains, that this page sights uses for it in period as well. Since it's a lot of reading, here you go....
"Noodles made from flour as a light lunch or snack became popular during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and consumption increased considerably after the seventeenth century, when a processing technique for buckwheat noodles (soba) was developed in Edo, now Tokyo. Since then, soba has become popular mainly in eastern Japan, where Tokyo is located, whereas udon noodles (made from flour) have always been popular in western Japan (Ishige 1991a)."
I guess one could think of sou like, hmn, like liver today. Back in the day, everyone ate organ meats because you, well, you didn't just throw out perfectly good protein. Today, almost no one eats organ meats (well, almost no Americans anyway)  and most people are squicked out by them. I happen to love chopped liver but I have to go to a special grocery to get it and it's rather expensive so I only have it when I go to my synagogue's community dinner once a month, if that. And even then, only some people actually like it. On top of that, one type of liver, foie gras, is considered almost taboo in parts of the US and is thought to be the province of wealthy (and uncaring) folks.
So food certainly can follow trends and depending on the cultural context of the food, it can go out of favor really quickly or take forever to die. (It can also go in reverse. Think of the tomato.)
Willingly, anyway. Who knows what is in a random sketchy hotdog? On occasion, I found raw chicken livers at Whole Foods and raw beef liver at a farmer's market, the later of which terrified my roommate who almost didn't let me bring it home.
Post by Hayashi Yuki on Sept 6, 2012 8:35:27 GMT -5
My mother is the same way with organ meats. I am so interested in all verity of meats, and my mother hates it. I love sushi, and would love to try tripe at some point. Some Americans love the idea of eating foods from other nationalities.
I did not know that about the white rice. That is a very interesting tidbit of information. O wonder how they managed to mold brown rice into sushi and onigiri...
I've made brown rice sushi and brown rice onigiri. It requires a little more attention to cooking the rice, that's all. It still turns out sticky if properly made and properly turned as it cools.
Sushi as we know it wasn't period, though, as far as I understand it. The closest thing was fish fermented in rice in order to prevent its spoilage.
Agreed, thank you, yumehime for the information on the rice.
I would suspect, though I have no proof, that at least some rice was manually hulled earlier than the Edo period, but that it wasn't common, because of the labor involved. It became common enough for beriberi to crop up during the Edo period, which suggests to me that a wider range of people were eating it, at a very high rate. That's purely speculation on my part, though.
I haven't gotten my hands on the red short grain yet, but i did get to play with "forbidden rice", the black short grain reserved for the emperor of china(and really tasty). It's plenty sticky and makes sushi or onigiri just fine, and onigiri seems closer to the way the fish and rice were treated without the food poisoning risk. It also has a wonderful purple color when cooked, and if cultural envoys had brought it from china, it would have been a fast favorite, but brown and red are the only ones I've tracked so far in Japan.
The rice color came up when I checked for proof of adzuki beans in period food, witch I can't find even though there is proof that has turned them up as a cleaning agent(apparently they are great for acne). They may have eaten them, but so far the best information I got came from a Korean sight claiming that the red beans and rice for celebrations actually came after the polishing of rice as a color agent to mimic the red color of the whole grain rice. I later also found a web book dedicated to how rice became a staple in Japan, and it sighted that while the nobles really like rice, most of Japan was ill suited to grow the original red variety that came from Korea, and until the Edo area there were not enough new varieties to grow rice in enough of Japan's farm land to feed a country. The other fun point that came up was hemp seed, but only during famines, held a sacred grain space, but in better growing years was considered only fit for animals, though I doubt that will make a sushi roll.
As for organs, Braunschweiger still holds some popularity in Wisconsin, and I happen to like it, though I never really cared for chopped liver, and let's not forget the other processed meats, which unless specifically stated, could be made of anything, including organs. It seems we still have a use for organs after all.
And the description of the SO being like a Parmesan sort of makes some sense. If it was cooked forever to a solid, even cooked dairy tends to spoil, so I would think there may be a preservative microbe like in a yogurt or a cheese that crept in, even if it was accidental. For modern feast uses, I would almost say a mozzarella would be good for the bland or maybe the similar Indian cheese.
Speaking of India, home of Buddha, while I did check for an outright dairy ban in the teachings and found none, we know Buddha used stories to teach, so by chance dose Buddha tell one about a cheese maker or milk maid? If so, that could explain a royal interest in curing milk right after Buddhism gained popularity in Japan.
Not to necro an old thread, but I just turned up some more information on sou from _The History and Culture of Japanese Food_.
"The oldest record of milk in Japan is connected with Zenna, a person of Chinese descent who in the mid-eighth century came to Japan from the Korean peninsula, presented milk to the empress, and became a medical officer of the court with the title Yamato no Kusuri no Omi. The first mention of a processed dairy product is a record of sou being prepared on imperial order in 700. In order to supply that drink to the court, during the eighth century, the Palace Medical Office recruited farmers to raise milk cows. The numbers of cattle raised for milk was nonetheless quite small; calculations based on data in the _Engi shiki_ suggests that in the early tenth century no more than 1500 cattle were bred for sou production in all Japan, an average of about one animal for 4000 persons. By comparison, in 1975 there was one milk cow per 50 persons in Japan, and substantial amounts of dairy products were imported as well. This provides further evidence that dairy products were largely absent from the diet of the ancient Japanese.
"Sou was the only dairy product in use in ancient Japan. The _Engi shiki records that, 'Sou is made by boiling milk down to one-tenth the volume'. It is also known that sou was transported in baskets, indicating that it had a solid form. Since the solid content of milk is at least 12 per cent, simply boiling off the water content of milk will yield a residue in excess of one-tenth the original volume. There are various theories as to the actual nature of sou. The most plausible, proposed by Wani, is that sou was the skin formed on the surface of milk kept at a gentle boil, and that it was accumulated by repeated skimming. The identical process is used today in Mongolia to make ulm. Although sou was not churned in Japan, the sixth-century _Qi min yao shu_ uses the Chinese version of the same word (sú) to describe a type of butter obtained by churning milk skin with boiling water (Wani 1987:31-4).
"Milk and sou were consumed only by the court nobility, an extremely tiny segment of the population, and after the collapse of the court culture in the twelfth century, sou disappeared as a foodstuff. Not until the seventeenth century was the highly nutritional value of dairy products rediscovered in Japan, by scholars reading Dutch scientific and medical treatises."
I hadn't thought of milk skin -- that seems really plausible to me, especially as yuba is made the same way, by skimming soy milk.
Edited to add: yes, I see the time discrepancy between the time Zenna arrives and the first mention of sou on Imperial order. I'm not sure how that jives or if there's a typo in the book.
Last Edit: Dec 13, 2012 1:40:55 GMT -5 by Sō Haruko
The discrepancy could be that one record only mentions milk or sou, but the other actually explains what sou is.
It may also be that Zenna is actually an old legend used to explain why the nobles had sou, similar to the kojiki explaining why the emperor ruled japan with amaterasu. If the legend was written much later than the actual introduction of sou, an imperial order may get missed.
Or zenna was simply not recorded until the middle of the century because the surviving record is his obituary.
And 1500 cow seems huge for covering the nobility, even if it is tiny for the whole country. This make me wonder how much was consumed, and can go a long way to explaining sumo participants being so big and the ladies painted with extra chins.