Cover of 'Nagori', by Ryoko Sekiguchi (Peripheral Publishing House).
Gastronomy is based on temporality. Pumpkins are eaten in winter, mushrooms (if it rains) in autumn, and sardines in summer. We search with an unconscious nostalgia, that flavor that gives us back the sensations of the first times, that reminds us of when we live and who we are. We are irremediably linked to the taste, textures and aromas with which we have grown up. In haute cuisine, chefs live obsessed with their own and unique temporality, because the temporality for a Spanish chef is not the same as that of a Norwegian chef; Not even that of an Italian has to coincide with that of an Argentine chef. The general temporality, which we call spring, summer, autumn and winter, differs in each part of the world and is individualized in being, making them unique and personal; But there is something that unites them, the concept of: everything begins and everything ends.
"There are different terms to describe the state of seasonality of a food: The hashiri and the sakari, applied to gastronomy could be translated as the young, acidic and tempting fruit, the beginning of the season; the nagori, however, announces the end, the last days of that already overripe ingredient that announces the farewell of the season", can be read in Nagori, nostalgia for the season that ends, by Ryoko Sekiguchi (Peripheral editorial). The book has reached the stores as that wave of reflections on the meaning of the temporal, that idea, sometimes castaway, of "wanting to eat what the earth gives us at all times". However, in supermarkets and neighborhood stores, the ingredients crowd like a sample of flavors of the world, where everything seems timeless and possibly so. When it's summer in the southern hemisphere, it's winter in the north. Food traveled from one end of the world to the other, making time an eternal trompe l'oeil.
Buying the seasonal product is a way to contribute to a healthier ecosystem, it is our grain of sand to curb climate change. However, in most cases, our daily basket is organized more than thinking about the seasonal ingredient, in the dish we are going to make. "It is what in Japanese cuisine is called deaimono, 'things that are found' (...) The deaimono requires considering the ingredients as beings in their own right: it is necessary to know the character of each ingredient (...)".
Cover of The Secret of Japanese Cuisine, by Ryoko Sekiguchi (Trea Editions).
This essay, Nagori, poetic and reflective, questions the sense of temporality, makes us think about the importance of the seasons in our mood and the relationship of the seasonal product with our memories. "The seasons are bridges that link us with other living beings. We ourselves, to a lesser extent, live under the influence of changes in season and temperature, humidity and luminosity."
The book puts on the table temporality and its ephemeral meaning: what exactly is a seasonal product? The product as we find it in the markets? What is the maximum distance that a so-called seasonal fruit can travel?, At what point in its life cycle do tubers and citrus fruits cease to be in season, which are kept for several months?
Portrait of Ryoko Sekiguchi, author of 'Nagori', provided by Editorial Periférico. Philip Ribon
"The seasons do not exist in absolute terms, in an independent way: they are announced by specific elements, such as flowers, fruit and vegetables. When we stop perceiving the seasons, the emotions disappear. We may feel bewildered, terrified, disgusted, or sad. Or worse: we can become insensitive," reflects the author of the work.
Sekiguchi, a native of Tokyo, has been living in France for more than 20 years, where she works as a translator and food critic. He has several works written in French, some poetry books and for this, Nagori, received in 2018 the Rungis des Gourmets Prize and the Manga Prize, Livre. The splendid translation is by Regina López Muñoz. The essay at times seems a conceptual haiku, with a light rhythm, which takes us through its 120 pages that could not end otherwise, but with the oratory of a great menu: the dinner of the 100 ingredients on August 19, 2014 at Villa Medici (Rome). "Although I have made this book give word to that so fleeting and evanescent that is the station, in composing this humble text of ingredients, I also wanted to preserve in writing the trace of that ephemeral evening. My intention was to write down those ingredients, beings all the more alive since they shared a part of our time in this world, as we write down the names of people: so as not to forget them. The footprint of the seasons, what those ingredients went through with us."
Sara Cucala is a writer, filmmaker and journalist specialized in gastronomy. Creator of one of the first gastronomy and travel blogs, she has written numerous books, coordinated the culinary contents of TVE's afternoon magazine and directed several films and documentaries. She is the founder and co-owner of the gastronomic bookstore and cooking school A Punto.
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