June 23rd, 2011
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake created a massive tsunami that devastated Japan’s north coast. The worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl followed in its wake. Thousands are dead or still missing. And aftershocks continue. Just yesterday a 6.7-magnitue quake rattled the northeast and was felt in Tokyo. Japan’s recovery will take years, and my hope is that, together, we can help a little bit (or hopefully a whole lot) through sales of Peko Peko: Family-Friendly Japanese Recipes, my cookbook to support recovery in Japan.
I froze when I first heard the news of the March 11th quake. I couldn’t watch video or read full articles. I was too scared and sad. I have never been to Japan and have no friends or family there. Yet, I have a deep connection to and respect for Japanese culture. It took a couple of days for me to muster the fortitude to read about the disaster and, when I did, I immediately knew that I had to do something to help.
The idea of a creating a cookbook was inspired by Julie of Dinner with Julie and her cookbook project for Haiti, Blog Aid. It made perfect sense for me to do something similar for Japan given that my love for Japanese culture arises from a formative food experience. My first encounters with authentic Japanese food changed how I ate and how I cooked. Japanese food changed how I understand food. All food. A cookbook would help raise money for Japan and also celebrate the cuisine that inspired in me a deeper understanding of food.
Also, food and cooking provide a wonderful tool for talking to our children about other cultures and, if they are old enough, what’s happening in far-away places. The most effective way to help children imagine the world’s many peoples, places and cultures is to make them concrete and relatable. What better way to do that than with food? The world is a great big place, and eating is the perfect way to learn about it!
And so Peko Peko: Family-Friendly Japanese Recipes was born!
Peko Peko—a phrase that mimics the sounds of an empty stomach, and a common way for little ones in Japan to say “I’m hungry!”—is a collaboration between myself, co-conspirators Rachael of La Fuji Mama, Marc of No Recipes, 56 amazing contributors, cookbook editor Justin of Justcook NYC, copy editors Ann and Judy and, last but certainly far from least, our designer Rieko, without whom the book simply would not have been possible.
The book offers 120 full-color pages packed with gorgeous photography and nearly 60 Japanese and Japanese-inspired recipes. (You can see a full list of recipes here.) Peko Peko also includes an indispensable guide to over 50 Japanese ingredients, including suitable substitutions for the American home cook, plus an essay on bringing Japanese food and other global cuisines to the family table.
All of the recipes were created with the family cook in mind. Not all can be executed in 30 minutes, though, or only with supermarket ingredients. This book is about getting acquainted with Japanese culture via Japanese food. I hope you’ll seek out some unfamiliar ingredients, and treat the more involved recipes as a chance to dig into Japanese culture.
Peko Peko is available through Blurb for $29.95. All of the proceeds, $11.45 of every sale, will go to the GlobalGiving Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. The rest of the money covers printing costs. Nobody involved in making the book will profit from Peko Peko, including Blurb. As a Peko Peko sponsor, the good folks at Blurb have agreed to waive their usual cut of book sales.
Everyone involved worked hard to make Peko Peko more than just a collection of Japanese recipes that kids will also enjoy. Our goal was to create a collection of recipes that honor and celebrate Japanese cuisine. We want you to open the book and be inspired to explore the flavors of Japan. Inspired by the way that food brings people together, we hope that this book will serve as a way for your family to support and connect to the people, culture and food of Japan.