Merry White received her Ph.D. in Sociology at Harvard University and teaches in the Anthropology Department at Boston University where she pursues research in Japanese culture and society. Her books include The Material Child (University of California Press, 1993), Perfectly Japanese (U of C Press, 2003), Coffee Life in Japan (U of C Press, 2012), as well as two cookbooks. One, Cooking for Crowds, was recently re-published by Princeton University Press in a fortieth anniversary edition. She is currently preparing a study of Japanese food work. In 2013, Merry White received the Imperial honor, the Order of the Rising Sun, from the Japanese government for her work in Japanese studies.
Mastery in Japanese Food Work: The Case of Coffee
Professor of Anthropology Boston University
October 17, 2014
Coffee is the most widely consumed social beverage in Japan. Looking at coffee as a Japanese "food" allows us some observations on culinary work in Japan in more general terms, and some approaches to ideas of domestic, artisanal and industrial food preparation, in what some have called "the most principled cuisine in the world." Japanese food, seen from the perspective of its work, is more local, more idiosyncratic, and more personal than the idea of "principled" might imply. In coffee we can find demanding orthodoxy but we also find creative iconoclasts using classic culinary principles to inscribe their own signature work.