Oishinbo 2: Sake

March 13, 2009

Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a total slob whose eating habits would make most people sick to their stomach.  I am not the person who this series is aimed at, as I have no idea what is being discussed.  Alcohol in particular is a big mystery to me, I almost never drink because I don’t like the taste.  Oishinbo suggests I just haven’t tasted the good stuff though, which may be true.

Though the volume is called “sake,” a variety of alcoholic beverages are discussed.  Admittedly, most others are discussed as a comparison to sake, but reading the volume will net you a great deal of knowledge about how wine is made, what makes it good, how the process between making wine and champagne differs, what foods go well with wine and what foods do not, and there are two different stories about turning people who snub sake, a very Japanese drink, in favor of wine.

If you take anything away from this book, know that apparently most mass produced sake (at least at the time the story was written) was made with volume in mind rather than quality, and things like sugar and alcohol are added into mass-produced brands to reduce the amount of rice needed to make it.  Apparently this is a practice left over from the war when it was done out of necessity since there wasn’t enough rice… but since it’s very cheap, the tradition continues.  According to the book, sake tastes better with no additives, and the point is made several times no false ingredients go into wine or any other high-class drink.  Also, apparently bourbon is American, which I didn’t know.

One story takes up almost half the volume by itself, which strikes me as a bit unusual, though perhaps there are a lot of ongoing stories like this in the series itself.  The story is about a small sake distillery that is about to be consumed by a larger commercial operation due to an outstanding debt.  The story is about the characters convincing a bank to give the distillery the loan since they produce some of the finest sake in the country, sake is a cultural heritage, sake appreciation is on the rise, et cetera.

Oddly, the production of sake is never discussed in that much detail other than to describe how polishing off a certain percentage of the rice increases the quality the more the rice is polished.  Also strange is the fact that most of the stories are about the characters standing up for sake, and only one is really about comparing different types of fine sake (the one with the literary agent).  Brands and sake are compared in the other stories, but mostly it’s to discuss how the additives affect the flavor versus the pure sake made by the small outfits.

Again, if you’re looking for plot or deep characters, you’re not going to find it here.  This series is fascinating because of the indepth look it gives different culinary subjects.  As I said, I have no interest in fine food, but even I’m totally drawn into these books because it’s just interesting to read about this stuff.  I imagine someone who is more of an epicure than I getting a lot more out of this book, so if you are at all inclined, I would invite you to check it out.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

7 Responses to “Oishinbo 2: Sake”

  1. Sara K. Says:

    “I am a total slob whose eating habits would make most people sick to their stomach.”

    That’s impressive. Now I’m curious about what makes your eating habits so horrible. On the other hand, if it’s something really gross, I don’t want to know.

    I loved the first volume, and I’m sure I would enjoy reading this one too, even though I have very little interest in alcoholic beverages. Still, I think I’ll pass on this volume and wait for a more interesting topic. Though the first volume has a lot of fish, and fish is something else I don’t consume. Really, I don’t read this to imagine how tasty the dishes are, but for the philosophy.

    Hmmm … my uncle-in-law would probably love this volume. He is really into wine. And come to think of it, the copy of “Garlic and Sapphires” (awesome book about secret undercover work in New York restaurants) I read belonged to him, so he would probably love Oishinbo in general.

  2. Connie Says:

    I think the next volume is on noodles, and possibly ramen noodles specifically. I know ramen noodles were mentioned in the preview, because I remember thinking that it was likely that Maruchan was not going to be mentioned anywhere in the volume. The descriptions of the flavor of the alcohol were a little lost on me in this volume, only because I can’t match characteristics like “dry” and “full bodied” to wine or champagne, even after having the pleasure of consuming both on more than one occasion. I just can’t taste anything to alcohol except alcohol. The descriptions of the history of sake and the cultural significance and development of the industry since WWII were extremely interesting, though.

    My eating habits revolve more around random bits of food that may or may not constitute a meal (or food, for that matter) than they do anything truly revolting. My refrigerator that is empty of anything save condiments and old bologna, and has been for weeks, says more on the subject than I ever could.

    We’ve sold a ton of copies of “Garlic and Sapphires” at my store, it’s a real classic, though I’ve never had much of an inclination to read it. I’ve had a few customers tell me that her memoir, “Tender at the Bone,” is also very good.

  3. Sara K. Says:

    I think you’re exaggerating the level of horror in your diet. Your melodramatic description was making me think of something which actually would make most people sick to their stomachs.

  4. Connie Says:

    Well, I do eat like that, too. I’m a little embarrassed to admit to most of it. I actually didn’t think my diet was that disgusting until I lived in a dormitory and everyone seemed rather appalled by it most of the time.

  5. […] of Monster (Warren Peace Sings the Blues) Greg Hackmann on vol. 1 of Oishinbo (Mania.com) Connie on vol. 2 of Oishinbo (Slightly Biased Manga) Edward Zacharias on vol. 20 of One Piece (Animanga Nation) Lissa Pattillo […]

  6. Sara K. Says:

    That might be as much as statement about your dormmates’ attitudes as yourself (I take it your family is not appalled). There is a wide variety as to what people consider to be (or not be) disgusting eating habits. It’s possible that your eating habits would disgust me too, but you shouldn’t care what I think.

    What’s important is that you’re healthy, you enjoy what you eat, and you eat in an ethical manner. That’s one thing I love about Oishinbo – it strips down the pretentious gourmands, and strives to show what makes eating valuable (beyond survival).

  7. Benny B Says:

    Thanks for reviewing this great series…

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