My pile of nightstand books at the moment includes Tim Ferriss' The Four-Hour Chef (available as a free audiobook here), a flashy tome meant in part to teach the simplest cooking techniques that yield high degrees of versatility, impressiveness, and deliciousness. But its real interest lies in the subject of learning itself, and so it also covers reasonable-investment-high-return techniques for mastering other things, like languages. As I read Ferriss' account of his own experience developing strategies to quickly learn the Japanese language right next to so many photographs of food and the preparation thereof, my brain couldn't help but combine those two chunks of information — and then proceed to make me hungry.
I had a mind to go straight to Cookpad, Japan's biggest general recipe site that we featured back in 2013, when it had just launched an English-language version. Now we have another rich recipe resource in the form of The New York Times Cooking database, an archive of 17,000 recipes, also accessible through its very own free iPhone app. Call up Japanese food, and you get a variety of appealing dishes and sauces from the simple and easy (chicken teriyaki, yakisoba, eggplant with miso) to the more elaborate (squid salad with cucumbers, almonds, and pickled plum dressing; and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fried sushi cakes) to the new-wave (miso butterscotch, Nakagawa's California sushi, and Japanese burgers with wasabi ketchup). Above, we have a video that accompanies the Yakisoba With Pork and Cabbage recipe.
Have a look around, and you'll see that the site also offers a number of useful functions for those who make a free account there, such as the ability to save the recipes you want to make later and a recommendation engine to give you suggestions as to what to make next. But still, even though sites like these guarantee that none of us will ever go hungry for lack of a recipe, we can only do as well by any of them as our actual, physical cooking skills allow. Fortunately, the Times also has our back on that: as we posted last year, you can get a handle on all of that with their 53 instructional videos on essential cooking techniques. And so we really have no excuses left not to learn how to make Japanese food — or any other kind. As for all those languages, now...
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.