I have always believed cooking is more religion than art. We expect our artists to entertain us and elicit emotion. What we ask most of all of our chefs and our spiritual leaders, however, is that they soothe us.

When we think of really good food, food that satisfies our souls, we call it "comfort food." In our not so distant past in the West, we considered meat and potatoes to be the ultimate comfort. But with society's changing mores, increasingly, people are turning away from meat and animal products, and redirecting their attention to the plant kingdom.

It is ironic, however, that Japan, a country with one of the richest traditions of religiously mandated vegetarianism, is not line with the trend and would appear to have fewer non-meat eaters in total than Western countries such as the United States and Britain have under the age of 12.