Food and the desire to eat has always been mysterious to Asako Iwama. When the artist and cook was a young child, she could not understand why she had to eat. Her earliest memories of food are of her grandmother's cooking in a strange yet fascinating kitchen far away from home.

"My father is from Kamaishi in Iwate," Iwama says. "My grandmother lived in a tiny one-story house with a kitchen. I grew up in a conventional postwar residential development, but my grandmother's house was old and her kitchen looked like it was made of patchwork. She would prepare fish there, bought at 5 a.m., freshly caught, from the fish market just 300 or 400 meters away."

"To me, this kitchen did not look at all clean, even though it must have been," Iwama says. "The cutting board was heavily used, a little black, and looked as though it would be slimy to the touch. The knife had been used for so long the steel had become thin. After she cleaned fish, she put the cutting board in the sink, and water dripped from the faucet. It was amazingly grotesque. There were fish guts and a smell. Everything appeared to be slimy.