A new cookbook has recently been published by the Yokohama International Women’s Club. Titled “Food for Furoshiki,” it has been compiled from an unusual and interesting angle.
Editor Chris Ishikawa explains that the recipes are of course for meals at home. But also, she said, “the food can be prepared and cooked at home, put into containers, then reheated and served in someone else’s home.”
In its way, the cookbook underlines an abiding theme of YIWC, which is friendship between women of different nationalities, and their being comfortable and at ease with each other.
Chris is a lively New York-born American who has her own “very big cookbook collection from many different regions. I have a love of cooking,” she said. “And I have always loved fine china, and here in Japan so many beautiful things exist. You are not bound to have matching sets, so you mix your bowls and plates and never get tired of the dishes you set on your table.”
She had never supposed that she would come to live in Japan. “But my father was here in uniform soon after the end of the war, and my brother and I heard stories of Japan from him,” she said. Chris met and married her husband in New York, when he was there as a University of Tokyo graduate. He brought her on two early visits to Japan, to meet his family and to experience the Japanese New Year. A dozen years ago they moved to Yokohama. He is now an environmental researcher.
“I was lonely at first, but the women of YIWC befriended me,” Chris said. “In the club I made very, very good friends. I wanted to do something, and undertook a lot of volunteer work. I am so comfortable here. There are so many beautiful aspects to this country.”
As well as joining YIWC, Chris volunteered to be a member of the international staff at the Hodogaya-ku International Exchange Center. After eight years, she is still there helping advise foreigners on daily living in Japan. She is a board member of the Yokohama International Friendship Group. “Each of these groups is different, made up of different people,” she said. “I still like working with people to make their lives easier while they are here.”
She draws on the skills she used in her New York working life before she married. A medical secretary and receptionist, she understood the importance of showing kindness and understanding to the people she met. At college she studied business organization and management. Putting everything together in her Yokohama life, she is an efficient and cooperative community woman.
Fluent in Japanese, and enamored of Japanese art, Chris has made washi paper craft one of her specialities. “I call it romance with washi paper,” she said. “If I can introduce foreign women to washi, I feel I add something to their lives.” She covers tea boxes with washi, and with cloth, and makes washi covers for photo albums. “These are for women to put their photos of Japan in, to take home with them. I wish now I had counted how many other lives I have touched in Japan. I wish I had kept their names. My Japan experience is passed on in this way.”
“Food for Furoshiki” was Chris’s idea, and she and assistant editor and translator Midori Inoue have headed a committee carrying the idea through. “It’s a wonderful book,” she said. “It has recipes from 21 different countries, contributed by 17 different nationalities, women who have lived overseas in other countries. Sharing these recipes is sharing friendship.”
Many of the recipes are associated with the contributors’ special memories, some of which are described in the book. The recipes appear in both English and Japanese.
Proceeds from sales will benefit the recipients of YIWC support. These include two children’s homes and a home for the elderly. YIWC has received citations from the prefectural government and the Ministry of Health and Welfare in recognition of its work for charities.
“My husband tells me to be happy with what we have accomplished,” Chris said. “Our target for the cookbook is people who like to cook, or who want to learn how to cook.” At the YIWC Christmas bazaar at Christ Church on the Bluff on Nov. 23, she expects to be “busy selling cookbooks. I hope people will come over and say hallo, and buy books.”