“Culture brings knowledge. Knowledge lead to consciousness. And when we become conscious we are one step away from becoming socially responsible. Culture is the key.” – Massimo Bottura.
The Japanese culture has always had a particular attention for turning awareness into concrete action. The wabi-sabi approach is a good example of this. What does it mean? Takahiko Kondo, Massimo Bottura’s sous chef, told us about its meaning and significance.
Originally from Tokyo, but deeply fascinated with Italian cuisine, Taka started travelling when he was only 18. After living and working in Tuscany, Veneto and Milan, he ended up at Osteria Francescana in Modena, a restaurant known for its multicultural brigade.
The term wabi-sabi consists of two words: wabi, which indicates the beauty that lies in imperfection, and sabi, the beauty of ageing. Together, they describe a way of looking at the world based on transformation and imperfection. It means appreciating things in their current state, whatever it might be, setting aside any aesthetic ideal that requires perfection – chipped porcelain, irregularly shaped vegetables, overripe fruit…
What is imperfect, becomes beautiful and what is normally considered old acquires new value. It means recognizing and understanding that beauty is all around us, we only need to shine light upon it. Like the autumn leaves when they turn from green to yellow, banana peels change color with time. Japanese culture empowers us to evolve, to be the best version of ourselves and to act upon it. According to this idea, Taka encourages us to look at ingredients with different, more responsible eyes.
In Taka’s recipe, chicken bones – usually undervalued and neglected – gain new value. “This recipe was inspired by a memory of my grandmother, who used to prepare a soup with bones and game leftovers, kombu seaweed and shitake mushrooms.”, explains Taka.
“In the Japanese culture, broth is very important. Welcoming a guest with a bowl of hot broth is part of my culture: it opens the stomach but also the heart.”
No matter where it’s from, culture is the key.
“Like Massimo, I believe that cooking is a language able to drive emotions. It is a language that speaks both to the stomach and to the head, because it is all connected. When I eat something that I really like I feel excited, I’m happy. That’s why I love cooking: I want people to get excited, to make them happy.”
Take the leftover game bones previously set aside. If raw, boil the bones in a pot with water and remove the leftover meat around them. In a large pot, place the bones, a clean ginger root, the onion stalks and cover with water.
Bring the broth to boil and let it cook for three hours on a low heat, until it is seasoned: you will get a light soup with an intense flavor.
If you want to enrich the broth with vegetables, you first have to wash, cook and finally add them to the broth. Taka usually seasons the soup with marinated soy sauce and garlic. He sometimes adds noodles to the broth, something that reminds him of ramen.