Canberra-born food writer and photographer Emiko Davies has made a home for herself in Florence, Italy, and has built a career writing about Italian food. But her latest work draws on her childhood and family in Japan. In December, Emiko will return to her hometown to launch her newest cookbook, Gohan: Everyday Japanese Cooking.
Emiko has lived all over the world. Her family moved to Beijing for several years while she was in high school, spent holidays in Tokyo, and she studied for a fine arts degree in America. She finally settled in Italy, where she lives with her husband and two children.
“I ended up in Florence on a total whim. I could have gone anywhere! But a teacher had suggested Florence because of the good food and a printmaking school and I just fell in love with the city,” she told Region.
“And even though I’ve lived outside of Australia for most of my adult life, Canberra is still home.”
Emiko’s first cookbooks focus on Italian home cooking. She has written about the food history of Florence, Venetian cicchetti (small bites) and the coast of Tuscany. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is a collection of heirloom family recipes.
“I was really inspired by my husband’s family and my mother-in-law. I interviewed family members about what they loved to cook and how their grandparents cooked. And while I was doing that, I thought that I would actually love to do this with my own family and interview my Mum about her memories of cooking with her Grandmother.”
However, her publisher wanted her to focus on Italian food rather than change her direction and write about Japanese home cooking. It was several years (and a pandemic) later when Emiko pitched Gohan to another publisher, and it was accepted.
While, on the surface, it might appear that Italian and Japanese cooking are worlds apart, Emiko explained that there are plenty of similarities in how the two cultures approach cooking.
“In both Japan and Italy, seasonal produce is really valued, so when you’ve got beautiful seasonal vegetables, you don’t have to do very much to it.”
And, like her earlier books, Gohan focuses on home cooking and family recipes. Emiko explained that people are often intimidated by Japanese cooking or assume that it must be very difficult to prepare because they are only exposed to the style of cuisine they see in restaurants, but Japanese home cooking is more straightforward.
“In Japan, you go to restaurants for those more specialised dishes. For example, my Grandmother would never make sushi at home: that’s something you’d order out for,” Emiko explained.
While researching the book, Emiko travelled to Japan to interview family and friends about their home recipes, and she shot all the photographs at home in Florence. She intentionally wanted the style of photography to look like dishes made at home, without special equipment or Japanese crockery.
To launch the book, Emiko is touring Australia running events, lunches and classes.
She will have a Q&A event in Canberra with veteran food journalist Joanne Saville on 10 December and at another event at the Asia Book Room in Kingston where the special guest will be her biggest food influence, her Mum!
Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.