Monday, May 31, 2010

The Samurai Secret

I just finished Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle, who argue that the Japanese diet is one of the most healthy in the world, based on what they call the "seven pillars of Japanese home cooking" (fish, vegetables, rice, soy, noodles, tea, and fruit). Since I was already convinced of the many virtues of Japanese food and already knew some basic recipes, I probably wasn't the book's target audience.

Nonetheless, I did learn a new story about white versus brown rice. Despite the prevalence of white rice in Japan today (although that may be slowly changing), one of the great female warriors in Japanese history, Tomoe Gozen, her general and lover, Yoshinaka Minamoto, and their troops ate brown rice, according to historian Hisao Nagayama. Nagayama believes that brown rice gave these troops strength and stamina not possessed by warriors softened by a diet of white rice. In a crucial battle in 1183, Tomoe Gozen and the Minamoto clan marched down the mountains into Kyoto and challenged their rivals. The victors of this historic battle? The Minamoto clan, the samurai class... and brown rice.

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