until 1871, it was illegal to eat beef in japan.
yeah, you read that right. in fact, it was generally frowned upon to eat any kind of meat taken from livestock until the midst of the meiji restoration. chicken, pork, beef, you name it. while the reason for such an edict is obviously up for debate, many historians think that it was originally put in place to prevent famine. raising large livestock, particularly cows, requires an excessive amount of land and feed which can be put to better use on humans. put simply, beef wasn’t efficient.
in today’s rapidly globalizing society, it seems like you can find at least one restaurant of almost any major country’s cuisine regardless of where you go. there are french restaurants in china, chinese restaurants in the united states, japanese restaurants in canada, and italian restaurants in japan. you get the idea.
i think some people (incorrectly) assume that these cuisines make it across borders and oceans relatively intact. when a country imports the food of another nation, it tends to insert a its own local flair. a chinese person eating at a chinese restaurant in america would, more than likely, be very confused as to why the food is audaciously titled “chinese food,” seeing as it bears almost no resemblance to the cuisine they ate growing up. conversely, many chinese people i have met in japan insist that the food served in chinese restaurants in japan is better tasting and more authentic than the food served in chinese restaurants in china.
but i digress. this post isn’t about how nations get foreign cuisine all wrong.
this post is about the world’s most misunderstood condiment.