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Merry White

On my first trip to Japan, in 1963, just after graduation from Harvard College, I was immersed in the sensory experiences of Japanese food – from “me de taberu,” to the sounds of frying tempura, to the textures of soft fresh o-tofu, but above all to the tastes and aromas – everything was new to me and everything, yes, even natto, was delicious. I became a caterer to earn my tuition for graduate school, and later I attended a professional course at Akabori Ryoori Gakuen in Tokyo but never cooked again professionally. I published two cookbooks and was a food journalist during that time. In graduate school I earned a doctorate in Japanese social sciences at Harvard, where food studies had not yet become academically “legitimate.” I have written books on Japanese education, on families and social policy, adolescence and popular culture, and several other themes. I currently teach food anthropology courses at Boston University. My work on coffee and social spaces in Japan, Coffee Life in Japan, was published in 2013 and in 2019 in Japanese, soon to be out in Chinese as well. I also have been narrator and guide on a Discovery Channel television program on Japanese food and have written many articles on other culinary themes such as the production and promotion of Japanese whisky. My current research and writing focus on Japanese food workers – industrial, domestic, and artisanal. In 2013, for my work in Japanese studies, I was awarded Japan’s Imperial Honor, the Order of the Rising Sun.

Ten Things I Can’t Do Without

  1. My children and grandchildren, but that goes without saying
  2. Coffee
  3. Japan
  4. Coffee in Japan
  5. Maine
  6. Creme caramel
  7. My stone mortar and pestle from Borneo
  8. My friend Gus’s ice cream
  9. Prufrock, my favorite coffee house in London
  10. Packing my bag to go somewhere, returning from somewhere home

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