Find a New Interest at the Library! Featuring Japanese Breakfast

by Public Service Associate Juliana

Photo by Juliana Farrington

Midori’s cooking was far better than I had imagined it would be, an amazing assortment of fried, pickled, boiled, and roasted dishes using eggs, mackerel, fresh greens, eggplant, mushrooms, radishes, and sesame seeds, all done in the delicate Kyoto style.

— from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

One of the many, many things that I love about the library is that you can develop an interest in something and absolutely take off with it. By which I mean, you can mine the catalog for any and every resource, and you can follow any connection that happens to come your way. I ended up doing this type of deep dive with Japanese breakfast. An interest was born, I followed one lead to the next and the next. From television to cookware, cookbook to novel, memoir to music. It has been such a fun journey; I have to share it.

“This is great,” I said with my mouth full.

— from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

My obsession with Japanese breakfast began in New York when my husband and I visited a small cafe one morning. We ordered two standard set Japanese breakfasts and left in complete reverence. A standard set breakfast included tea, miso soup, rice, runny egg, grilled fish, and assorted pickled vegetables including beets, broccoli and eggplant. There was delight in every single bite.

When we returned home, we didn’t consider this meal as something we would cook for ourselves. It seemed complex and intimidating. Then one night while watching Drops of God, a limited series based on a manga of the same name, my husband and I were particularly intrigued by a cooking scene. A character stands at the stove and makes tamagoyaki, a Japanese rolled egg omelet, using a small rectangular frying pan. It looked delicious. We decided we should try to make it at home, not only the omelet but a full breakfast spread. We ordered a pan online, found directions to a Japanese market in Columbus, and off we went with a shopping list of ingredients to find.

Interestingly, over the holidays I had borrowed The Little Library Cookbook, a treasure trove of recipes inspired by books, for planning a holiday menu and was delighted to find among the contents a simple Japanese breakfast recipe. The recipe was based on a single sentence from Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood.

“On the way I found an open cafe and ate a breakfast of rice and miso soup, pickled vegetables, and fried eggs.”

Here was an additional connection to follow! The Little Library Year’s recipe and food-forward approach not only inspired me to make breakfast, but it inspired me to read Norwegian Wood and to read it thoroughly and specifically for food references. Nestled within the chapters I discovered sushi, anchovy pizza, cucumber wrapped in nori dipped in miso, red lacquered boxes filled with light lunch fare, sandwiches, sukiyaki for dinner, and lots of breakfasts.

Not only is Norwegian Wood filled with food but also many references to American Literature and lots of music. The book title is borrowed from the Beatles’ song, “Norwegian Wood.” The song plays an important role as the catalyst in the novel. The melody heard years later sparks the narrator’s memory to a significant period of his life, and so begins his reminiscence. Another connection! The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album became an unexpected part of my Japanese breakfast journey.

And it didn’t stop there. Next, I read Crying in H Mart, a memoir that has been on my TBR list since its release in 2021. What does this book have to do with Japanese breakfast? It’s written by Michelle Zauner, the musician behind the American indie pop band Japanese Breakfast. So, her book and CDs swiftly got checked out on my library card. Her music is the perfect soundtrack for cooking.

It’s been incredible to live inside this interest, to fill our pantry, our bellies, our minds and curiosities, to try so many new things. If you’re wondering how our first attempt turned out, the picture at the top of this post is perfect testimony. I must give almost complete credit to my husband. He’s the chef in our house. I shredded daikon radish, poured soy sauce, opened containers and got lost in joy.

I hope this post inspires you to try something new. What interest will you explore at the library?

Recommendations staff favorites

Best of 2022: Fiction

By Associate Librarian Debbie

I enjoyed so many wonderful books in 2022!  Here were some of my favorites in no particular order..

Booklists Recommendations

Happy Toni Morrison Day!

by Public Service Associate Juliana

February 18th is Toni Morrison Day in Ohio. To celebrate, I’ve spent the last couple weeks rereading my favorite Morrison novel, Song of Solomon. Toni Morrison’s novels live on the top shelf of my bookcase at home, a space reserved for reverence. I first read her as a college student, and she quickly superseded the ranks to become one of my favorite authors. 

Booklists Programs Recommendations

The Experience of Diaspora

by Public Service Associate Beth

On Monday, August 16 at 12 pm, in partnership with the Clio Society of The Ohio State University and Bexley Public Library, Professor Ori Yehudai will present Leaving Zion: Jewish Emigration from Palestine and Israel after WWII. While most scholarship surrounding the creation of the nation of Israel is from the perspective of Jewish immigration into Israel, Professor Yehudai flips the narrative and focuses on Jewish migration out of Israel and Palestine. He will discuss why, for various reasons, Jewish migrants decided to leave Israel for other countries between the years of 1945 and the late 1950s.  

Register for Professor Yehudai’s presentation here. The virtual event will be recorded, so even if you can’t attend the event live, you will receive a link to the recording about a week later. Professor Yehudai’s book Leaving Zion is also available to reserve at Bexley Public Library.