Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I first came to the United Kingdom at the outset of my diplomatic career, very few British people were familiar with Japanese cuisine.
There were not many Japanese restaurants or food shops and I certainly missed some of the dishes I had been used to eating at home.
What a difference I found when I took up my current post! Japanese cuisine has certainly gained quite a following in this country and is growing ever more popular. Harumi Kurihara's visit here to show us how to prepare some of her wonderful dishes is therefore most timely.
Strictly speaking, it may be a little misleading to define Ms Kurihara's creations as ��apanese cuisine�ߡ� They reflect her own inspiration and contain elements of Chinese, Western and other traditions as well. They encompass the whole range of gastronomic delights ? main courses, side dishes, soups, sauces and desserts. Her recipes also find their way into the ubiquitous obento , or lunch boxes, which millions of Japanese prepare at home for consumption later in the day.
One of the reasons for Ms Kurihara's enormous appeal is her pragmatic approach to her craft: her recipes are easy to follow and the ingredients are accessible to everyone in Japan. She has helped to make the kitchen a place of freedom and experimentation ? both for her compatriots and for aficionados of her cooking overseas. Moreover, for the latter category she has had the foresight to suggest alternative ingredients when those she normally uses may be hard to find. In short, then, what we are about to witness tonight is the preparation of delicious dishes which ordinary families in Japan eat and enjoy in everyday life.
Am I wrong, if I put Ms Kurihara in the place of Mrs Beeton, although the lifestyle in Japan is totally different from that of Britain in the 19th century? I say this, because I happened to purchase a couple of weeks ago at the Sunday market in front of the Embassy a copy of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, a new edition published in 1888. The book itself is old, but the approach by Mrs Beeton is, in my view, quite similar to Ms Kurehara's.
My wife is a great admirer of Ms Kurihara and her creations. Indeed, she was very pleased to hear about my involvement in today's event. I suspect the reason for her enthusiasm is that, after I have been exposed to some of the secrets of Ms Kurihara's kitchen, I will have very little excuse for not pulling my weight in the domestic arena from now on. However, I am sure it will be worth the sacrifice!
I trust you will find this evening instructive and enjoyable. I daresay Ms Kurihara's influence will be as evident in your kitchens and on your dining-tables from now on as Mrs Beeton's in the kitchens and on the dining-tables of the 19th century.
Past events: A Celebration of Contemporary Cuisine as introduced by Harumi Kurihara