Experiences of Japanese farming, culture make way into new book

RANCHO SANTA FE — Author Nancy Singleton Hachisu will share her love of Japanese farm culture and food with a cooking demonstration and signing of her first book, “Japanese Farm Food,” at Chino Farms 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 10. Singleton Hachisu first traveled to Japan, after graduating from Stanford University in 1988, with the goal of staying a year to learn the language. She never went home.

“I came to Japan for the food, but stayed for love,” she writes in her book. “Organic farmer boy Tadaaki Hachisu captured my heart with his, ‘Would you like to be a Japanese farmer’s wife?’… Besides his good looks and solid country values, one more thing drew me to this guy. He loved food as much as I did and went to great lengths to grow it or find it.”

“Japanese Farm Food” is 385 pages and includes 135 simple recipes and 100 photos by Kenji Miura that illustrate food, community and life in rural Japan. It is the recipient of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2012: USA Winner, Best Japanese Cuisine Book.

“I came to Japan for the food, but stayed for love,” Nancy Singleton Hachisu wrote in her first book, Japanese Farm Food. Photo courtesy Kenji Miura

Its first release by Andrews McMeel Publishing in September 2012 quickly sold out. In January, Chino Farms received advanced copies of the second release due this month.

“I couldn’t get any books last fall,” explained Nina McConnel whose husband, Tom Chino, owns Chino Farms with his siblings. “I just got some from the second publication and said to a customer, ‘These would make a great present.’ She said, ‘I think it would make a great wedding present … I’m going to buy a stack.’”

Singleton Hachisu is the fourth author to participate in the Good Earth/Great Chefs Series following Alice Waters, Nancy Silverton and Jeanne Kelley. The series was created by McConnel and Milane Christiansen, founder of The Book Works, which hosted popular book signings for several years.

“Milane and I shared a similar customer base and ethic in creating the best,” McConnel explained. “With the loss of independent book stores, and the rise in online purchasing, people still want the opportunity to meet authors. So far, our authors have sold twice as many books at Chino Farms than any other book signing event.”

Chef and author David Tanis wrote in The New York Times, “The book offers a breadth of information, with lessons about Japanese products and techniques, and instructions for everything from homemade tofu to udon noodles. But for me, the recipes for simple vegetable dishes, often flavored with only a bit of miso or a splash of sake, are the most fascinating.”

Singleton Hachisu says she will most likely be cooking a big pot of light miso soup for visitors at the signing using daikon, carrots, napa cabbage and negi (Japanese leeks) and boiled and refreshed greens dressed with sesame-miso (goma-ae) or tofu-miso (shira-ae).

“For the demo, I will stir fry some julienned vegetables, perhaps carrots, and flavor them with red pepper, ginger and soy sauce,” she said. “This is the first signing venue where I will arrive without vegetables and I am tremendously excited to cook from what is growing at Chino Farms right now. The final menu will evolve naturally once I can actually touch their beautiful produce.”

Singleton Hachisu took on the book project after raising three sons and spending several years cooking, teaching cooking and helping with farming which “toughened me to the point where I knew I could do anything.”

“The hardest part about writing the book was wrestling myself into a positive frame of mind to start the main push of pulling all the pieces together and filling in the gaps,” she added. “I did it over the course of one long summer, but that was the summer after the earthquake and it really took until the fall to shake off the feeling of malaise. But I put on my earphones, cranked up early Joan Baez on my iPhone and was in the zone.”

Chino Farms is located on 50 acres adjacent to Via de la Valle at 6123 Calzada Del Bosque, Rancho Santa Fe. The farm grows hundreds of varieties of produce each year, pulling from seeds from around the world, for walk-in customers and restaurants including Mille Fleur and Market Bar & Restaurant.