A Feast for the Eyes - The Japanese Art of Food Arrangement
By Yoshio Tsuchiya
The Japanese, probably more than any other people, stress the importance of food being pleasing to the eye before it pleases the palate. To an outsider, it can be hard to understand precisely why a plate of Japanese food is beautiful - we just know it is. This book goes far in explaining the thought processes behind Japanese food arrangement, such as choosing the ingredients that are appropriate to the season, preparing them in a way that enhances their flavour and selecting a bowl or plate that shows off the beauty of the food. But it doesn't stop there - all the courses and even the tableware are chosen so that, when combined and laid out, it's a beautiful, harmonious sum of the parts.
Yoshio Tsuchiya explains some of the philosophies in food arrangement, such as the beauty of empty space and contrast. The book has line drawings of the various ways food can be arranged, such as cedar-tree style ("piled up in a conal [ sic] shape suggestive of cedar trees"), and flat style (used for sashimi). There are photos, both colour and black-and-white, of gorgeous, museum-quality pottery. But one might wish for more photos of food as it might be laid out on a table; instead, we get individual plates of food, and, yes, it is beautifully arranged, but it doesn't show how it can interact with other dishes.