Hare Today…

My netsuke

My netsuke

When I first married, friends of my parents gave us an ivory netsuke (‘net-ski’) of a pot-bellied man with a pack on his back. We thought it delightful but didn’t have a clue as to what it was.  Fast forward to my marriage to Joel, then an Asian art dealer, who taught me about netsuke and a great deal else.

Invented in 17th century Japan,  netsuke are part the system that enabled men, whose clothing lacked pockets, to store items like tobacco, money, medicines or other small items. Typically, men placed their belongings in a small stack of highly decorated boxes called inro, held together by a cord and secured by a netsuke that served as a sort of toggle. A bead, known as an ojime, went on the cord between the netsuke and the inro and slid up and down, both to keep the stash together and get at something in one of the boxes.  (Women had to carry small items in their kimono sleeves which must have meant much more organizing—no surprise there.)

book HareThe book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, recounts the history of 264 netsuke that celebrated potter, Edmund de Waal, inherited from his uncle who lived in Japan. These tiny figures traveled over a fair share of Europe, were probably confiscated by the Nazis and finally resurfaced in London. If you have somehow avoided reading the book, do yourself a favor and get a copy.

Hundreds of pieces of De Waal’s pottery were on view about six weeks ago at a New York gallery, each piece painstakingly arranged by De Waal off-site and then tweaked at the gallery by the artist with a team of associates. De Wall’s work is minimalist to an extreme; most pieces are small and rendered in neutral whites, grays and black, some with a touch of gilt.

Work by De Waal

Work by De Waal

I found the overall effect soothing when I badly needed a little calm and deliberately avoided thinking how easily the fragile masterpieces could be reduced to shards. My hands, and those of other gallery-goers, were by our sides or in our pockets to ward off any potential bulls encountering china. 

An (easy) Japanese recipe seems appropriate here. For a cultural mix and a nice twist, these beans would make a great Thanksgiving vegetable.

sesame 2

Sesame Green Beans

(serves 2- 3 but easily multiplied for more)

8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed

2 Tbls soy sauce (low sodium if you wish)

1/2 Tbs. miso paste

1/2 Tsp red pepper flakes

4 cloves garlic, minced (or less for the garlic-averse like me)

1 Tsp grated fresh ginger root

1 Tbls sesame seeds, toasted just long enough to make them give off a scent

Steam beans (or nuke them—be sure they end up crisp/tender.)  Drain well and move beans to  a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together  soy sauce, miso paste, red pepper flakes, garlic and ginger. Pour over the green beans and toss to coat. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, Hannukah or whatever comes your way. I will be toasting Joel, turkey-meister extraordinaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Hare Today…

  1. Dear Mari,
    I could imagine a big smile on Joel’s face, as I read your exquisite memory-filled piece. Thank you for describing the history of my netsuke, and reminding me of Joel’s good taste, both in and out of the kitchen.
    Wishing you a holiday filled with sweet memories, and a lovely family,
    Linda

  2. Elayne Glotzer says:

    Dear Mari,

    A beautiful tribute to the TME (turkey meister extraordinaire) I just told Liz I
    will be making the green beans with sesame seeds. It sound so delicious.
    One thing you have in abundance is happy memories and you are surrounded by a
    loving family.
    Love to you all,
    Elayne

  3. Mary Stern says:

    What a delightful recommendation of “The Hare with the Amber Eyes”. I’ve started it and am enjoying it. I, too have a netsuke given to me by a woman in France whose grandfather was captain of a sailing ship to and from the orient.
    I’m thinking of you and wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

    Mary Stern