I wasn't the first person to call our national soup our soul food, but when my dear epicurean friend, Ted, called the miso soup the Japanese soul food, it totally and absolutely hit the spot. When I am sick, I crave it. When I am sad, I am nourished by it. I feel every part of my genetic make-up agreeing with the flavors and the depth of aromas of the soup. I sense co-evolution of my pleasure receptors and the nature of the miso soup itself - we've been at this for a long, long time. The soup has been formulated to fit my genetic make up and my genetics have been selected to appreciate this soup.
OK, OK, so maybe that's an exaggeration. But since I've been sick for the last two weeks with the sniffles and colorful 'goodies' in my throat, I've really been feeling the need for miso soup. It's always been like that. When I am sick, I don't want chicken noodle soup. I want miso soup.
My most vivid memory of the rejuvenating qualities of miso soup date back to my first year in college. For some reason, I caught a whole lot of colds, and whenever I did, it was always a trip to a local Korean-owned Japanese restaurant that was my magic cure-all. I'd go in there for some California rolls (with that Krab that I've somehow learned to appreciate) and that bowl of miso soup. It was nothing like the rich, deep soups I'd grown up with in Japan, but it sure was therapeutic. Cured me in a few days, I'd say!
My hometown of Nagoya is known for thick, rich, salty Red miso, which is what you see represented here. Kyoto, the Japanese culinary center, has a totally different kind of miso, and actually, every region of Japan has their own favorite kind of miso. It's amazing that a paste of fermented soy beans has become such a cultural phenomenon, but that's just the way we are in Japan - we take gastronomic delights seriously!
Oh, how I need some good red miso to beat this deadly cold for good!