A Taste of Japan


August 20, 2018 | By Kimberly Uslin

Lucy Seligman
Lucy Seligman (SF79) is an expert in Japanese cooking. 

Lucy Seligman (SF79) has been interested in Japanese culture since she was a teenager. A former cooking school owner, she recently started a Japanese food blog, Thanks for the Meal, with the hopes of publishing a cookbook one day.

When did you first fall in love with Japanese culture?

I ended up in Japan very unexpectedly. When I was 15, I had signed up to go to Scandinavia to study art and to do The Experiment in International Living. About six weeks before I was supposed to go, the Experiment contacted my mom and I and said ‘She’s actually too young; due to liability, they won’t let her go on this trip. We’re going to send you a list of all the other trips that are available, and she can go wherever she wants.’ I literally remember saying to my mom after we got the list, ‘Well, I mean, I can use chopsticks. I want to go to Japan.’ I was so clueless. I thought Japan and China were one country. But I went there at 15 and totally fell in love with it. Japanese ended up becoming my major in college. I married a Japanese national and lived there for over 13 years.

You attended classes as part of the undergraduate program at St. John’s, but have you ever considered returning to do the Eastern Classics graduate program in Santa Fe?
I would love to at some point. I personally was really thrilled when they started offering Eastern books. I’ve followed what goes on with St. John’s avidly since I was there, and I hope to go back and experience some of the summer programs. To this day, St. John’s was the best college experience I’ve ever had.

What drew you to cooking?
When I was in Japan, I started reviewing restaurants for the Japan Times, which grew into teaching, lecturing, and writing not only recipe articles, but also food history articles about Japanese cuisine. When I was there, I of course studied cooking and went to different classes and schools. And then when I moved back to the States in ‘93, I actually did the culinary arts program at Boston University. Anytime I went to Europe, I studied cooking as well. A couple of years ago, I found my old diaries from when I was a kid and they were all filled with recipes. It’s just always been a big part of my life.

Why did you decide to start the Thanks for the Meal food blog?
I had wanted for a number of years to do something with the hundreds of recipes I had developed when I lived in Japan. I originally thought I would do a cookbook, which I probably will do at some point, but these days having a food blog seemed the better way to get the word out to interest and excite people about Japanese food. I mean, America has so many [people] that only think that Japanese food is sushi or ramen. And obviously that’s not true.

Do you primarily cook Japanese dishes, or are there other cuisines you enjoy making as well?

I’ve gotten into Korean cooking quite a bit in the last year. I cook everything, but I have to say—my daughter wants Japanese food at least once or twice a week. If it’s not Japanese, it’s some type of Asian cuisine.

Do you have a favorite dish?

That’s so hard. There are so many. When I was in Japan [recently], we had a lot of sashimi and fish dishes that you can’t get in the United States. I was in heaven.

See Seligman’s recipes for yakisoba, miso, nanbanzuke, and more at thanksforthemeal.net