A Soy Saucy Affair
Soy sauce was the raison d'etre for a most lavish affair last night at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complete with a receiving line, political big wigs, a video message from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, flowing booze, incredible sushi and a taiko drum performance, all MC'd by former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard Myers (whose first encounter with Kikkoman was in the early 1970s when he was stationed in Japan).
Specifically, the root of all the hoopla is Kikkoman , the global condiment giant that is celebrating 50 years of doing business in this country. The company, owned and operated by the Mogi family -- 17 generations! -- has been in the soy sauce business since the 17th century. Kikkoman first came to this part of the world in the late 1800s, exporting to Hawaii well before it was a state.
In 1957, Kikkoman opened its first U.S. headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., where soy sauce was bottled. By 1972, the company opened its first manufacturing plant in the southern Wisconsin town of Walworth, with close proximity to soybean farms in neighboring Illinois. Soy sauce was then born in the U.S.A. and quickly became part of the American culinary vernacular. In 1972, I was only six, and I knew about President Nixon and Birds Eye frozen vegetables but had not been introduced to soy sauce just yet.
By the way, who remembers their first soy sauce experience? Was it in a Chinese restaurant or at Benihana (remember how popular they were?) -- or was your mother one of those experimental cooks who was curious about this newfangled seasoning?
In the 1970s, Kikkoman's only other competitor was LaChoy (maker of those crispy chow mein noodles in a box), a company that got its start in Detroit in the 1920s selling bean sprouts (the company is now owned by agri-biz behemoth ConAgra). Throughout the disco era, "oriental" is the word we used to characterize soy sauce -- nobody seemed to care if it was Japanese or Chinese, but 30-some years hence, there are countless brands to choose from in the supermarket, and as Kikkoman CEO Yuzaburo Mogi suggested last night, we have become a "nation of ketchup, mustard and soy sauce." In fact, some 25 million gallons of soy sauce are produced in the tiny town of Walsworth, and in 1998, Kikkoman opened a second plant in Folsom, Calif. (ergo, the congratulatory message from Da Arnold)
All this soy saucy talk got me thinking: In 2007, how do we as a culture use the stuff? Do we dip and dunk for dumplings -- or do we splash into marinades, salad dressings and stir fries? Have we moved on to the lower sodium versions or does it not matter?
When was the last time you used soy sauce? I used some last week sprinkled over cucumbers, with rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, lime and chili flakes. That's probably one of my favorite ways to use the stuff these days.
Share your soy sauce notes in the comments area below. And if you're game, join me today at 1pm ET for this month's What's Cooking Vegetarian.
By Kim ODonnel |
September 27, 2007; 11:58 AM ET
Previous: Chat Leftovers: Barley, Date Night Menu and Party Drink Planning | Next: A Proper Pre-Boarding Menu
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: seattle | September 27, 2007 1:18 PM
Posted by: SSMD | September 27, 2007 2:04 PM
Posted by: Jody | September 27, 2007 2:14 PM
Posted by: Leah | September 27, 2007 5:44 PM
Posted by: leftcoast portland | September 27, 2007 6:51 PM
Posted by: gmg | September 27, 2007 9:17 PM
Posted by: Dona Dunsmore | September 28, 2007 11:23 AM
Posted by: Dona Dunsmore | September 28, 2007 11:26 AM
Posted by: DC Cubefarm | September 28, 2007 1:31 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 29, 2007 9:36 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.