On my first trip to Tokyo I decided to visit an area of the city not normally found in the guide books. You see, in Japan, it is the accepted custom for all restaurants to display in their window a selection of life-like models of the dishes that appear in their menu. In order to keep the fillets and noodles on display looking crisp and fresh these models are rendered in a wide range of plastics. Toyko is centre of the production of these stoneless peaches and while I was there I resolved to witness the process that creates them.
With this goal in mind I searched out a man whose life-long career had involved the endless task of making leaf after leaf of fake cabbage. Molten plastic, coloured to match the foodstuff being made is drizzled into a deep tray of ice water. On hitting the surface, the goo begins to harden, but before it can do so a craftsman, armed with various brushes and spatula-like instruments strokes, bothers and teases a shape from its spinning globular form. Then, without thought or delay, a second, whiter colour is added to the mix and blended with the salad green that is sliding through the water. It is at this point that a remarkable change occurs. Images of fresh salad being washed before dinner begin to swamp the truth of what is truly being observed. There is a descernable moment when the visual experience of this process changes from witnessing the observed to seeing the expected. I knew there is no leaf, I saw how the core of the vegetable had been formed by an accumultion of lighter, stickier fluid. I even noted how the veins of the leaf and the ragged imperfections of its edge had resulted from the random motion of bubbles fizzling across its surface. But my mind was fooled, I had found a match and was locked into it.
A little later, I browsed through the store front of the workshop I had visited. Sitting on the shelves were plates of juicy barbeque beef, bowls of ever-steaming ramen, hoards of freshly cooked dumplings. I bought a sushi key ring, I still have it with me now, and, I must admit, I felt a little hungry. As I do right now, strange that, lunchtime, I think...