Foxes, Burning Love & Venus

Shimomura Kanzan Fox

Image: Shimomura Kanzan / Public Domain / Wikimedia

If a bowl of kitsune udon is your ideal comfort food, you may have the palate of a fox. According to Japanese legend, foxes (kitsune) adore fried tofu, which is why your dish of udon topped with the thin golden slices bears their name. While eating our way through the weekend, my husband shared this tidbit with me, knowing it is the kind of fact that makes me enjoy what I’m eating even more.

Inside the red gates of an Inari shrine, fried tofu may sit beside fox statues as offerings to messengers of the Shinto deity. Not all foxes are benevolent, but even those that are not revered play an important role in the folklore of Japan, and apparently eat a lot of tofu.

When it comes to deities and food names, tortellini is another specialty with a legend. Emerging from the sea with love and prosperity hers to grant, Venus is most often depicted with long, flowing hair wrapped around her and not much else. During her stay in Castelfranco Emilia, an innkeeper caught a glimpse of her navel while spying through a keyhole. He raced to the kitchen, recreated what he had seen from a sheet of pasta, and tortellini were born.

With “burning love” as her wheelhouse, perhaps Venus blesses the preparation of brændende kærlighed, a Danish rural dish which means just that. Consisting of potatoes and bacon, it was incredibly popular in the 19th century and meant to be served piping hot, but I like to pretend there is more of a backstory to that name.

Whether it is the shape or name that lends its poetry to a dish makes little difference. The stories that surround food enchant me either way. When I look down at a plate of beautifully curved tortellini, I think of a spellbound innkeeper and his Roman goddess.

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