“A place that’s reminiscent of a foreign country but isn’t any country in particular. A space that transcends everything from time to culture to food habits.”
In the words of director and chef Masayo Funakoshi, this is Farmoon, her restaurant and food laboratory nestled in the residential quarters of Kyoto a short distance from Ginkakuji Temple.
A few bites into the first course served I’m caught between reality and day dreaming as memories of past journeys float through my mind. The exotic dish on the table seemingly shouldn’t have any direct connection with one’s memories, and yet strangely, it conjures up many cozy connections.
As a rule, each dish is presented only for a single day. One will not encounter the same flavor twice. This is because Farmoon is a food lab. It doesn’t have a fixed menu but rather each day is an experiment.
“Treasure every meeting, for it will never recur”— is a popular Japanese idiom that rings true for the Farmoon experience. Change the location, and you will meet someone you wouldn’t have met elsewhere. For Funakoshi, the point at which the spatial and temporal axes meet, that unique moment, is the meal that she hands down to her guests.
The best locally grown ingredients of the season, of the day, of the moment — this is the starting point from which Ms. Funakoshi builds her menu. Her approach to ingredient selection is based on her years-long experience as a cruise ship chef. On long voyages of the Pacific Ocean, she sourced ingredients at the ports of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Timor, and remote peripheral islands, and she miraculously created three meals a day from native ingredients she had never seen before.
“When I cook a meal, I empty myself. By that, I mean I become a vessel, like a shaman who hands down various messages. I do this so as to become as passive as possible, to eliminate personal desires about what I want to make and how to go about doing that,” explains Funakoshi.
A meal created through this process is unconsciously imbued with the memories Ms. Funakoshi has acquired through her field research at every new destination. History including changes in government, folk culture and customs practiced in the residents’ daily lives — food is a concentrated expression as well as an interpretation of all of this, says Ms. Funakoshi.
“Food is something you ingest and take into the body. It’s the ultimate shared experience, always wonderful and sacred. But to keep the dining experience pure I need to empty myself of stresses and prepare a thoroughly clean vessel and hand down only the good. Should there be any contamination, I need to have the sensibility to detect it.”
Ms. Funakoshi appreciates that cooking is a solemn undertaking. Food has a direct connection with well-being and with life and death. Within it are the records and memories of Ms. Funakoshi’s journeys around the world and her dialogues with people and all other forms of life.
The food served at Farmoon is a means of connecting with the universe and with nature. The time one spends at Farmoon is a time to detach the mind from today’s flood of information and revisit one’s position within the greater flow of the moment. Bon Voyage! And Bon Appetit!