Finding Comfort in a Can

A cookbook aimed at American housewives stationed overseas reminded me of my single dad

Danielle
Heated
Published in
5 min readNov 15, 2019

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All photos by Danielle Laprise

Knowing that I love Japanese food, my boyfriend surprised me one day with a worn copy of “American Cooking in Japan,” written by Elizabeth Patterson in 1952. He found it at a local used bookstore. The book’s binding is disintegrating, its pages tissue-thin and yellowed from age.

The foreword explains that the book was intended to serve as a tool for Americans residing in U.S. occupation houses in Japan after World War II. “Borne out of simple motives of self-defense and convenience,” Patterson writes, American housewives were supposed to use the book to teach their Japanese kitchen help how to prepare typical American meals. It was a way to help homesick families cope with being stationed so far away. As I read through the recipes, it occurred to me that many of the dishes in Patterson’s book resemble foods my father would make for me as he coped with being a single parent.

Similar to the audience of Patterson’s book, my father served in WWII, but was stationed in France, not Japan, and even stormed the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. I was born long after his return home, when he was 60. He passed away decades ago, when I was at an age more intent on watching MTV than paying attention to his descriptions…

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Danielle
Heated
Writer for

Writer. Eater. Winner of my 8th grade science fair. Check me out at daniellelaprise.com