If you’ve spent any time in Japan and so have tasted genuine traditionally brewed shoyu (soy sauce), there is of course no returning to the mockery that is LaChoy. Shoyu becomes a subject dear to your heart. For many centuries now, the Japanese have been making shoyu the traditional way, using the natural process of fermenting a blend of wheat, soybeans and mold for several months in specially made wooden vats to achieve the flavor peak, the slow food summit.
To make a wide story narrow, who has the time? Some American entrefarceur came along and slapped together trainloads of hydrolyzed soy (or other!) protein, a few cargo containers of flavor enhancers and a bunch of tank truckfuls of artificial coloring to make overnight what those not in the know in America call “soy sauce” (at which the Japanese laugh up their kimono sleeves, much as the French laugh into their berets at Newark camembert). Thus began the Shoyu Wars, which have been raging spicily for some time now. And things are not getting simpler.
Few Americans, let alone other worldlings, have ever heard of an organization called the International Hydrolyzed Protein Council, which supplies the elemental falsehood (at least it’s the remnant of a protein) that goes into American made “soy sauce,” a non-brewed fingersnap containing caramel color, corn syrup, salt and hydrolyzed soy (or other!) protein. This brownish, salty, uncertain liquid is to genuine soy sauce as kerosene is to Chardonnay. A difference perhaps reflecting the fact that some societies have time-honored traditions and are sticklers for quality and considered action—native yearners for the real thing– whereas some blurry societies just don’t have time for stuff like that, a characteristic all too often reflected in their elected officials and foreign policies.
In any case, the IHPC has said in essence that its soy swill— sauce– has been selling for decades now, and no consumers have complained. Perhaps because so many have been rendered speechless or are no longer living, who really knows, but anywhere else in the world such a cavalier statement would be seen as a gross insult to said consumers, though they deserve it anyway for buying such stuff with no questions asked, in the fastfood manner.
Not surprisingly, the Japanese want genuine soy sauce, made in the traditional way, to be the international standard, which is what anyone in his or her right mind would want, but this category seems to exclude the folks who make the faux sauce and the folks at the IHPC who supply the chemo that covers up the octane. They want the standard to read something like: “Soy sauce shall be defined as anything that has ‘soy sauce’ written on it.” Big bucks there. And a slap in the face to tradition and quality and care and nutrition and integrity and all that other useless baggage that just slows us down as we careen headlong into the Fast Century.