At meal-time lacquer-trays are spread in the kitchen; one for each member of the family, and on the tray are placed the covered empty bowl for the rice; the tiny dish of pickles to eat with the rice; the bowl of fish-soup, in which is floating a square of snow-white bean curd; the small dish with the fried or boiled fish, and the dish of vegetables, such as egg-plant, lotus-root, bamboo-shoot, beans, or possibly artichoke, according to the season. There are also the chop-sticks with which to eat the food. The maid brings in each tray, places it before each member of the family, making a reverence each time, and then goes out, returning with a small, white wooden tab, tightly covered, in which is the smoking rice. The rice is beautifully cooked, each flake being separate; for gummy, ill-cooked rice is looked upon with disgust, and eaten under protest. It is customary to eat three bowls of rice at least at each meal (the bowls are the size of a small teacup), but not one grain must be left in the bowl when the meal is finished, for that is a sign of ill-breeding. While the meal is in progress, the maid sits by the rice-tub and serves the family, and refills the bowls. With the last bowlful, hot tea is usually poured over the rice, and later the rice-bowl may be used in place of a teacup.
The trays are all removed when the meal is over, and the dining-room again becomes the living-room, which purpose it continues to serve until bedtime arrives.
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From General Nelson A. Miles
Thrilling Stories of The Russian-Japanese War, 1904