Thursday, January 05, 2006

Unorthodox Osechi at My Parents' - 2006 -

New Year’s Day is a time for tradition in Japan. Just like many other families in this country, my family (my parents, my sister, her husband and two kids and me) got together and celebrated the holiday. (Photos with '*' mark can be enlarged.)


As I wrote in my New Year’s celebration entries last year, my family, especially my dad, always makes a big fuss about observing the traditional customs, but the funny thing is that our family tradition is quite different from the mainstream practice. For example, I don’t know any household in my hometown (or anywhere else) that makes a decoration like the one in the left photo. Dad calls it "yone" and I assume the name probably came from "rice." I have no idea when and who started this custom in my family...
Looks like dad forgot to add taro last year but this year he didn't forget to do so.

We did the ceremony with otoso (sake dedicated to god) and zoni (rice cake soup) in the morning as we do every year, then we went into the dining room and had a big feast. (I heard that otoso usually means sweetened sake, but at my parents' house, it is straight sake.)

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As I wrote last year, our osechi (traditional New Year dishes) is quite unorthodox as well as the decorations. Sorry, the food photos are a little blurred this year. It was not my or my new digital camera’s fault. My sister’s kids were so excited and they tried to hug me when I was taking shots and also tried to get their hands with peace signs in the food photos. The bigger one above is the only shot that survived without being blurred. We have to give the kids credit, though. Three of the below photos are the jubako (lacquer boxes) that they packed. * For more detailed explanation of osechi, see these sites.

It has been our big problem that we make too much osechi every year, so this time we really made an effort to reduce the variety and quantity of the food. We bought no rolled-sushi and less of the colorful kamaboko (steamed fish cake), but we did make the "must-haves" like kobumaki (fish strips rolled in kelp), inari-zushi (sushi rice stuffed in deep-fried tofu pouch) and konnyaku-sushi. You can have a better look of the konnyaku-sushi this year. They are the gray, triangle-shaped stuff underneath the turtle ornament in the bigger osechi photo. We sliced konnyaku (devil's-tongue jelly) into triangular pieces, boiled and seasoned them with soy sauce, sugar, etc. then made a deep cut in each piece to make a pocket and stuffed it with sushi rice. Of course, we couldn’t omit the kids’ favorites: ebifurai (breaded and deep-fried prawns) chicken karaage (deep-fried chicken) and meat balls. But I must confess that about half of our osechi food was store-bought. (Oh, and what I called “a BIG mistake” was the red-and-white vinegared lotus roots. They had a real unpleasant bitter taste which the vinegar couldn’t hide, and my sis’s husband said it probably came from some kind of bleach they seem to have used.) :(

We should have used something better than a plastic tupperware to put the kazunoko (seasoned herring roe) in. ;P

Since the ocean was rough and local fishermen couldn’t go fishing at the end of last year, no wild yellowtail was available. The sashimi was pretty good, though... except the extra-chewy squid sashimi.

After the osechi, my niece prepared green tea for everyone (except my dad who was taking a nap). My mom teaches tea ceremony and looks like she gave my niece an intensive lesson a few days before the New Year’s Day.

These are the wagashi we had: the photo on the left is higashi (dry-type wagashi) and the one on the right is namagashi (moist-type).

So, we went through the necessary rituals again this year. It made all the family members really busy, but we know that we would have felt awfully sad and dull if we hadn’t done it (but once a year is definitely enough).


FooDcrazEE said...

no osechi ?

Anonymous said...

wow, it all looks so good! happy new year!

corricoo said...

that looks like lots and lots of work :-)
and what a beautiful kitchen !

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...
Everything looks wonderful....Glad you had a good time, too.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Obachan!!! As usual another set of beautiful pictures of wonderful food to usher in the New Year. Thank you for sharing your customs with us. I am still drooling over your last years New year pictures. :)

cookiecrumb said...

Stunning. Except for the extra-chewy squid sashimi. You mean ika? Cuttlefish? Oh. I can't go there. :)
Obachan, your English is so perfect. I'm jealous of you for being bilingual. How did you master English?

Anonymous said...

wow..happy new year!
Kochi is really beautiful,i went there in nov

Anonymous said...

What a lovely spread.. and tradition. :)
And a belated happy new year to you .. and yours. :)

obachan said...

Crazy Gaijin
Maybe you can start a tradition now if you really want it. See, people often seem to think that tradition only means something that was already started hundreds of years ago -- something you are already“given” at this point -- but why can’t it be something you create now? What you start today will be a tradition for the people who live in the 23rd century. For them the tradition started in 1800s and that started in 2000s would be equally old enough to be called “a tradition.”

Oh, lots of osechi ;)

Happy New Year to you, too!

It was some work, but not like what my family used to do 30 years ago. At that time we made rice cakes at home with a big mortar and a pestle in addition to making all osechi dishes from scratch.
Oh, and yes, my mom’s kitchen is a lot tidier than mine. ;)

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu. Wish you a wonderful new year, too.

Happy New Year! Yep, most of the food was delectable, except that red-and-white …

Hope you had a great time, too. Have a great year of the dog. ;)

Thanks. Actually last year’s photos show more variety of osechi food, so, yeah, I can see why you are still drooling. ;)

I assume it was squid because it was very chewy. They say cuttlefish’s flesh is thicker and softer. Ika is a generic Japanese name that includes both squid and cuttlefish.

I appreciate what you said about my English, cookiecrumb, but I just have to tell you that no one can convince me that my English is perfect, because I always find mistakes in my entries after posting them, and correct them over and over, blushing and sweating in front of the screen. ;P I started this blog mostly for the fun of sharing, but I was also hoping to improve my “Engrish,” and that is part of the reason why I show my email address in my profile… I was hoping some readers to kindly email me to secretly correct my real obvious mistakes, like “Oh, btw obachan, you don’t say ‘flagrance’ of lemon. That’s ‘fragrance,’ unless the lemon was robbing a bank with a gun.” (I had this mistake for a couple of months in my Xmas dinner 2004 post.) To me corrections do not mean a damage to my self-esteem, but an essential feedback for a rat in a maze.

Anonymous commenter
Happy New Year! Oh, you were here in Nov?! Hope you had a good time and enjoyed the food here. :)

Mama Bok
Happy New Year to you and yours. Isn’t 2006 starting in a little challenging way? Oh, well, we’ll survive. We bloggers support each other, right? ;)

Anonymous said...

yup,i did enjoy my timwe in kochi,food was superb,i went to kagami town and aki city..

Anonymous said...

happy new year, obachan! I must say this is one of the most beautiful osechi I've ever seen! I love the gorgeous decoration your father made, I can see you are really artistic family :) I thought Otoso was 'normal' sake too. Looking forward to reading more of your lovely posts this year.

obachan said...

Anonymous commenter
Maybe you visited the places I’ve never been to yet. Glad you had a good time. : )

Happy New Year!
To be perfectly honest, I’m not really crazy about our too-bright colored osechi with aluminum foil showing everywhere. (And as you know, my photos are often overly saturated. This time I tried to make the color of inarizushi look real, then the red and yellow colors of other things turned out almost plastic-like.) But kids love bright colors and my parents think that osechi looks more festive that way, so our osechi will stay like this for some time. My hidden desire is to make real traditional osechi in more chic colors one day, but I don’t know when it’s going to happen. ;P

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Obachan!

I really enjoyed reading about your family's traditions. For my in-laws, otoso means that sickly sweet medicinal stuff- yuck! I wish I could just drink straight sake like you guys.

I'm really looking forward to another year of reading your wonderful blog!

obachan said...

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!
I’ve never tried the sweet version of otoso in my life, but I’ve heard that it tastes a bit like medicine.

BTW, I really want to thank you for always providing reliable information on Japanese stuff on your blog. This might sound funny but to be honest, I’m learning about Japanese traditional customs from your blog so much. It helped me a lot in 2005 and will do in 2006, too. Thank you and Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu ne! ;)