Celebrating a Japanese New Year
We were lucky to spend this New Year’s Eve and day with some good friends in Portland, Oregon. One of them is from Japan and had planned a traditional Japanese new year’s feast complete with sake and Osechi-ryori. In Japan, the new year is celebrated on January 1st and is one of the most popular holidays. As it’s a time for families to gather together, most stores are closed for at least three days, so the families prepare enough food to last them for the week.
Beginning in the Heian period (794-1185), this delicious food tradition created Osechi-ryori, traditional Japanese New Year’s food organized in segmented, square boxes that contained a variety of foods representing the well wishes for the coming year. Osechi-ryori dishes are symbolic of good fortune, long life, health, wealth and happiness, and are eaten to create goodwill for the coming year.
Our Japanese osechi feast contained many of the traditional elements representative of many areas throughout Japan. We ate kazunoko (herring roe) for fertility, kuromame (black beans with chestnuts) for good health and success, kobumaki (seaweed tied with gourd strips) for happiness, renkon (lotus root sliced crosswise) as a symbol of the wheel of life, and a delicious bowl of layered sushi (above) for wealth in the coming year, along with many other delicious dishes.
It was a wonderful experience and we were honored to help usher in the new year. It was a great reminder of how food is so integral to our existence and even though we don’t rely solely on the harvest for our future it still plays a strong symbolic part in our lives and happiness. Thanks to everyone for reading and following our Good Food Life blog this last year and much luck and happiness in 2012!
If you’d like to try your hand at making some simple Osechi-ryori dishes check out Cooking with Dog’s Kohaku Namasu recipe, an easy pickled Daikon and carrot salad, or visit SavoryJapan.com for a variety of dishes. Many of the ingredients for the vegetable dishes are seasonally based and can be found in your online grocery at Full Circle.