New Year’s Feast

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We had a mouth-watering Japanese New Year feast, or oshogatsu, at my mom’s house to kick off 2014. And what a feast it was! Of course, it took my mom the better part of three days to cook it all, with a little assistance from us on the morning of, but the result is a meal we’ll all remember for a long time.

These foods are a combination of unbelievably delicious flavors, along with traditional symbolic meanings of good health, long life, fertility, fortune, etc for the coming year. If the symbolic results are doled out based on quantity consumed, I think I’m in for a great year. Some of my favorites pictured here are chawan mushi, a light, silky seafood custard with shiitake mushrooms (potentially one of the three best things you can ever eat), cucumber sunomono with fresh octopus in a light rice vinegar dressing, inari sushi packed with soy-seasoned chicken, toasted sesame seeds, shittakes and rice in a tofu skin, nigiri sushi featuring tuna, yellowtail, shrimp and other treats, kimpira gobo–an earthy, seasoned dish of burdock root, fresh Dungeness crab… My uncle took one bite of inari sushi, made according to his mother’s recipe, and closed his eyes, saying, This tastes like I’m sixteen again.

So…mix all the fantastic flavors with nostalgia, tradition, symbolism, and well…it’s easy to get carried away. Half way through the meal I realized I didn’t have any pictures, and I jumped up and snapped the one above, showing our half-eaten meal. Then I sat back down and ate another four helpings of everything. Mom topped it all off with her mother’s brown-sugar-crumble-topped apple pie. Not exactly an old Japanese tradition, but rather one from just our own family. Thank you, Mom.  I can’t think of anything better. Happy New Year!

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