Thursday, January 01, 2004

Mochi blog.

At our house, Christmas is in the American style: decorations, presents, church, some sort of hearty meat. New Year's is done in a Japanese style. Unfortunately there's no shrine nearby to visit (see yesterday's entry), but Yuriko has access to the special foods associated with New Year's in Japan, and that seems to make the occasion.

Today for lunch, we had zoni, which is mochi in a miso-type of soup. Mochi is a hyperglutinous, very sticky rice cake. The soup gives it some mild flavor, but it's so sticky that you have be eat it in small pieces, separated carefully in your month and swirled around more than chewed, to flatten it out and make it possible to swallow. Too much might stick in one's throat, and I understand that the elderly especially can have trouble with it, occasionally to the point of fatal choking. There's a scene in an Juzo Itami movie -- Tampopo? -- in which an old man has a choking problem with mochi, and his family saves him by extracting it with a vacuum cleaner. I don't want to find out if that's really possible.

Japanese kids hear that the dark coloring on the Moon looks like a rabbit, pounding out these rice cakes. Next full moon, see if you don’t think the mare of the Moon look like a rabbit in profile.

Also on the lunch menu was datemaki, a rolled confection of egg and sugar; pieces of fish paste, rice and green tea. Dinner was tempura. Shrimp, squid, zucchini, and lotus root. "They all have some meaning," said Yuriko, "except the zucchini, which I had in the refrigerator." For example, the lotus root (renkon) is associated with looking forward with understanding into the coming year, since you can see through the holes in it. Sounds like something originally from China, filtered down through the centuries, taken only seriously enough any more to tell it to your children in passing.


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