Posts Tagged ‘porridge’

Seven Grass Porridge

2013年 1月 7日

Today is the Seventh of January which is the traditional day to eat nanakusagayu (七種粥・七草粥). Seven Spring greens are gathered and cooked into a rice porridge. Traditionally these greens are:

  1. seri (芹・セリ) – Japanese parsley, dropwort
  2. nazuna (薺・ナズナ) – Shepherd’s purse
  3. gogyo (御形・五形・ゴギョウ), also called hahakogusa (ハハコグサ)
  4. hakobera (繁縷・ハコベラ) or hakobe (ハコベ) – Chickweed
  5. hotokenoza (仏の座・ホトケノザ) – from the Chrysanthemum family
  6. suzuna (菘・スズナ) – Turnip greens
  7. suzushiro (蘿蔔・清白・スズシロ) – Japanese radish greens

As I wrote last year, the flavor is very grassy and not so popular with children. I think this is one tradition that is slowly vanishing. Even my wife, who had to maintain these traditions for the children under her care, has forgotten it this year.

Perhaps we really need to find ourselves a plot of land to grow things. Had I been preparing these in the garden and talking about them, surely it would be on her mind.

Advertisements

Full of Tradition

2012年 1月 7日

Japan is a country full of tradition. After living here almost eight years and seeking out culture and tradition, I am still constantly amazed by serendipitous appearances of more traditional activity. Tradition being over-abundant has its downside: in our ever-busier lives, the tedium of preparing for, executing and passing on tradition is causing many to disappear or become only shadowy forms of what they were.

Perhaps this is just one more reason that my wife was delivered into my life. Working in a home for children removed from abusive or neglectful situations, she was charged with providing them plentiful access to tradition. I sometimes tease her about not respecting various traditional arts; however, she has a much deeper knowledge than me. For that matter, I would guess it is much deeper than the average citizen; and it often just comes out naturally, as a matter of practice.

January Seventh is one of five important seasonal festival days called Nanakusa (七種、ななくさ). It is a time to celebrate the passing from winter into spring. Tradition is to make a rice porridge with seven types of young greens in it. There is definitely a strong grassy flavor to it, so I would probably not choose it everyday; however, it was an enjoyable way to celebrate the coming fruitfulness.

When she made this for the children at the home, the flavor was not invited by the young ones: definitely a taste for a mature palate. I imagine this is one reason the tradition is not broadly practiced. Also, most housewives are extremely busy the last week of December and the first few days of the new year taking care of other traditions, so they probably aren’t anxious to put effort into another special day.

Supermarkets sell small kits with the seven essentials in them, so it still carries at least enough popularity to support that business. Finding the greens – especially in the small portions needed – would be a chore without these packages, so they are definitely a nice aide.

Embracing the New Life

2009年 6月 1日

Moving to Ise meant that I would face a commute everyday. Generally I wasn’t too concerned by it, but everyone around me keeps telling me how horrible it is, so to counter those feelings I have decided to embrace aspects of my new life here. (Of course, being able to see my better half more than once a week is compensation enough.)

Early this morning I awoke for a trip Okageyokocho, an old street that runs in front of the inner shrine of the main shrines of the Shinto faith. At the restaurant, Sushi Kyuu (寿司久), they serve a meal of porridge for 800 yen from 5am until they sell out around 9am on the first day of each month.

While most of my readers may not be excited about porridge, I would venture to say one spoonful would convert you. Perhaps I would even be bold enough to say one look could win you over. The restaurant is an old roadside inn for pilgrims that is X hundred years old. (Someday I’ll look into the proper value of X here.) Anyone who love traditional buildings should find the surroundings amazing. Further, anyone appreciating a subdued and peaceful feeling will be impressed by the atmosphere.

This months meal included various pickles to add to the porridge, which contained ayu (鮎), a small river fish with a sweet flavor, traditionally caught using trained cormorants. There was also sweet scrambled egg, potato, eggplant, a (chicken?) meatball, and a few other tasty bits.

For my first 12 months, I expect to experience each of the specials even though it will mean waking with the birds. After that I will probably enjoy it a few times a year.

I saw at least two people I knew, even though I’m several kilometers from my former home. One person who spotted me was my bike repairwoman. She spotted my bike and immediately knew who was riding it. She has put special pedals and handlebars on it in addition to many other services, so she is familiar with it. Today she was hard to recognize because she was pushing around a cart with two cute little dogs while wearing a kimono.

First Experience

2008年 10月 31日

My girlfriend told me about tsuitachi mochi (一日餅) and it sounded interesting, only she has never experienced it herself. For those of you who know a little Japanese or can read the kanji, you are probably scratching your heads trying to make sense of what you are reading. Tsuitachi is the first day of a month and mochi is made by pounding special rice until it becomes glutinous and yummy.

On the first day of each month, on Okageyokocho (おかげ横丁) – a very old street near the Inner Shrine in Ise – special mochi is served. Restaurants also have special okayu (お粥) – rice porridge – available. Reportedly, one should arrive around 5am if there is to be any chance of acquiring the goodies.

September and October first fell on inconvenient days for making the journey south, but November first is Saturday. I was worried that I would have to return for shuji class, but my knee injury is preventing me from sitting seiza (正座) so I’m taking a break.

I will head to Ise in the afternoon and stay in a hotel since the earliest train from here would be too late. Hopefully, I can join my girlfriend for a relaxing morning tasting new foods.