Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Okuizome.... 100 Days of Happiness

Well, this may be a little late (as our daughter C-chan celebrated her 100th day a couple of weeks ago now), but I thought we'd share this day here... Now okuizome is hard to translate direct, but is often translated as something like first eating in Japanese. The celebration in Japan is to wish for the child to grow up always without hunger... and is often also done with hagatame, or teeth strengthening ceremony. It's clear that some Japanese traditions stem from a time (not that long ago) when times were quite a good deal harsher, and you could count your luck by how many of your teeth you retained. Okuizome is all about the first (pretend) feast for the young baby... though if the truth be told it is as much our feast (if not more so).

The centre-piece of the celebration is the fish tai, which (as far as we can tell) is equivalent to bream. Now in Adelaide, bream is normally black bream, so that's what we bought (please check out the Fish Factory on Grand Junction Road for a good place to buy fresh fish in Adelaide). The fish is scaled and gutted, and skewered lengthwise as well as being heavily salted prior to being oven-baked.

Although I have to admit that bream isn't my favourite fish.... it has a reasonably strong flavour made even more stronger with the salting.

The cooked fish is served with a number of other dishes...

There's osekihan, a celebratory red-rice dish made with azuki beans... this is a traditional meal given for good luck in Japan. Pumpkin is also a popular dish for wishing fortune as well - the association with good luck with money due to the gold colour I guess.

And T-chan also made some delicious osuimono fish broth, along with a dainty little salad.

And then there umeboshi (not necessary for the dish, but salted plums are always a delicious addition) and a very special ingredient... a stone (collected by L-kun from Anstey Hill Recreation Park... so it could also have been a dinosaur bone...wink wink). The stone is there, as mentioned, as a token for wishing strong teeth to the child. In retrospect, not sure that this is the most hygienic of traditions - especially as it's wishing good health and all.

We also had some Taiyaki, a cooked pancake in the shape of, once again, a bream. The pancake is filled normally with an anko paste (also made from the azuki beans). Actually, these were given to us by a family friend who had found a Korean version of it... as it's hard to find the real Japanese dish here in Adelaide (though why it's easier to find the Korean ones is a bit of a mystery to me). The anko paste is a sweet, but it still retains it's beaniness... and is a very common flavouring in Japanese sweets.

So that's okuizome in a nut-shell.... apart from one thing. Now obviously it ISN'T C-chan's first meal. No, we're not that bad! The point is that she should pretend to eat the meal. This isn't as easy as you might think... no, taking candy from a baby is easy in comparison to pretending to give a baby food. Even if they haven't eaten real food yet. The job of faux-feeding is up to Daddy who obliges with the required seriousness. He of course knows where the food will really end up... in our bellies. As for C-chan, she was a real trooper (for the most part), and suffered our tom-foolery quite well. I think she would have been quite happy to have really eaten the food... this could be a good sign!

Anyway, she's well past 100 days now... and rapidly approach 4 months old. She's sleeping well most of the time (we had our first all-through-the-night sleep last weekend), but she sometimes reverts to waking up 1-2 times during the night. She continues growing at a prodigious rate, to the point that T-chan is starting to suffer sore back and shoulder from the weight. That's a very happy pain however, and every hour at night less sleep is still a hugely welcome blessing. Happy okuizome C-chan... the first of many happy family feasts to come.

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