It’s All in the Detail: Osechi Ryori

I spent the New Year’s Eve day helping my boyfriend’s parents pack osechi ryori in three-tier boxes for customers who placed the custom order. Osechi ryori is a traditional Japanese food enjoyed on the New Year’s Day and each layer of box, or ojuu, is packed with intricate and extremely detailed foods that represent auspiciousness and prosperity.  You are almost guaranteed to find osechi ryori at every Japanese home on the New Year’s Day, that way that you can find roasted turkey on Thanksgiving.  Many Japanese restaurants sell it around this time of the year, usually by custom orders, and my boyfriend’s parents too cook up these wonderful culinary tradition for their friends and family.

There were a total of 10 orders this year – one for our family – and my boyfriend, his sister, and I worked in an assembly line to get 50-plus side dishes in each box. The process is not as simple as it sounds, as each dish must be placed a certain way in a box. For example, when you pack a dish called tazukuri with tiny little sardines cooked in soy sauce, you have to make sure that each fish is facing the same direction!

It took some energy to ensure that proper attention is paid to each detail, and my feet hurt at the end of the day for standing all day, but, boy, I had an absolute blast! My boyfriend’s family is genius for being able to pull off cooking something like osech ryori every year (and they cook everything in just two days to ensure freshness)! And everything tastes so darn delicious.

I went to my parent’s house on the New Year’s Day to indulge in lots of food and guilt-free slack time. We are totally allowed to be completely lazy and eat until our hearts content on the New Year’s Day. That’s the tradition at our household and I’m sticking to it!  Special thanks to my mother for whipping up other delicious traditional New Year dishes like nimono (vegetable cooked in dashi broth), renkon (lotus), sudako (picked octopus), and many, many other wonderful Traditional goodness!

I hope 2011 will be the best year yet for everyone!