New Year's Eve here is pretty quiet. Since we are all getting older, our family has, over the years, eased our way out of hosting big family gatherings. It's okay. It was always a good time when we had the energy, but it's okay to move on, to create different kinds of experiences, like making nishime.
Nishime is one of those dishes that I always loved when my mom or aunty made it. Since mom is not cooking anymore, and I'm looking for ways to be festive, I thought I would make this - for the first time in my life! I used a combination of these 2 recipes to make mine. This Hawaiian Style one, and one that looks more Japanese. I had also made Okinawan pork for dinner the other day and had left overs, so the flavor of that went into my own version of nishime.
I always knew it was special, but I never really knew the symbolism of all the ingredients. My favorite is the lotus root, which "stands for abundance, its holes represent a mind open to new ideas." Or " a happy future without obstacles. Why? Well, look through the holes in the renkon — you can clearly see the other side without any interference."
I also like gobo. "Gobo (burdock root) takes a while to cut down and it’s exactly this characteristic that landed it on the osechi dish. Just like those roots that grow so firmly in the soil, burdock symbolizes hope for a life of strength and stability and a life of physical strength. "
I couldn't find the symbolism for Kombu, the long seaweed that you tie in knots, so I'm going to make it up. Since it's very healthy and tasty, I'm guessing it's a good symbol for health and pleasure. The knots are to tie those good aspects down. And I made the carrots into flowers, so I'm thinking that's the symbol for beauty out of ordinary things.
So based on this dish, the energy and thought I put into making it (and it turned out pretty good), I think 2018 will be: a happy future with no obstacles (yeah right), approaching life with an open mind (of course) and maintaining strength and stability. I will be healthy and will enjoy the pleasures and beauty of what life has to offer.
In other words: happiness, mindfulness, health, strength, pleasure, beauty - my hopes for the new year. Yes, don't mind if I do.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.