Okuizome

To celebrate my little man’s 100 days on earth, I prepared a feast for his “first eating” or okuizome as per the traditions of my ancestors. The okuizome is a Japanese weaning ceremony held 100 days after birth to celebrate the tiny person and wish him an abundance of good food throughout his life. Since eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I wanted to make sure my little man would have an abundance of deliciousness throughout his life. Of course, little man does not have any teeth yet, nor is he eating a dungeness crab, so we just pretended to feed him. Yes, I pretend fed a toothless baby a celebratory crab carcass. Then I took photos as per another proud Japanese tradition of enthusiastic photo-documentation.

Though traditions vary with region, according to my mom and the interwebs, a typical okuizome meal includes red bean rice (osekihan), a whole red snapper with head and tail intact (tai) to symbolize a strong neck, other auspicious foodstuffs such as octopus, lotus root, beans, or pickled plum (umeboshi), and a smooth round pebble to symbolize strong teeth.

In Japan, babies are dressed in fancy kimonos and have okuizome dining sets with tiny dishes for the occasion. For example, check out my cousin Anna’s little man’s okuizome portrait with his whole fish!

Here in Davis, I had to improvise a bit. My local supermarket did not sell a red snapper or any whole fish with the head and tail intact except for a limp looking rainbow trout. Clearly, you cannot have a proper celebration without a proper carcass. So I went with a dungeness crab instead. I figured it’s reddish in color, a proud celebratory carcass, a nice nod to the region and season, and I got to eat it afterwards. I asked the guy at the fish counter for one baby octopus which I boiled. I included a slice of melon on the tray because Japanese people love melon (don’t really know why) and placed a smooth rock that I found on a beach in Hawaii in the dish. Oh and I actually made osekihan from scratch!

Osekihan is eaten during special occasions in Japan and made with mochi rice and azuki beans which give the rice a pinkish color. It is the Japanese version of beans and rice. In general, I am not a big bean fan and I had never made beans and rice in my life. I also always thought osekihan was made by pouring some prepackaged “osekihan” powder into cooked rice which turned it pink. But for my little man, I actually soaked the azuki beans overnight and prepared osekihan for him. Here it is sprinkled with black sesame seeds and salt (gomashio) and served in little man’s special rabbit bowl.

Little man’s okuizome may have been a wee unconventional, but it had some California flair and it’s really the effort and spirit that counts.  And even though I know this is a food blog, I had to include one picture of my little man.

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