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February 05, 2010

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Rodney Fong

The art of mochi pounding for New Year's is slowly dying out, as families start to lose touch with the old ways. I remember my best friend used to tell me that they would all gather around to pound mochi on New Year's Day. I was always invited to come, but never did, having been up way too late on New Year's Eve. And slowly he stopped going, and then the family stopped doing it. There are still some families that do, but there are less and less. Soon it will be Chinese New Year (this year on Feb. 14). Our family used to celebrate it modestly with a family gathering. I am going to be out of town that weekend, so even our family is going to part with a family gathering this year. Even though I've felt that Hawaii is a cross between Asian and American cultures, it is slowly becoming mostly American. Your description brings mochi pounding to life and makes me realize what I missed out on. One thing I didn't miss is natto mochi, or natto anything, for that matter. I can't even be near someone who is eating it, and that is something my wife even agrees with me, although I also don't enjoy the smell of koko, like takuan and such. Thanks for another great piece.

Sonndapond

Twenty-four kilos of mochi?! Ah yes, men and their grand ideas for festive celebrations. If the culinary aspects were a film, they'd only do epics. Fond frustrations... you know I can relate. Your post depicts a life rich with tradition, familial and friendly sharing, closeness to nature and objects of beauty. Am nurturing a definite case of ceramic envy -the lavender daikon, snow white mochi globes and dried-blood red of the natto (is that what it is?) look specular against the speckled grey bowl. Lovely rhythm to piece in contrast between opening and closing paragraphs: all hard yang energy of your husband's clanking around in the kitchen as he starts the preparations, fading to soft yin as you end the day relaxing over a homemade drink in the company of old friends.

Claire

Nancy, what a wonderful post! I know of mochi, but have never seen the process of making it. It was fascinating. I love that you're keeping the tradition for your family and friends, it's so easy to let them slip away as we get swept away in our modern lives. The photos are so evocative, I think it was a day I would of liked to be a part of! Thanks for sharing it.

Dirk L. Archibold-Chester

It's good that you and your husband are so passionate about food that you argue about the methods. I think you are both good sports.

Dirk

Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Rodney: When I went back East to visit my mother before coming to Japan, I was struck by how little remained of our old American things as we often went to auctions that summer. But I also saw a resurgence of farmers' markets back then in Vermont and felt some comfort. It is so easy to lose those parts of life that make up the heart of our culture. In Japan, people are using mochi-making machines, or even powder. But there is nothing that compares to the hand pounded stuff, especially if it is made from local organic glutinous rice (wow). Funny about the natto. I never cared for it in the U.S. and thought those natto rolls looked disgusting (oozing out the top with the strands everywhere). But it is a flavor I love now. Especially the small beans. I guess I didn't have a good shot as the poor natto never made it on the blog. And interesting about takuan because I find that to be an even stronger flavor. Though perhaps the crispy element is more pleasant than natto's slime.

Sonnda: Another poetic response. Thanks. I do love that grey and purple shot. The bowl is one of my favorites and thought it appropriate for showing off the daikon's unusual color this year. The red colored liquid is actually soy sauce. Natto are small brown fermented soy beans. I'll try to add a photo, though I'm traveling now and don't have a lot of personal time. I'm anxious to get back to reading the FBC blogs and figuring out my twitter routine. Tried my tequila before we left and thought it went down quite nicely, indeed. Brought me back to the balmy nights in Ixtapa.

Claire: I think mochi is quite difficult to conceptualize until you see the process. Especially since most mochi in the states is sold in dried squares. I never got the chance to try that but should just for comparison's sake. And yes, communal days are so satisfying--especially outside. There is a casual element that is missing in Christmas & Thanksgiving (but maybe that's because I don't do well giving over control of the sit down dinner food).

Dirk: Nice to have you. I checked your site and liked the graphics and your review of that Japanese restaurant in London. I'm traveling with some little preschool kids but will send them home tomorrow. I'm looking forward to looking more into your site. Thanks for reading.

Nancy

Mora Chartrand-Grant

Nancy, I was remiss to compliment you on this terrific post about mochi. Linda and I have enjoyed fresh mochi both in Japan and stateside with friends who have a Zojirushi mochi maker. But there's nothing better than mochi made the way you and your family and friends do. Anzen, a small, local Japanese market in NE Portland gets fresh mochi every Thursday, something I just learned. Looks like we'll be heading over there soon! I'm curious...do you ever make mochi with grated cheese on top? Mocheez is served at Chef Naoko Moore's Bento Cafe here in Portland; she brushes it with shoyu shortly before removing it from the grill. It's such a fun treat as a side dish to one of her seasonal salads and a bowl of miso shiro.

Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Mora: Thanks for the tip about Anzen. I'll pass it on to nephew, Patrick, a shojin ryori aficionado. Interesting about Chef Naoko's cheese natto. What kind of cheese does she use? It's hard to imagine cheese, soy sauce and nori. Nancy

Stacie Pierce

So glad I found this post Nancy. I can't wait to try this out and do it correctly! It was great seeing you here again in Berkeley. I'll look forward to the next time. Stacie

Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Stacie: Sorry, I really need to make it easier to find things on the blog. That's high on the list once I get home. Wouldn't it be great if I could convince my husband to come to California to do a big Mochi Pounding event? Keep me posted on how your mochi comes out. The desserts have been outstanding this trip and the one Sunday was beyond belief. Thanks so much. Nancy

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