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A New Year

Standing in front of our home in Saitama with my mother and brother; I am six years old.

Japan has a unique tradition surrounding new year, called “toshi-koshi,” or “year-passing.” Once Christmas ends, the whole family begins to deep clean the entire house. Couples work together to wipe down, sweep, and vacuum all of the little nooks, corners, and cabinets and replace the paper shoji doors that have served them so well for the whole year. Once the cleaning comes to an end, New Year’s eve is approaching, and the family goes out to buy all of the groceries needed for the many-days preparation of a complex, decadent New Year's morning feast. Making the mochi by mashing rice in a big wooden container, pickling cabbage, stewing beans and slow cooking meats, softening kobu to make kombu-maki, and soaking various vegetables in vinegar; all are foods that are designed to last for many many days, symbolizing and embodying the coming year-long health and prosperity for the family. Supermarkets and convenience stores today make it so that anytime we are lacking an ingredient in our homes, it is so easy to go and buy it. But when I was younger, most stores were closed in the week following New Year’s, and thus the long-lasting dishes we’d prepare for the New Year’s morning had a double meaning of also needing to support the family without additional shopping in the days that came after. When the night before the New Year comes, it is tradition for us to eat “toshi-koshi soba,” or “year-passing noodles.” Perhaps this New Year’s eve is when I feel most like I’m back in Japan; instead of going to a New Year’s party, we all sit at home sipping noodles and soup, thinking about what we’d like to accomplish in the coming year. I intend to spend this coming year-passing in the way that I’ve always done it in Japan too.

In Japan there is a saying that says, “return to a time when you first started something” - to a time when your mind was yet to be tainted by the process of doing that thing. It’s meant to say that it’s important to reflect back on the steps you’ve taken from that initial thought, to think about how you put feelings and thoughts and dreams into action. Looking back now, I’m so grateful for all of the feelings and dreams, but also the actions and the people that brought me back to another New Year. I’m grateful to all of you who gave me the chance to bake for a family beyond my own. For January, I’ll be returning to those roots; instead of doing any baking with butter and sugar, I want to go back to when I was only baking bread, and focus on where this all started.

I will still be making bagels and English muffins, so if you’re interested, please let me know with an email. I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!





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