Plastic fantastic New Years feasts
Over on Just Bento is a virtual shopping tour (also part 2) of bento supplies and readymade bento. Mark of CalorieLab, who took the photos and kindly allowed me to show them to you, also took these photos.
These are not extra fancy bento. These are actually osechi, the traditional assortment of feast foods eaten at New Year's in Japan.
Here's a closer look.
Looks a bit shiny and odd maybe? Of course, since these are plastic models, not the real thing. They can be ordered in advance, and the customer pays by the juu or layer. So 2 layers is 21,000 yen, and 3 layers is 26,250 yen here. (This is at the Seiyuu department store.) That comes out to about $100 a layer or so, but it's worth it for many people since it is a lot of work to make all the little bits. As a matter of fact, increasingly people don't make osechi anymore. They will make their own ozouni (mochi in soup), maybe some roast beef or something, but not the jewellike selection of osechi. Even my mother said she will be ordering most of her osechi this year. (She favors the food halls at Takashimaya incidentally.)
It's a bit sad really, but I guess that people are too busy for such elaborate cooking these days. Another problem is that the flavors of osechi, which tend to be very sweet, salty or sour (since they had to keep without refrigeration for about a week in the olden days) just don't suit modern palates that well. Kids especially tend to dislike osechi. When I was little I hated most of the things in the osechi, especially things like kobumaki (kombu seaweed wrapped around anchovies and stewed). I'd pick on it and just eat the ozouni, which I loved.
The January issue of Today's Cooking magazine (Kyou no Ryouri) does have some osechi recipes, but only a small number of them are really traditional; the other recipes are for osechi-like takes on more 'modern' and kid-friendly recipes, with colorful Western foods like smoked salmon. I have Today's Cooking issues stretching back to the 1970s, when it was my mother's cooking bible when we lived in England. When I look through the January issues, it seems like there's less and less real osechi every year. So who knows...in a few generations, real traditional osechi may die out.
Bonus: a selection of "Chamery" for Christmas.
Chamery is a soft drink packed into bottles that 'pop' like a champagne bottle when opened. It's sold as a "festive celebration drink", suitable for all ages. Here's an official page in Japanese.
In case you were wondering what Japanese people drink for Christmas (when the party budget is low). It's an abomination, but there you are.
(Thanks once more to Mark</> for the photos!)