Nanakusa Gayu – Japanese porridge
The beginning of the new year brings the desire to start a new chapter of our life. Achieving great goals at school or work; be more close with our family, friends and why not, also expand our network of connection.
Plus, we add the desire of feeling good and in harmony with our body: we promise to follow a more balanced diet, to go running in the morning and to prefer a good walk instead of zapping television (all personal experience).
But before starting our journey towards the achievement of our goals, is important to create a solid foundation.
While our holidays (in Italy) end with the “Befana Day” on January 6, in Japan, the last celebratory moment of the new year takes place on January 7th with the name of Jinjitsu (人日, “The day of man”).
However, do not be fooled by the term “celebration” because Jinjitsu does not include a big meal or drinking sake. Instead, it is considered the day when man purifies his body and prepares it to start the new year with the help of medicinal herbs.
NANAKUSA NO SEKKU (七 草 の 節 句): THE SEVEN HERBS FESTIVAL
Jinjitsu is better known as Nanakusa No Sekku – 七 草 の 節 句 and literally means: the festival of the seven herbs. The name comes from the custom of eating porridge made with 7 different medicinal herbs able of detoxifying and giving health and strength to our body.
This tradition comes from China and is linked to the day when the human was created. According to mythology, in fact, the world was generated by the goddess Nuwa during the week of the first lunar month.
(Days that correspond to the Chinese New Year celebrations, which vary between the last days of January and early February).
In the first 6 days, the goddess created the animals and finally, the seventh, the man: this particular moment is known as Jinjitsu (= day of man). By adopting the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji period, Japan officially announced this event on January 7th and after that for over 1000 years, at least one meal of the day is dedicated to the celebration of men through this dish.
THE POWER OF HERBS
The seven medicinal herbs related to Nanakusa traditions are:
- せり- Water dropwort
- なずな・ぺんぺん草 – Shepherd’s Purse
- ごぎょう- Cudweed
- はこべら – Chickweed
- ほとけのざ – Nipplewort
- すずな・かぶ – Turnip
- すずしろ・大根 – Daikon radish
When I decided to prepare this porridge at home and Yo gave me the list with the names of ingredients, my enthusiasm was slightly lowered. Where could I buy them? But above all, how could I recognize them?
Being a famous and practiced folk tradition, I discovered that it is very easy to find all the necessary ingredients. Only in these days, supermarkets and small grocery stores, expose these herbs in plain sight ready for use. You can find them fresh, packaged in gift boxes, frozen or even instant.
Once you have collected all the ingredients, you will find out that Nanakusa Porridge is a simple and delicious dish.
Now, we just have to go into the kitchen and start cooking!