In praise of pork, salt, and sugar

For the past few years, we’ve been able to take advantage of our friends’ hospitality and enjoy some fantastic Hawaiian-inspired osechi on New Year’s Day.

Since that’s impossible this year, I decided to stumble my way through making spam musubi, which although not traditionally part of the Japanese osechi, is always my favorite part of the spread and also one of my favorite parts of being a human on the planet Earth.

I even bought my own musubi rice mold to be able to make it whenever I wanted. Who would’ve thought that combining pork with lots of salt and sugar would be so good?

Today’s attempt started out with a lot of 2020 energy. There wasn’t enough nori left for more than three pieces, which I hadn’t realized until I’d already fried five. I’d put too much seasoned vinegar in the sushi rice, so it was overly sweet and tart โ€” I haven’t had a sense of smell since I was little, but for some reason heated vinegar is one of the only things I can smell, so whenever I use it, I tend to get carried away. And I put a little too much sugar in the musubi sauce, so it ended up less “caramelized” and more “like burnt caramel.”

So I improvised and turned the remainder into a spam musubi bowl with an over-easy egg on top. (It’s probably safe, but I still don’t trust sunny side eggs in the US). It ended up tasting like bacon with burnt, salted caramel, with a sweet and tart under taste from the rice.

And I can’t say I’m mad about it, even a little bit. This was unplanned, excessive, and the result of a series of minor mistakes, but it was more delicious than anything I cook has a right to be.

So I’m taking this as the first good omen of 2021. Here’s to a year of continuing to fail upward!