On the first of every month, I get out the glutinous rice and soak the adzuki beans. Though New Year's Day is the only first of the month that is a formal holiday, thus mandating the celebratory sekihan (red beans and rice), there is a certain pleasure to welcoming each one with this favorite dish and having customers ask what the special occasion is.

A summertime classic, shiratama zenzai

Beans and rice. They are found paired in just about all cuisines and all food ways around the globe, with some cultures — most of South America, for example — making it their staple. While Japanese cuisine is generally accepted to be rice-based, I would argue that it is really rice-and-beans based. Rice generally makes itself known at meals as cooked white rice, but it is also seen as pounded glutinous rice (mochi), rice flour (shinko) or, occasionally, unhulled brown rice (genmai). The beans are most often hidden in the miso soup and the tofu floating in it, but also show up in sekihan or mamegohan (rice with green peas).