Kindergarten bento – Sandwiches (Thursday 20/Sep/18)

As requested by my daughter, I made sandwiches for her bento today.

Coming home, she told me that she had diligently followed my instruction by starting off with savory cheese sandwich, moving on to ham & cucumber, then to peanut butter & jam, and finally finishing it off with Nutella.

She also followed my instruction not to tell anyone she had Nutella in her bento, as sweets are not allowed for the bento time at school. I want to show her that sometimes the rules can be broken and live life a little, so she can learn how to be lenient and flexible in otherwise quite a disciplined environment. So every once in a while, I enjoy sharing this small piece of delicious secret with my little cheeky girl.

Kindergarten bento – Behind the scenes (18/Sep/18)

Today’s bento: Hamburger steak, Tomato omelet, Simmered carrot, Boiled broccoli, Shirasu (baby sardine) rice, Apple for dessert.  

I love my daughter’s kindergarten. It is a great school inside out, with kind and highly competent teachers, thoughtful educational philosophy focusing on Japanese culture and seasonality, and it even comes with the beautiful garden with a lot of green and soil on the ground instead of concrete (very rare for Central Tokyo). Apparently the bento is also part of their education, so that the kids would spend their important first few years of their lives, always eating healthy home-cooked meals prepared with love.

But there is no such thing as a perfect school, is there? Out of all the positive aspects of my daughter’s school, there is one characteristic that I just cannot overlook: they do not encourage women to go back to the workforce. They wouldn’t stop you from working (they can’t), but the head teacher publicly made the statement that they provide childcare, not for mothers to go back to work, but for the well-being of our children. They believe the physical participation of the parents (and in this context usually targeting mothers) is crucial during school hours, involving various events and activities organised by the Parents Association. Want to work full-time? Oh, it would be difficult if you want to send your kids to this kindergarten… etc., etc. How backward, my super liberal Dutch husband would lament. We knew this before enrolling our daughter, but both of us had this wishful thinking that this might change, or perhaps we could make a change…

What makes it difficult to do so, I came to realise, is that some fellow mothers are totally against working mothers as if to say working is a vice. Some mums voiced that “work” cannot be an excuse to miss school commitment, that there would be no special treatment, because kindergarten in general is not for people who wish to work.

In good old Japan we had a common understanding that women should protect the household and spend time with their children. Poor kids if mothers have to work. This is slowly changing but is still followed by the great part of the society. With my semi-international background I always have a slight sense of guilt for not working full-time, but now I have another layer in my guilt for working at all. Work, or not work, it surely isn’t an easy place for a person like me, and this, reflects the modern but undeveloped Japanese cultural state in my opinion.

Yet, I still love my daughter’s kindergarten. I can’t think of a better place for her to be despite the struggle. A part of me wants to make a difference and fight it, while the Japanese part in me just wants to conform or escape. I go back to my daily bento making, daydreaming that one day, some miracle happens to change people’s mindset for the better.

Kindergarten bento – Tonkatsu (Friday 7/Sep/18)

Our daughter doesn’t like a chunk of meat in general. She says it’s too chewy and dry, and prefers soft minced meat such as hamburger steak. It had always been like that since she was a toddler, until one day, she ate Tonkatsu (Ton (Pork) + Katsu (Cutlet) = Deep-fried Japanese pork cutlet). About a year ago I took her to one of the most popular Tonkatsu restaurants in Japan (the famous Maisen) where she ate a slice of this freshly fried, juicy, tender, tasty pork Tonkatsu with their rich, sweet & savory shiny brown sauce. It must have been an eye opener for her, because ever since then she became a big Tonkatsu fan.

Last night I made it for dinner, and she kept taking a slice after another, to the point where I had to tell her to stop eating any more. She indulgently poured the Tonkatsu sauce (store bought – they have a good selection in the supermarket) over the Tonkatsu slices and ate it with great pleasure.

I don’t know if she knows it yet; I certainly won’t encourage her to make a connection that the pork is pig, who she adores through her favorite Olivia and Peppa Pig.

Tonkatsu Recipe

Ingredients

– Pork filet (preferably with a bit of fat)

– Flour

– Egg (beaten)

– Bread crumbs (in Japan we use what is called “Pan-Ko (パン粉)“, which is rough bread crumbs rather than the fine powdery ones you see in the western countries)

– Oil (I mixed salad oil and olive oil yesterday – I do NOT recommend sesame oil for Tonkatsu. It’d be too heavy)

 

Direction

  1. Make some incisions between fat & flesh – this way it prevents the filet to warp once being placed in hot oil
  2. Sift a large spoonful of flour over the pork filet and cover it entirely
  3. Dip the floured pork filet into the beaten egg
  4. In a tray, pour a cup of bread crumbs, place the egged pork fillet on top and cover the crumbs over the fillet
  5. Pour the oil in a small frying pan, heat up the oil (drop a small bread crumb in it for testing – it’s ready when it immediately comes back up on the surface)
  6. Deep-fry it in medium heat until the flesh becomes harder (kind of like someone’s bicep muscles, rather than my soft tricep)
  7. Once ready, take it out of the pan and place it on top of a sheet of kitchen paper placed on a metal net (so that it wouldn’t get soggy from the heat)
  8. Eat with the delicious Tonkatsu sauce

Kindergarten bento – Penne Amatriciana (Thursday 6/Sep/18)

Bento making is tedious, but can also be soothing sometimes, especially when I want to take something out of my mind.

Picturing my daughter’s tomato sauce covered face beats any type of stress in life.

Penne Amatriciana, Boiled egg, Boiled Edamame, Cucumber sticks

Kyoho grapes & Nashi pear for dessert – this combination reminds me that autumn is just around the corner.