Monthly Archives: May 2018

Kindergarten bento – Boiled egg failure (Friday, 25/May/18)

Our daughter loves half boiled egg served in egg stand. That’s how her Dutch grandmother (Oma) prepares it, and our daughter calls it “Oma Egg”. She loves cracking it horizontally at the top with a knife, and eating gooey golden egg yolk with a sprinkle of salt using this tiny egg spoon. It’s a whole pleasurable ritual for her.

Now back to our kitchen in the morning, while preparing bento, I went auto-pilot, boiled an egg for 5 minutes, peeled it, cut in half and saw the shiny yellow egg yolk spilling out of the egg white. Only then did I realise it was meant for her bento and needed to be fully cooked. As is always the case it was the last egg in the fridge, and as being Friday I had no other ingredients to fill up the bento box. Panicking, I put the halved egg into a small bowl of boiled water, but nothing really happened. I then put the bowl of egg into the microwave, being afraid it might explode, so ran it for 10 seconds, check, and repeat. After five times of pathetic efforts, it finally solidified, and with a feeling of relief I packed it into my daughter’s bento box.

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Kindergarten bento – Easy tomato sauce penne (Thursday, 24/May/18)

Despite my continuous effort on cooking healthy yet time consuming Japanese dishes on a daily basis for our daughter, if we ask her what her favorite food is, she always instantly answers, ‘pasta!’.

For busy morning, I place halved 8- 10 cherry tomatoes, a small can of tuna, little bit of chopped onion in a medium sized frying pan, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper & oregano to taste, and just let it cook with the lid on while pasta is being boiled in a separate pot. I usually add a small ladleful of pasta water when the sauce gets a bit dry. Drain the pasta once it’s ready, and toss it in the sauce and mix them well.

As simple as it may be, this pasta is quite tasty.

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Kindergarten bento – 15 ingredients (Wednesday, 23/May/18)

  1. Rice
  2. “Shirasu” baby sardines
  3. Kelp (konbu seaweed)
  4. Sesame
  5. Carrot
  6. Egg
  7. Tofu (mixed in omelet)
  8. Ao-nori (seaweed) powder (mixed in omelet)
  9. Pumpkin
  10. Chicken filet
  11. Okra
  12. Cucumber
  13. “Katsuo-bushi” bonito flakes (mixed with cucumber slices)
  14. Strawberry
  15. Banana

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Kindergarten bento – After off sick day bento (Tuesday, 22/May/18)

My daughter was a bit sick on Sunday night and woke up from her sleep, which coincided my bedtime (hallelujah). It seems she has this reflux problem especially after she eats greasy food or too much food. This time it was the latter, and the poor girl could not go back to sleep for a few hours (and me either). She was still quite exhausted the following morning, and I decided to keep her home for the day to monitor her, and luckily I didn’t have any translation assignment to work on.

As such, there was no need to make bento on Monday. Instead, I took her to the pediatrician for a checkup just in case, since this was the second time this had happened within the past two weeks. As expected, it turned out there was nothing seriously wrong, maybe just a minor tummy issue. Nevertheless I was glad to hear it from the expert.

For the entire day on Monday she couldn’t really eat – so I just fed her what she wanted to eat, such as rice, edamame, and boiled egg, and apples for dessert. She ate everything slowly but gratefully, and I could see she was on the mend and was able to go back to school the next day. I asked her what I could pack for her bento the following day, and she asked me to pack exactly the same food as today, so that’s what she got.

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Kindergarten bento – Childhood (18/May/18)

A few days ago, I mentioned about the bright colours I tend to use in my daughter’s bento, which I naturally inherited from my mum. I kept thinking why my mum’s bento involved so many vivid colours, especially considering her strong preference on subtle, understated hues when it comes to her clothing (which I also naturally inherited). Thinking back, I’ve never seen her wearing bright red, yellow or green that we both use in our bento’s.

Then I remembered about my conversation with my mum while back, when I was still living at my parents’ place, maybe over a cup of green tea after dinner sitting in Kotatsu*. She told me the story of her bento, reminiscing her childhood memory. She said, growing up, she was always embarrassed with her bento her mother (my grandmother) made for her. During lunch time at school, she always hid the contents of her bento, covering them with the lid of her bento box, so her friends would not see what she was eating. She said her bento was always filled with only very basic ingredients, usually just rice with an umeboshi (pickled plum), pickled veggies and nori seaweed dipped in soy sauce. Sometimes, maybe omelet if their chickens lay some eggs in the morning. Her memory of bento was colourless and somber, despite the fact it wasn’t her intention to put her mother down. It was not so long after the war, so there was limited amount of food supply. They lived in the mountains, and most of the time they depended on their own rice and vegetables they grew in the fields. Moreover, her mother had six children to take care of, on top of working in their rice and vegetable fields and silk farm. Simply put, she did not have luxury of making colourful bento.

This seem to have significantly influenced my mum on how she prepared bento for her daughters (my sister & I). She wanted to make visually cheerful bento with vibrant colour palette, so that we didn’t have to go through what she had gone through, and she could give us different experience surrounding what’s inside this tiny box . I remember being always proud of my mum’s bento. I never had a slightest thought of hiding it from my friends. It was quite opposite for me, I always wanted to boast how pretty my bento looked. All these years I never thought about what was behind my mum’s bento. And now, more than ever, I sincerely appreciate my mum for her beautiful bento and embrace all the amazing history that comes with it.

* Kotatsu is a low table with a heating device under the table top, with one or two layer/s of blanket covering the table under the table top to preserve the heat

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Kindergarten bento – Last kindergarten picnic (17/May/18)

Every year at my daughter’s kindergarten, they hold an annual spring picnic at the large public park, with compulsory attendance of at least one adult from each family. It was our third time and the last time, since it is her final year at kindergarten. With a touch of relief I mostly felt sentimental, that we wouldn’t be coming here any more in this style, with her teachers, friends and other kindergarten families, following some tedious instructions and these comical, animal-like dance moves to kickstart the day. I found myself enjoying every minute of it, even wishing that this peaceful moment would last longer.

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Kindergarten bento – Is it colourful? (15/May/18)

I’ve been told a few times what colourful bento I make. Looking at other people’s arty and beautiful bento images via Instagram or Pinterest, they may be right, the bento I make are quite lively and bright compared to theirs.

But it’s almost automatic for me. For me the colour palette in my daughter’s bento is totally normal. It’s how my mum used to make bento for me. And it always consists of three main colours: red, green and yellow. Maybe it’s time for me to explore a bit more, incorporating ingredients with more complex or subtle colours, so that I can potentially teach my daughter about the world of Wabi Sabi (and I have to learn it first).

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