Tag Archives: omelet

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 – School starts (Tuesday 4/Sep/18)

Our daughter’s school resumed yesterday for the second semester for the Japanese school year (April – March). After a month and a half of summer break, she was so excited she got out of her bed in the morning and jumped up and down in delight.

Since May, I got very busy with my freelance job and didn’t feel like posting anything. But I decided to resume my posting, especially because my bento making obligation will only last for another half a year. Our daughter will start her elementary school in next April, which comes with delicious & healthy school lunches.

Salmon rice requested by my daughter, Tofu & shirasu (baby sardine) omelet, Leftover Shepherd’s pie, Boiled broccoli

Nashi pear for dessert

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 – 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 – Picnic Expedition (11/May/18)

My daughter and her class had a so-called “Picnic Expedition” today. Basically, they left school during school hours and had a walk to a nearby public playground, where they played a bit and had picnic with their bento.

It sounds nothing special for us grown-ups, but it’s a big deal for the kids who usually only stay within the kindergarten property. They walked hand in hand with their designated partner, going through a small path they would never take with their parents. There was even a special instruction to the bento for the expedition – something “easy-to -eat”. Her class teacher reminded all the parents yesterday to pack finger food for lunch for the expedition, as the kids would be eating on a picnic mat instead of a table. Very hands-on adventure, but never mind, it is a wonderful concept for small children.

My daughter asked for onigiri (rice ball) for her special day, so here they are.

* The bento cloth in courtesy of Atelier Garaya

 

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