Thursday, December 20, 2007

Obento Lunches

I remember quite vividly the lunches I took to elementary school. Every weekday for six years I ate a ham or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bag of chips and a nutritious Little Debbie dessert. For a drink I had some red or orange flavor of Kool Aide, sometimes purple. I never complained. I suppose if I had brought veggie sticks and apples I'd have gotten the snot kicked out of me. Little Debbie was cool. Carrot sticks were not. I still remember the day one girl learned to freeze her Coke just right and wrap it in tinfoil so that it was perfectly bubbly and still cold -- but not frozen -- by noon. She was awesome. All I got was a freezer full of sticky goo and a red behind.

I quite liked those Nutty Bars too.

Today is J's last day of school for the year. And while they usually eat school lunches (a blog post in itself!) today was Obento Day, bring your own lunch.

And in Japan cool is different. Here, healthy IS cool. Kids, for the most part, like to eat well and moms enjoy spending time making an attractive and nutritional lunch (and breakfast and supper and snack). It's actually embarrassing and completely uncool to come school with anything resembling a peanut butter sandwich and a bag of potato chips. Not to mention the fact that the teachers would have a heart attack and the mother would probably get a phone call. Another big no-no is filling your child's thermos with sweet drinks. And by sweet I'm talking even fruit juice. The only drinks allowed are unsweetened teas, green and wheat mostly. But there are a whole bunch of teas here that can be served hot or cold. So it actually turns out to be more flavors that red, orange and purple Kool Aide.

Luckily, many years ago, I totally jumped on board this obento thing. I've always liked making them, eating them, buying books about them.

So this morning I woke up and made this, today's creation:

For dessert green and golden kiwi pieces with pomegranate seeds.

For main course, some meatballs with melted cheddar and Gouda cheese on them, rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds, a spring roll chopped into fourths (to make it fit), fresh green beans, a mini tomato, a salad of lotus root, carrot and soy beans and that snowman wearing a Santa suit is really made of cheese and salmon (I bought that).

You stack the two tiers, put a band around it, slip in a pair of chopsticks,

wrap it all up in a bandanna and fill a thermos full of hot green tea and voila!

Soda says..."Gimme some of that cheese man."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Me, Genius?

So, I discovered today that my neighbor thinks I'm a genius or something.

She comes over and hands me several pages that look like this:

She says, Could you translate them for my husband's work? They read something like this:

I don't have the slightest idea what that means in English...much less Japanese.

Also, end-of-the-year insanity is in the air. Right now the Forget-the-Year parties keep the streets and bars filled until all hours of the night. I had a Christmas party for work Saturday night and barely survived the train ride home. The next day I had to go into the city early for work and the streets looked like the day after the Apocalypse. No other living creature was out -- it was just me and endless piles of vomit, pools of blood, torn clothes, broken jewelery and all the cigarette butts you could possibly imagine. Damn.

Here is a picture I took on the train ride home from my party. Everyone looked this way.