Sunday, September 20, 2009

A New Level of Motherhood

I've been making obentos since before J was born. But it's only been since he was born -- since he started school, actually -- that I've had this sort of competition going. When he comes home he gets the third degree, What did everyone else's obentos look like? Was there anything that looked really delicious in your friend's lunch? Did anyone comment on your obento?

But he's a dude and really doesn't pay that much attention to what his friends are eating or what they are saying about his lunch. Information has been scarce.

Japanese moms have this special innate power where they can in a heartbeat whip up the most breathtaking lunches. Me, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the occasional Little Debbie snack cake for all six years of elementary school. Mostly I don't want to embarrass my son with a lame lunch. Kids who aren't 100% Japanese have a hard enough time of it as it is.

Yesterday was his junior high school's field day and an obento was called for. It wasn't even my best work, but I got the crowning achievement of obento making. Some of his friends snagged some of his food...*sniff, sniff* because it looked so good.

The top part wasn't anything special: sweet boiled pumpkin and chicken and green beans with a sweet and sour sauce.

The bottom was something new I tried. These are actually rice balls but I wrapped them in super thinly sliced beef, secured them with a strip of seaweed, and sauteed them in a sweetish garlic and soy sauce. After they cooled I sprinkled them with sesame seeds. Two of these were begged off him by friends.

J is very wise to my constant joking and tricks. I made pot stickers/gyoza (usually stuffed with pork and veggies) and instead stuffed them with chocolate (and sprinkled them with sugar). I didn't have time to take a picture but this is what they looked like.

My idea was just to freak him out. Thinking they were meat and really they were chocolate. Ha! But he said he suspected something because they were in a different container. When he announced what they were all his buddies asked if they could have one.

I teared up when I heard that. I've reached a level of motherhood I thought impossible. His friends think...I'm (just a little bit) cool.

I'll leave you with this image. I walked in and found J and Cha walking around like this. They both looked so comfortable. (It was a bad hair day for J. He's since discovered a brush.)

Oh, and also, we got to see Baron the dog today. His owner's son had him out. He made this sling like thing so he could lift his hind legs while Baron could walk on his front. They didn't walk long because he's a huge boxer, heavy. But I sketched out some little contraptions on wheels that I think I may take over tomorrow.


Pat said...

Wow, wish I'd been in J's class - I'd have been begging some of that yummy looking stuff off him too! Very impressive. Have you always been a good cook - or just since you've lived in Japan?

Joe said...

Japanese moms don't whip bentos up in a flash; they usually get up at 5 in the morning and spend at least 90 minutes working on them.

So no need for bento-related penis envy!

Hilary said...

Wow.. if you get yourself back to this continent, and Canada in particular, and more specifically my kitchen... you're making lunch! I'll supply the wine, and will carry Cha around like that all you like.

That's a really cute photo of J and Cha. And yummy looking obentos! And glad to hear that your neighbour's dog is seeing some daylight. Poor thing.

Ello said...

I am so jealous! My oldest's best friend is Japanese and her Mom makes the most amazing bento box lunches for her every day. EVERY DAY!!! So my daughter is so jealous and she always asks me for lunch and I make her... a turkey sandwich. Booooooo. You are so much cooler than me. Is there a bento making class I can take?

Kappa no He said...

Pat, just since I moved to Japan. I thought the potato was the only vegetable in the world until I moved here. And the only green things I'd ever eaten were green m&ms and the occasional salad of iceberg lettuce.

Joe, so true. And that's the analogy I was looking for!

Hilary, it's a deal! But only if after a few glasses of wine I get to wear Benny on my head.

Ello, I can send you a book! I've got tons and most of them are the cutesy ones, so un-cool for a 14-year old boy. I just can't throw anything away. Anything to make a little girl look up at her mom, wipe away a tear, and say, "You're the coolest mom ever."

No, seriously e-mail me your home addy. I'll send a couple. In Japanese but the pictures are inspiration enough really.

Gabriel Novo said...

This is the first thing that popped into my head after reading your post -

I too wish cool lunches were the norm and not the exception over in the States. Those chocolate filled Gyoza look AMAZING. I could eat a whole container of those alone =)

Virginia Lee said...

I read Miss M this entire post aloud and showed her the photos. She LOVED it! I did too, of course.

Obentos fascinate me on so many levels that I'm thinking about getting us a couple of boxes and trying it out. There are days when feeding Miss M is a lot easier if I present her with food that's not only tasty but pretty as well.

Meanwhile, are you getting giggle-giggle-hang-up phone calls yet for J? I tell you, with his hairs all tousled like that, the slight sneer, and the adorable Cha in that photo, I have visions of young girls chasing after him like he's in the Beatles. He's GORGEOUS! Don't you make him comb his hair too much, Mama T. Unless you want him to not have all the girls' attention.


Thanks for doing an obento post, my lovely Terrie! xoxoxo

Kappa no He said...

Oh, Gabriel, if I'd only known about that one when he was younger. I tried a lot of the making characters from games with mixed results. I remember once most of Pikachu's face ended up on the underside of the obento top. He was pretty grotesque, I hear.

Virginia, oooh, I'll send some books your way too. You guys will just get a kick out of flipping through them.

I was really worried last night about Julyan. Some of these kids ride their bikes all over town but he's always been a homebody. Anyways, he assured me they'd be perfectly fine (about 11 of his friends were also going). Well, after he got home I asked did you find the restaurant okay (it was quite far) and he said they got half way there and he yelled out to the boys, "Anyone know where we're going raise your hand!" and no one raised their hands.

They ended up calling one of their moms and asking direction (embarrassing, ha!). I said, "Why didn't you just go to another place, there are tons." And he said (under his breath), "Well, there were a group of girls going to meet us there."

I didn't pursue the subject.

Benjamin Solah said...


Your photos make your food look so much better than that Japanese I posted on my blog the other day.

Kappa no He said...

Wait, got to go check it out. I missed that!

Frank Baron said...

Jeepers. My lunches all through school were either an egg salad sandwich (everybody avoided my locker) or a cheeze whiz and mayo sandwich (plastic + fat = yummy).

J's a lucky guy. And I think his hair looked pretty good. ;)

By the way, I've seen crippled dogs attached to skateboards via some sort of contraption and they managed to get around pretty well.

laughingwolf said...

lot more'n a little bit cool, terrie!

Kappa no He said...

Frank, cheeze whiz and mayo=inspired! I am so going to try that soon. I can see the boy-child giving in a two thumbs up.

Oh, he has officially entered the Preening Stage of teen-hood. It's cute!

Skateboard is a great idea. I wonder if they sell them here. I'll have to check. I did hear the man building something the other day, sawing and hammering. I expected to see Baron come out on a giant Trojan Bunny ala Monty Python.

Laughing Wolf, thanky!

Anonymous said...

Me too.. when I was growing up I was a cereal muncher, what-ever-was-a-left-over in the fridge eater and that included PB&J!!!

Kappa no He said...

I remember they had (for a short time) these peanut butters that were flavored...flavored like chocolate and banana. Man, I loved those.

Victoria Dixon said...

Chocolate potstickers. Oh my God. Now you've inspired me. Still have the recipe? LOL.