This week Emi & Misaki had a field trip. This meant that I needed to make a lunch (obento) for them. This sounds pretty harmless except that I live in Japan so making a lunch is actually a big deal. This happens a lot in a country that is foreign to you, things that seem simple become complicated (a lot!). Usually the girls eat lunch prepared by the school but since they're going to pick potatoes (I'm serious), then it's my turn.
Making a lunch in North America means a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a cookie. If you're feeling fancy then you can add a juice box or a pudding cup. Lunch in Japan is an art form. They actually sell lunch making kits and books and there are whole television shows devoted to it. We use a small tupperware container type of box that come in many sizes and colors and is plastered with pictures of your child's favorite television character. The main ingredient is rice and then we use a variety of other foods to create (again) an image of your child's favorite television character. It's a lot of work and Japanese moms take pride in making a beautiful obento for their child. Plus the children also take time to show off their obento and compare it with their peer's obento before digging in.
So . . . this is my first time making obento for my girls. Misaki's class went on Wednesday and fortunately she doesn't really care about the obento etiquette so I did my best and put an M on top of her rice in furikake (dried seaweed and egg sprinkles - yum!) and also teriyaki meatballs and yakisoba and that was good enough for her. When I took them to the bus stop, the other moms were talking about what character they did for their obento and I just pretended I wasn't sure what they were talking about. After the kids left for the bus, one mom shared that she had worked all morning to make a ZenmaiZamurai obento for her son which turned out good but when she showed it to her son, he said he wanted Pikachu and could she start again. There wasn't time (she actually would have done it all over again if there was time) and then he was mad. Finally he took it but he said he would trade it when he got to school.
After that I was nervous because Emi DOES care about the obento etiquette. What was I going to do? When Emi came home from school we talked about what she'd like for an obento. Everything I suggested she turned down until finally I asked if we could try an American-style obento. I caught her attention with that. She asked what an American-style obento was and I told her basically just a sandwich, fruit and cookies. I had her with cookies. She was so excited. Please, please may I have an American obento. I was excited, too. A sandwich is so easy.
So off she went to pick potatoes the next day with her American obento pleased as punch. When she came home she related to me that her other friends were jealous because her obento was so easy to eat - just use your fingers - and could she please, please from now on always have American obento.
I have unwittingly made my life a whole lot easier!