Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hello Japan January Challenge

This month's challenge was about Japanese music so I decided to make a tribute bento to a Japanese band that I love: MUCC! Not only is their music fun but it also works really well for bellydancing to, one of my favs to dance to right now in fact :) So that's the band's symbol, very badly drawn in Sriracha sauce in the middle of the heart...

But to keep with the theme of the challenges and learn more about Japan, I branched out and left behind the rock, j-pop and anime music I was already very familiar with. Instead I searched out traditional music and found a new love, learning a ton of things in the process. I found the koto and the shakuhachi.

Not knowing much about traditional Japanese music, I had no idea that there was an instrument that equated to the western harp: the koto. It's awesome and mellow and beautiful and I want to learn how to play one! Again as I researched the challenge I was struck by the similarities that occur across cultures. Yatsuhashi Kengyu was one of the most skilled artists with the koto, was blind and responsible for almost the singlehanded revival of the instrument. This is similar to the Irish Turlough O'Carolan who was blind, lived during almost the same historical period and is still revered as THE Celtic Harper.

Next I gained some education on the shakuhachi, the bamboo flute. It is also a fascinating instrument. One of the most interesting things I learned on the side was about the fuke sect of zen monks who traveled extensively and played the shakuhachi as a meditative art. Their place in history is extraordinary and compels much more reading. The baskets on the heads of many characters that I have seen in anime, manga and such are now explained as well due to the information about these monks - I've been wondering about this for years!!

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the koto and shakuhachi compositions and have added several cds of them to my wishlist at Amazon.

In the bento above there is rice covered with scrambled tofu, steamed broccoli, a carved apple piece, cheese letters, a miniature steamed veggie bun, a blueberry sultana tart, carrot sticks with black sesame seeds, corn croquettes with pickled ginger. A row of raw baby spinach leaves seperates the two parts.

This is my daughter's bento for today's lunch, not musically themed. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the shape of a fan with cheese flowers on top, tiny tomatoes, steamed carrot sticks in the heart container, one corn croquette, some blueberries on a pig pick, a wavy line apple, steamed broccoli and one green grape on a hedgehog pick.

We were supposed to go up to visit relatives in North Carolina today but the snow prevented it so instead we ended up eating these in front of the TV watching "Walk Don't Run". (I highly recommend it if you've never seen it, a very good movie!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Big Ol' Teddybear

This is another 'challenge' bento - to only use tools that anyone might find around the kitchen. The picture shows all of the tools that I used. It was fun to scavenge through my cupboards to come up with the right sizes for all the circles: The pill container was empty and thoroughly washed before using it to cut circles from cheese, the spices from the spice container were emptied into something else so that I could use the bottle to cut circles from soy bologna - I was totally ruthless! The lid of the icing container cut the cheese for the muzzle. The kitchen scissors were used to cut the nori and baby spinach (eyes and heart).

Bottom tier: Vegetable fried rice, teddybear face made from soy burgers, soy bologna and mozzarella cheese with an edamame nose and nori for eyes.

Top tier: Sesame green beans wrapped with carrot ribbons, lemon slices, a cherry tomato, a fried rice onigiri patty with nori and baby spinach heart on top, blueberry waffle squares, potato crowns with carrot and baby corn flowers on top.

I'm still working through my backlog of bento photos...eventually I'll get all caught up!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Smiling Flatpie

Another backlog bento from December. The main content of this bento is the scottish flatpie which is one of our favorite fall and winter dishes - it's a biscuit crust with potatoes and onions and then melted cheese on top. It's usually a huge round like a medium sized pizza but occassionally I make small ones instead just for bentos. In this case it had been so long since I'd made bento sized ones that I made them too big and ended up cutting them in fourths.

There are also some soy hotdogs and apple bunnies, steamed broccoli, black olives on a heart pick, french fries, carrot hearts and one very happy baby tomato.

I am still in the process of putting away all the holiday decorations - it's taking much much longer this year but I figure it's okay to keep putting up backlog bentos from December until the x-mas tree is put away!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two Little Chicks

Hi! So the incredible holiday frenzy is finally over and I have some free time to start posting again, yay! Don't get me wrong, I loved the holidays and had a great time but the last month has been amazingly busy. My husband was able to come home from Texas (my daughter and I are in Georgia) to visit for a couple of weeks which was nice, but then had to plan his move from Texas to California during the period between Christmas and New Years. Crazy busy, I tell ya!
I didn't have the time or energy to do much bento making during that period and I'm pretty sad that I didn't do my annual x-mas bentos for the whole family. Oh well, I'll look forward to doing it next year!
Here is one of A-chan's lunch bentos from just before the holidays in her new favorite box, the Pikachu. The top tier held two little chick onigiri, one purple pig of soy sauce magic, one maraschino cherry with a piggy pick and two soy hot dogs with carrot flower decoration.
The bottom tier held one tomato flower with cucumber leaves, two breaded and fried tofu pieces, several tiny carrot flowers and one mochi.
Look, look! I made the soy hotdogs look kinda pretty again, I was soooo happy!! The only thing she didn't eat was the cherry - she commented that it was very strange and could I not give her any more. Although I am a little disappointed by this, I'll be totally okay with having extra cherries in my lunches for a while :) I'm off to plan her school bento for tomorrow and then make my lesson plan for dance class tomorrow!