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Ask Udder Smith: Obento Wars

October 18, 2010

Dear Udder:

My daughter is in her second year in yochien, Japanese kindergarten, and I feel so much pressure lately over her obento!  I am Canadian, my husband Japanese, and I make lunch every day for her.  Last year, I received several nice but clear warnings against peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or fruit roll-ups or raw carrots and celery with dip — this year, my daughter wants me to make Hello Kitty onigiri and flower vegetables.  Help!!

Foodfight in Saitama

Dear Saitama:

Take a deep breath, and head to your local bookstore.  There are literally hundreds of books and magazines on how to make attractive, cutesy obento lunch for your child; it is truly an art form in Japan, and you may well find you enjoy the craft of making something cute with food — perhaps you could enlist your daughter’s help in the kitchen, and enjoy creating together.  Here is a site in English, from Vegan Family Online Magazine, to give you ideas and hints in English.

On the other hand, this could be the moment you have been looking for to assert the cultural divide; if so, take an even deeper breath, and explain to your child why you will not make a cutesy obento for her.  We all face this impasse, sometimes many times in our lives lived overseas from our native lands:  when is the cultural divide too big a leap?  When do we embrace our own cultural norms, instead of accepting the norms of our adopted country?  Only you know if this is one of those times.

Best, and Moooooo.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2010 3:22 pm

    Dear Foodfighter in Saitama,

    aaa, you are in a serious trouble situation .. the cultural food divide … the cultural bento shock …

    On the serious side, here is some info on the bento and bentobako

    Maybe there is a konbini on your way to school to sneek in and get a bitsybento ? Just stuff in in your family bento box and pretend … ?

    bentoboxes are here, even with Daruma san to guarantee the extra zen flavor

    Add some chopsticks with Hello Kitty Design and you are half-way there !

    Good luck and good morning !

    Gabi from Okayama
    (I refuse to make Japanese type bento … )

    • uddersuzukismith permalink
      October 18, 2010 5:36 pm

      Thank you, all wise bovines, for your comments and suggested sites —


      from Udder

  2. October 18, 2010 4:15 pm

    Whatever makes her enjoy lunch should be the priority! Of course, we are biased, having a bento shop and all (hehe) but it makes sense right? haha.

  3. humorusguidetojapan permalink*
    October 18, 2010 4:33 pm

    It makes sense as long as McDonald’s doesn’t start making bentos 😉

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