Number 28: On Manual Labour
(Simple miso pork, green beans with walnut dressing, and scrambled eggs over a bed of white rice)
A simple bento today with a straightforward three-part organization, nothing fussy about it. Tired of eating pasta for the week, I wanted to have rice with something flavourful on the side to compliment it (really, can anyone ever get sick of rice?).
The original inspiration of this bento came from Hirano Eriko’s book, Obento Itadakimasu!, which includes a section on ways to serve rice in a bento. One method is to place the savoury dishes directly on top of the rice rather than separating the two, letting their juices naturally seep into the soft bed of rice underneath. This is one of my favourite ways to have rice, and I am sure that you are all familiar with the idea or at least have encountered it at one point. Donburi bowls like oyakodon and roasted meat (siu mei) rice plates at Hong Kong eateries both feature what I call “a marvelous use of gravitational forces” (excuse my exaggeration, for I have been watching too many Japanese food shows). In these cases, the rice becomes an entity unto itself and is good enough to be eaten alone.
Instead of serving ground chicken and green beans in sesame dressing (ingen no goma-ae) as Hirano suggests, I used ground pork and replaced the sesame dressing with a walnut one. The miso pork was just like the one I prepared in an earlier bento, except I omitted the mushrooms and carrots. The walnut sauce was intended for a spinach dish called “kurumiae” and was made by simply bashing some walnuts and mixing it with soy sauce. To thicken the dressing and to create a stronger constrast against the miso pork, I added a tiny glob of honey.
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Now with only exams to go and no more classes, I find myself constantly fiddling around in the kitchen. It is quite horrible, since I should be spending more time at the library instead. This week, my old handmade apron (hence of poor quality) finally broke down, and I am planning to sew myself a new one over the winter break. The design that I have in mind looks like this:
Each strap would wrap around my back and be secured at the shoulder with a (wooden) button. I have also included a front pocket for small things like my mobile phone, kitchen paper, and whatnot. I have not decided on the pattern or colour of the fabric, although I think I should use a heavier material like canvas. Shinzi Katoh’s canvas fabrics are what I am fancying; the graphics are so whimsical and adorable. My top choices are “sunnyday,” “holiday,” and “bird’s nest” (which is basically everything). I also wouldn’t mind making some orders from superbuzzy, which stocks a large array of lovely prints at slightly cheaper prices.
At the rate that I am going, my handmade apron will definitely cost more than a regular store-bought one. Nevertheless, I can’t help wanting an apron that is tailored to my needs and tastes, and this cannot be achieved unless I do it myself. You see, I am a vain person who assigns too much importance to appearance. But really, how many of us who engage in bento-packing can say that we are not concerned with aesthetics in our everyday objects? (笑)
Moreover, there is a unique quality in handmade objects that I find endearing despite the potential flaws. I myself am clueless in sewing and in crafts, but in the end, I still take pride in my (truly) humble creations. A friend once said to me that although my handiwork was terrible, he would still be touched if I had made him something. As in the case of bento, I suppose it is the knowledge that someone worked attentively, albeit clumsily, to create something that makes these objects cherishable.