AKA: "No, this isn't the 8th Harry Potter book."
One of the hardest things about
2. I’m lazy.
What this usually means is that I cook something in the morning for lunch, run out of time to do things like put on make-up and eat breakfast, and then eat the leftovers from my cooking in the morning for dinner. This is less than conducive toward my presentation abilities, which, in
Japanese food presentation is an art. It is expected that the food will look as delicious as it tastes, if not more so. When it comes to lunches brought from home, called ‘bento,’ this is no exception. I recently heard a Japanese teacher confess that she got up at 4:00 every morning to prepare her daughter’s lunch. That is about 2.5 or 3 hours devoted to cooking one (rather compact) meal. Add to this that the aesthetic of the bento box, or lunch box, itself is almost as important as the presentation of the food inside of it, and you begin to realize how time consuming the venture of making a lunch can be. (And to think, all I got for years on end was PB&J and celery sticks in a paper bag…)
Because I am a foreigner, I am not held to the same standards in my bento-making as a Japanese person would be. The art of food presentation isn’t in my blood; I can’t help my inabilities. Thus, the mere fact that I cook my own food amazes my fellow teachers. Plus, I am doing my best to make Japanese foods, as the materials are cheaper to buy at the store, making the total level of surprise at my bento jump dramatically. My rushed cooking and presentation, then, does not really matter.
Enter Saito-sensei, stage right. Saito-sensei sits next to me in the staff room. This must be strategic fate, as he is very paternal in nature and goes out of his way to take care of me. For instance, he found out that I liked an anime called “Cardcaptor Sakura,” and within a few days he brought me the entire set of the Cardcaptor Sakura comic books as gift. (His daughter had the series, but no longer read them, so ‘she’ gave them to me.) I have many stories like this, but let it suffice to say that Saito-sensei is one of my favorites.
Now, back to bento. Saito-sensei thinks, like many of the other teachers, that the fact that I make my lunch is amazing. Unlike the other teachers, however, he makes sure to get a good look at my lunch every day. He usually will then brag about it to the other teachers: “Hey [so-and-so]-sensei! Did you see that Leslie brought udon to school today?”
I won’t lie; at first, this really irked me. “Yes, I can make stir-fry. Yes, I eat rice. Gasp! … GET OVER IT.” were my general thoughts at his regular interest. Since the first few days, however, Saito-sensei has become the inspiration for my lunch-creation schemes. His interest is a challenge to me to cook something interesting. Once I get a better feel for cooking Japanese food (more on this to follow), I hope to churn out better bentos. And, when I become a world-class lunch-creation queen, and my children’s lunches are the envy of all the other children, I’ll be sure to send a postcard Saito-sensei’s way.