Pot au Feu

June 5th, Tuesday:


  • Pot-au-Feu (Bacon, Potato, Cabbage, Green Bean, Carrot)
  • Spaghetti Napolitan (Spaghetti, Pork, Sausage, Onion, Green Pepper)
  • White Fish Fry with Tartar Sauce
  • Pumpkin Bread
  • Milk

Today starts boushu (lit. grain-in-ear), which is one of the 24 seasonal divisions when arista grains such as wheat and rice are planted. During this time, the farmers are very busy with planting seeds and other tasks.

At the school I went to today, there was no school lunch, so everybody brought their own bento. I forgot until the last minute, so I ended up with the only food in my house: umeboshi rice, carrots, and banana chips. Not true– I also had some takuan, but it wasn’t cut up yet, so I didn’t bring it today. One student related how nice it would be to bring bento everyday. Another student, who had to actually make her own bento today, disagreed. Think of the poor mothers who would have to make the bento everyday! In the teacher’s room, I overheard another comment: A bento made yourself never tastes that good. So people have many different opinions on the matter.

The 24 seasonal divisions are solar based periods matching the agricultural cycle. China, and thus Japan, previously used a largely lunar-based calendar, which lacked accuracy as far as agriculture went. So these seasonal divisions were created to better guide the farmers in their work. Setsubun, the well known holiday often translated as “The Coming of Spring”, is technically the day before four of these seasonal divisions: Shunbun (Spring’s start), Geshi (Summer’s start), Shuubunn (Autumn’s start), or Touji (Winter’s start).

Teriyaki Salmon

June 1st, Friday:

  • Miso Soup (Wakame Seaweed, Rice and Gluten Crouton, Carrot)
  • Twice Cooked Pork (Pork, Cabbage, Red and Green Peppers, Green Onion)
  • Teriyaki Salmon
  • Rice
  • Milk

Twice Cooked Pork is apparently some sort of Sichuan Chinese cooking, but I can’t say I like Chinese food. I have never been to China, so maybe real Chinese food is different. But while I find the taste ok, the food’s texture greasy and slimy. On the other hand, Japanese fish is so tasty. Today’s salmon was in fact so tasty, adorned in it’s shiny silver skin, that I couldn’t help but bring to mind the riddle Gollum tells Sam while crossing the Dead Marshes:

Alive without breath
As cold as death
Never thirsting, ever drinking
Clad in mail, never clinking.
Drowns on dry land
Thinks an island
Is a mountain,
Thinks a fountain
Is a puff of air
So sleek, so fair!
What a joy to meet!
We only wish
To catch a fish,
So juicy-sweet!

Yum! Yum!

Healthy Penne

May 22nd, Tuesday:

  • Potato Soup (Potato, Onion, Parsley)
  • Healthy Penne (Penne, Pork, Onion, Carrot, French Bean, Green Pepper)
  • Lemon-Basil Chicken
  • Cocoa Bread
  • Milk

Students must bring 2 things for school lunch everyday. One is a pair of chopsticks and the other is a lunch mat, such as a cloth napkin.  Most students keep them in a rectangular draw string bag. When students forget to bring them, they can filch disposable chopsticks from their friends or borrow from the teacher, but they are usually just out of a lunch mat. The eating of school lunch on a lunch mat or tray is an interesting tradition of Japan. As a child, my school lunch was served on a compartmentalized tray on which the food was directly placed. The tray/plate was then placed directly on the table. In Japan, there are separate dishes for the soup, rice, and okazu.  Today, as it is bread day, there is no rice container and most students break off bits of bread while it is still in it’s plastic bag, or use the bag as a sort of plate (the latter being my method). Anyway, I suspect the wide use of trays to eat off of stems from the traditional Japanese custom of eating everything off a legged tray, which was of course placed on the floor. Thus while Japan has adopted the foreign tradition of using tables (although often low tables without a need for a chair), vestiges of  the days when legged trays were used still remains in the kyuushoku lunch mat.

Bacon Cabbage Soup

May 1st, Tuesday:

  • Bacon Cabbage Soup (Cabbage, Bacon, Tomato)
  • Vermicelli Stir Fry (Rice Vermicelli, Pork, Onion, Carrot, Shimeji Mushroom, Bamboo Sprouts, Green Peppers)
  • Laver Chicken
  • Side-cut Bread
  • Milk

Note: Cabbage has plenty of vitamin C. When putting it in soup, both the flavour and the vitamin dissolves thoroughly in the soup.