Have any of you ever tried a Japanese “bento box?” The other day, a good neighbor and friend of mine asked, “What kinds of occasions do you make bento boxes for?”
My neighbor’s husband works in the film industry and often has incredibly long hours, so I have the feeling she asked me that question because she has a little extra alone time to work on and enjoy her own cooking, learning new cuisines and foods. Her little question took me back to memories of high school in Tokyo, of leaving the house at 7 in the morning, stuffing the bento box that my own mother had lovingly packed for me into my bag and taking the train to school. Later, opening up the little box that I knew my mother had gotten up early to make for my school lunch period was always one of my greatest, daily excitements. Vibrant and multi-colored seasonal vegetables, slow cooked stews along with a wide variety of pickles, pieces of seasoned meat rolled into little pockets, small pieces of fried “kara-age” chicken… all of these dishes weren’t easy; they took planning, time, and effort to make, time that started well before the hour I woke up for school. In those small bento boxes I found the greatest appreciation for my mother’s care and love. After remembering these moments of joy from my own past, I wonder if perhaps my neighbor’s desire to learn about “obento” was beyond her own interests, that it also came from a place of deep caring and love for her partner (especially during those grueling work days), just like my mother’s caring and love for me.
The season of Thanksgiving is almost upon us! Like my mother did (and even though there are no bento boxes during quarantine), I am planning and preparing meals, trying not to repeat dishes, and always putting my love into my cooking; it has been rewarding for me. Starting this month, I will be making my favorite chocolate pecan caramel bars. I remember these were also a big hit during autumn when I was at the bakery. Once you start eating them, you can’t stop! For the week of Thanksgiving, I will be making two kinds of pie: apple and pumpkin. Please enjoy the tart flavor of the apple and the richness of the pumpkin. I’ve held back on the sweetness so you can enjoy their undertones.
Finally, I will also be making peach jam using organic peaches from Bloom Ranch. The scent and flavor of this jam is delicate and sophisticated. It’s perfect as a gift for a friend or for your own pantry, to be enjoyed at your leisure!