Saturday, April 05, 2008

When playing with your food is expected

My entire life as a mother has been in Japan. I've been through pregnancy, early childhood, preschools and day care programs, and international schooling. I think that some of my thoughts on what makes a good mother are colored by the cross cultural experiences of these years.

Case in point. Lunches for kids. The peanut butter sandwich, chips, fruit and a cookie are not acceptable lunches for children going to preschool. Instead, mothers get up early and make incredible works of art with food. The obento box lunch is the ultimate mark of successful motherhood here. I failed miserably--but gratefully my oldest daughter has forgiven me for my foibles of lunches at Kohitsuji Yochien. (I still occasionally run into her classmates mothers who will bring up some of my failings in this are--nearly 17 years later...)

So, when I went to buy a diet drink this past month and there were little packages on the top with magnets made to look like sausage animals, I started collecting them. These intrigued me, because they also came with instructions on how to make them yourself.

Welcome to the penguin, elephant and lion made of out one or two sausages each. The beak of the penguin is a minute slice of carrot. The eyes in all the animals are dark sesame seeds.

Its not easy to see, but here are the instructions for how to cut the sausage to make an elephant.

The lion requires two sausages, and a toothpick to hold the mane onto the rest of the body.

The penguin is just plain cute. I chose this one over three or four other magnets out there hanging around the soft drink top.

Now I am sure a good mother would probably make a zoo in the lunch box--with lettuce as the floor, along with rice balls and vegetables sculptured to look like landscaping.

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