School auction bentos with stuffed mushrooms
You know what’s faster than a speed bento? One you don’t take photos of!
During my time away from blogging, I continued to make speed bentos for Bug but didn’t take many photos, which definitely sped up the morning! The one thing that did inspire me to bring out the camera was making bentos for other children. The parent group for the Japanese bilingual program at Bug’s elementary school puts on an annual fundraising auction, and encouraged me to donate a bento package for bidding. Winners got their own bento box, plus a week’s worth of custom-made bento lunches delivered daily to their child at school. Boxes were donated by Kotobuki, a Japanese-American kitchen wholesaler with an online store on Amazon (run by a parent with ties to the school) — nice teamwork to support the program.
Once I knew who won the auction, I asked the parents for a list of their child’s food likes, dislikes, and any allergies. Then came the fun part: I loaned the family a few bento cookbooks in English and Japanese, and told the kids to go hog wild with post-its to mark their particular favorites. “Girl M’s” special request was sliced onigiri and shrimp-stuffed mushrooms, which she had seen in Japanese cookbook “Mainichi no Kantan Bento” (everyday easy bentos). The family has two children, a fourth grader and a second grader, who were looking forward to eating their very own Japanese bentos. I made three versions of the same lunch to include Bug in the fun.
Contents of 4th-grader bento lunch: Mushroom caps stuffed with shrimp (recipe to follow), cherries, sliced “sushi” (really just rice mixed with furikake, then coated with a contrasting color of aonori seaweed or hana ebi savory colored shrimp powder) on a bed of lettuce.
Morning prep time for 3 bentos: About 40 minutes plus time to photograph, which was WAY too long for a weekday speed bento, but I wanted to make something a little special for the auction winner. I made stuffed mushrooms from scratch in the morning (taking about 20 minutes including cooling time), but these would have been great prepped earlier, and either refrigerated or frozen. The sliced onigiri was made with pre-cooked, frozen rice that I heated up in the microwave, which sped up prep. Still, it took extra time to make two separate versions for the color contrast. Fine for a special occasion, but I won’t be making a habit out of 40-minute lunches any time soon…
Packing: Assembly-line packing was the theme of the morning. I feel for parents of multiples! Bug’s lunch was packed in a black two-tier rectangular box with built-in spoon and fork. At 500ml capacity, it’s a little on the small size for a 9-year-old according to the bento box size guidelines. Girl M’s lunch was packed in a 2-tier green box from Kotobuki (approx 600ml). Boy A’s lunch (below) was packed in a cheapo Color Life 490ml box that I had on hand from Daiso.
Verdict: I got all three boxes back at the end of the day, so was able to see what did (or didn’t!) get eaten. Bug ate everything but the cherries, one of the mushroom caps and the lettuce. Girl M and Boy A left some of the cherries and the lettuce. When I asked Bug what was up with the cherries (which he usually loves), he said they weren’t as sweet as regular cherries. Oh well.
P.S. Sorry for the delay in new posts; I’ve been scrubbing the updated lunch forum clean of all spam and adding updates, fixing thousands of dead links on the site, and doing a bento shoot (in Japanese!) for a Japanese TV show that should air in September. There are over 80,000 outstanding forum registrants (mostly spammers) still needing approval/deletion, so if you’re a real human caught in the backlog, shoot me an email at lunchinabox AT gmail DOT com and I’ll approve you.