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Bento, For Kids, Potatoes, Sandwich or Wrap | 20 comments

Holiday injury bento lunch

Holiday injury bento lunch


Over the holidays, we moved our huge cat perch into my four-year-old’s playroom to make room for the Christmas tree. Our cats Moose and Squirrel love it, but moving it out from the wall led to a mysterious mishap when Bug reported that Moose “pushed it over with his head” when I was in the next room.

Bug messing with Moose Moose & Squirrel sleeping

Sounds like Bugs Bunny physics to me, but Moose isn’t talking. The cat perch wound up hitting Bug on the cheek on the way down and caused a cut on the inside of his mouth. :-( The pediatrician recommended giving him soft foods that weren’t too salty, cut small enough so that he didn’t have to open his mouth wide to eat (no hamburgers). So I packed him a soft lunch with a deconstructed sandwich to eat while things healed.

Deconstructed sandwich bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Whole wheat bread, chicken salad, simmered kabocha squash (kabocha nimono, recipe here), and cherry tomatoes. When I served this same kabocha at dinner the night before, Bug said he didn’t like the kabocha he tried before at a monthly school lunch and didn’t want any. But after I asked him to try a bite of mine and tell me if it was the same or different from what he’d had at school, he changed his mind and asked for a portion of his own.

We didn’t manage to isolate what was different about the kabocha at dinner that made it okay for him. I wonder if it was the temperature — maybe he prefers it warm. He does respond well to approaching food tastings as an experiment, though. You know, “I’m not going to make you eat it, but can you figure out what aspect you don’t like? Is it the taste, smell, texture or appearance?” Kids are funny, but at least he’s not a very picky eater!

Morning prep time: 5 minutes using chicken salad from Costco and leftover kabocha (my recipe here). In the morning I trimmed the crusts off the bread and filled the box. Done! Super speedy. (Read on for packing details and the verdict.

Packing: I didn’t want Bug to have to open his mouth too wide to bite a whole sandwich, so I served it deconstructed with bread and chicken salad separate, and packed a fork with the lunch. I cut off the bread crusts to keep things soft, and cut the bread slice into quarters for easy handling. (If I were into decorative food art I could have used cookie cutters to make the bread into interesting shapes.) The simmered kabocha was stored in its simmering liquid, which would have been messy if it had leaked into the other dishes. (Bug tends to jostle his lunch around on the way to school, never keeping it perfectly level.) I drained the squash on some paper towels before packing it, eliminating the problem. The subcontainers in the 490ml “Four Leaves Clover” bento box (reviewed earlier) kept everything separate. It was a little large for a four-year-old according to the bento box size guidelines, so I figured packing fluffy bread in it would help.

Verdict: So-so. Bug ate the chicken salad and bread at preschool, but passed on the kabocha and cherry tomatoes. When I asked him why he didn’t eat the kabocha after he’d made a point of asking me to put it in his lunch, he said he ran out of time because he wanted to play with his friends when they finished eating. I’m starting to understand the thinking of schools that have lunchtime recess BEFORE lunch, so the kids don’t cut short their mealtime in their rush to go play!

P.S.: Bug’s mouth is fine now, by the way. It was sensitive for a day or two, but he didn’t need stitches and he healed right up. Dodged that bullet!

P.P.S.: The Menu for Hope hunger charity has extended its deadline for raffle tickets until December 31, 2008, and has added four new wine-related prizes. US$10 gives you a shot at a Hello Kitty bento set or a Pokemon bento set worth over $100. Interested? 



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  1. omg, im glad he’s ok. That sounds like something my little boy would do ‘the cat knocked it over’, lol.
    I vividly remember my parents making my brother sit at the table for hours until he finally finished his green beans. To this day, he is such a picky eater. I like your approach, giving your son a chance to explore on his own terms. I will certainly use that on mine when he is old enough ;)

  2. Ahhh, so glad Bug is okay! Your cats are really adorable BTW. And yeah, that’s about right “The cat did it!” haha. But he’s okay and that’s what’s important… I’m sure the cat didn’t do it on purpose ;)
    I do the same with my boyfriend, asking what he doesn’t like about it so I can figure workarounds if I like something but he really doesn’t. He’s never been food-intensive really so it was hard at first to get an adult to start thinking about food in very specific terms when he’d never done so before, but it’s working out well. Although a coworker once told me that she doesn’t eat onions, so I did the same, asking her what was it about onions she doesn’t like, the taste, the texture, the smell, etc. and she reacted extremely negatively, claiming I was trying to change her mind/talk her into liking them or trying to figure out ways to “trick” her into eating them… no, I was just really curious because I haven’t met many people who simply refuse to eat onions - I mean, if they’re in chunks, picking them out, that’s understandable (I guess, though I’m not a fan of doing that in a group setting outside the home), but to even refuse when they’re, say, blended in… I don’t know. Anyway, I wasn’t trying to convince her to eat them, since I didn’t cook for her, I was just really, really curious. I guess it’s better to leave those types of questions to someone I know much better :)

  3. @1 from kitti: I don’t know if my food approach will work for everyone else, I just know that it works with Bug. I first noticed that he responded well to it when I involved him in little taste tests for the website, then extended that analytical approach to everyday food as well. My thinking is that he won’t feel pressured as he knows I’m just interested in his opinion, so will take at least one bite (without a battle) and really think about what he’s eating.

  4. @2 from Yvo: Wow, your coworker sounds very sensitive about onions! I wonder if she’s had a lot of people trying to convince or trick her into eating them…

  5. @Yvo haha, she sounds like me! I don’t like onions, I get them removed from almost everything I eat, within reason. The only time I don’t make a stink is when they’ve been cooked to death and barely taste like onions anymore. I understand her reaction. People really do try and convince you you’re wrong for not liking onions.

  6. Poor Bug! Glad he’s doing better!

    And I like your food experiment idea! Being able to explain WHY you don’t like a food goes a long way in getting people to stop pestering you to eat said food.

  7. Glad he’s okay! I love those impossible kid explanations of how things happen ;-)

    I love kabocha squash. I only have one squash left from our winter farm share and I want it to be the baby’s first food next month!

    FYI, if anybody’s interested I’m having a celebratory giveaway contest on my blog this week for my measely 10K hit. It’s a set of football food picks:
    If mentioning this here is not appropriate, please delete my comment.

  8. Glad Bug’s okay. For those who don’t have cats, YES, it is possible for a little 8-pound kitty to send a 6′ tall cat tree with a 30″ weighted base flying onto its side. I have no idea how they did it, but two of my last three cats were masters of that art.

    As far as not liking the school’s kabocha, it might be the pans they used to cook it. I detest most foods cooked in aluminum pans, as I can taste the metal; to me it seems to add a disagreeable aftertaste. Add in the usual Asian sauce ingredients and the pans can react with those ingredients as well.

    When my mother uses her favorite aluminum dutch oven to bake her squash, I won’t even taste it. Yet I love kabocha cooked, steamed, or baked in any other pot or pan.

    You might give the school a call and ask what kind of pans/utensils they’re using. If they are using aluminum due to the cost (unfortunately, most food-service size pots are cheapest when aluminum), you might talk to other parents and see if a fund-raiser could be considered to buy the school some non-reactive pots.

  9. Poor kid, yet bugs bunny roadrunner physics it is. The cats seem restful enough and since it doesn’t fall over onto people when it’s not x-mas well, I defer from any further argument ;)

  10. @7 from vampyra1: “The Bug Approach,” eh? I like it! Fun to hear that my trick works on husbands as well — maybe they’ll retry foods in the name of research…

  11. @8 from veganf: Totally fine to post your giveaway contest here; I’ll add it to my Bento Blog Events page. Thanks for the heads up!

  12. @9 from Alana: Very interesting to hear that cats can actually knock those tall perches down by themselves; I hadn’t seen that happen before. Maybe Bugs Bunny physics weren’t involved after all?

    I’m not sure how his preschool cooked their kabocha, but I made mine in a stainless steel saute pan. Maybe that made a difference? Sounds like another taste test is in order!

  13. I love that your cats are named Moose and Squirrel. (insert Boris accent here)

    I know this site is primarily a bento site, but could you do a special sometime on some tips on getting small children to try new things or things they say they “do not like”?

    I’m really not on the whole “hide the food in something they like” bandwagon, because I’d like them to actually appreciate eating different kinds of foods without any fuss or fight.

  14. @15 from Sile: Have you read my post on bentos and the picky eater? That’s got some tips (the reader comments are especially interesting). Were you looking for something more specific?

    Glad you like our cats’ names! My husband’s last cats were named Boris and Natasha, so Moose and Squirrel seemed like a good next combo. Once we came up with those names we couldn’t stop giggling (“Find Moose & Squirrel!!! STOP Moose & Squirrel!!”), so we knew we had a winner for us. Big Rocky & Bullwinkle fans over here. :-)

  15. Btw, I have been internet shopping from The Japan Centre in London. Great store, no hickups. They unfortunately have a rather well, they could run a better assortment of leaflet type bentos that would run with some saucier foods. Now most of what they have is well, not.

  16. Hey everyone!

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  17. I have 3/4 of a giant kabocha in my fridge right now so I can’t wait for the recipe!

  18. The Great Cat Tree Mystery may have just been solved!

    I’ve always kept my cat tree up against a wall, and only once did that change. I reread the post and noticed Biggie had moved hers out from the wall. The week I moved mine I came home three different times and found it on its side.

    Now, I live alone, and although there are earthquakes in Seattle, none happened that week! So, since no family member had come to my house in my absence, I added it to the list of the Great Cat Mysteries and promptly forgot it. It happened twice more, in 18 years.

    My neighbor has a new kitten and a large cat tree, and they moved it for their holiday tree. Bingo, it started falling over, and her high-school-age kids swore innocence. Yesterday, I was there when THE CAT DID IT. That 6-month-old kitten started running full tilt across the room, made a flying leap, and landed on the upper tier of the cat tree. The whole thing rocked like a Weeble. Well, Weebles don’t fall down, but that cat tree did! Without the wall to stop the rocking, it was a foregone conclusion.

    How heavy was that cat tree? She had to wait until her husband was home to lift it back into place, since the two of us couldn’t do it alone. It was not top-heavy, either.

    Two of my cats were inveterate leapers, the higher the better, and when they hit my shoulder on the way down it was like a ton of bricks had hit.

    Now, obviously, I know how they sent their cat tree flying. If I moved it out from the wall, even a few inches (for vacuuming under it), if I didn[‘t put it back it’s obvious what happened. The Incredible Cat Power of a Leaping Feline had met and vanquished the Supposedly Immovable Object.

    And, sure enough, I just checked the wood paneling behind the cat tree’s usual location, and there are a few light dents in the solid wood where the upper deck rests. Like I’d taken a hammer to it, and I know I didn’t.

    Bugs Bunny physics? Not really, unless you account for how a little kitten can suddenly weigh ten tons when it lands on you at 3 AM, or how a cat knows you are going to the kitchen for Cat Food, not another cup of tea, or any one of numerous Things a Cat Just Knows (like going to the vet Time-To-Hide!).

    Solution: Put the cat trees up against the wall, leave ‘em there, and consider strapping or bolting them down! Just kidding - the cats would come up with a way to get it undone, anyway… ;)

  19. Life with a preschooler is never dull, is it (watching my almost 4-YO jump on the couch as I type)? Love the bento box solution. Did the acid in the tomatoes give him any trouble? My little one eats plenty of veggies, but tomatoes seem to be a no-go here unless they’re in spaghetti sauce.

    Love your site and I’ve bookmarked it. Looking forward to your future posts!
    - Life Chef

  20. @21, Little Chef, I can’t eat raw tomatoes either (allergy). I do seem to tolerate them better when they are cooked. Physician said something about natural colouring and acidity etc “fading” as you cook them, making them easier to tolerate in some cases.

    And to the kitty thing. If the kitty thing has never fallen when in another fallen and then falls onto the child while in another room, I’d go with regular physics, cats being cats or not and all that.
    That said, I hope Bug is healed up by now.