For my daughter’s Japanese School Field Day (Undokai) on Saturday, I packed four types of onigiri, vegetable sticks and hummus, mini sausages with patterns, boiled eggs, fresh fruit – and for my non-onigiri eater, ham-Jarlsberg-Mayo-lettuce on brioche.
Saturday’s weather was a bit gray, chilly, and drizzly. We met up with my daughter’s classmates at Cunningham Park, where in my childhood, I had also attended Field and Softball Day.
It was fun to watch the children, split up between red and white teams, and participate in Rajio Taiso (literally, Radio Exercise). When I attended weekend school, we would all gather in the school gymnasium, listen to the familiar piano-introduction for the tape-recorded music signaling the start of the routines. It was nostalgic hearing the slightly warble-y tune, and watching the children exercise – many of them simply imitating the older students – to warm up for the event.
My daughter participated in a group dance wearing a helmet which the mother’s made with cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil, with little metallic pipe cleaners curling outward, as well as a running race, an obstacle race where the children ran to a clothes-line with anpan clipped to the string – they grab the anpan and race to a parent waiting for them with a hula hoop. The parent-child team hops into the hoop, and then run to the finish line.
Four types of onigiri – center of umeboshi, okaka (katsuobushi + soy sauce), mentaiko, and a filling made with sauteed blanched and chopped kohlrabi leaves mixed with katsuobushi (shaved bonito), seasoned with soy sauce, mirin and sesame seeds. The umeboshi onigiri rice was pre-seasoned with red shiso (perilla) Yukari seasoning. Normally, one wouldn’t use mentaiko for a filling, but I was too busy to grill the shiozake (salted salmon) so I decided to improvise. Each flavor had a different shape – the umeboshi was easy to identify with the rice mixed with the purple-y shiso flakes; the okaka was tawara (rice barrel) shaped; the mentaiko was shaped like a disk, and the kohlrabi leaves were triangular. Each one was wrapped with a strip of nori.
Mini sausages – I scored several, as well as attempted to make gerbera shapes that Makiko Itoh presents beautifully in her blog – but I forgot to split the sausages lengthwise, so the flowers did not come out right. I explained to my family, they were improvised – and just to pretend they were pretty pattered sausages… (they looked like accordions). I boiled the sausages to heat through, and allowed them to cool.
As for home-made items … my boiled egg menagerie. I was happy to see they molded well. (from top left to right: Star, heart, rabbit, car, fish, bear)
The other bento items were easy – carrots, celery, green pepper and cucumber sliced and served with hummus, and fresh fruit – grapes and watermelon.
Papa didn’t fancy onigiri for lunch, so I made ham and Jarlsberg and mayo on a delicious brioche with some lettuce leaves, fresh from our garden.
My brother and his wife braved the chilly drizzle to cheer on their niece – and to spoil the little one with hugs and kisses.
An interesting experience – the parents had received an email from the school regarding reminders for attending Undokai. One interesting point was stated in a vague, but direct sentence.
“There may be ice cream trucks that arrive during the event. Please remember, this event is considered a class event, and we appreciate you keeping this in mind.”
There was a Mister Softee truck that circled the area, slowly, in hopes the approximately 100 children and family members would be drawn in by its jingle.
Amazingly, not a single person broke out of the event to buy his wares.
I must say, (and I think my husband secretly must agree) I was pretty impressed…