Inspiration and Changes

Fall is about change. The whole world of seasons is exuberant, seeds and sprouts unearthed. While we drift out of October and gaze into November, my heartstrings are being pulled, yanked, and snipped. There is change. Let’s be more dramatic and call it upheaval.

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Bottom line: my son will no longer go to school. Not just any school (is there such a thing, anyway, as a school being some nondescript place, perhaps only to an out-of-touch, insensitive parent?). This is the school our seven-year-old daughter practically founded. (Okay, too dramatic). Well, she started there as a baby. I placed her with kind teachers who calmed my mother nerves and still-nursing skin. She began just before crawling. We have history.

This is the community who folded me in with them and my children, helping me to see that I could make a life, that I could make being a mom in such a foreign place work. I grew there alongside my babies.

It is at this school, our boy, now age 4.5, he began taking in a broader world and social life. He was a chubby darling, about one-year-old, and I penned his name in Japanese across the bum of every diaper. (daughter, too). I learned to write out the basics of what he ate, when he filled a diaper, how long he slept, etc.

This place which he can no longer attend is the place his big sister graduated from before she began first-grade.  I dressed in kimono and brought each fancy white-toed foot to the entrance where we took pictures as a family. I cried of course and stashed tissues in my wide, droopy kimono sleeves. I partied with mothers there, ached with them as our babies left on the colossal charter bus to pick sweet potatoes.

See how I am aching my own sweet aches? As a mother, it is the layered totality of experience, of ours, of our babies, of all of the ways our tips touch and make new colors. I grieve this now.

This is the boy who names festival goldfish for the best friends in his class and knows the fish apart. He talks about his teachers at length, in tones that honor. This baby is big, cheeks less fleshy, and his legs sure are speedy. He cannot go to school with his friends and I need to be okay with that–for a little while, perhaps. Or a great long while. I don’t know.

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November is mean. It’s cold to me. It’s “enjoy this now because your warmth is fleeting.” We have but two days at his school this week–Monday, Tuesday, then “so long, Charlie”. Even to my sweet Jude.

I must be positive. I will need to make us warm and bake cookies with broad chocolate chunks and remember to buy bread. He will no longer eat that delicious pre-school lunch (the aroma from the kitchen when I drop him off in the morning!!). Not that wonderful balance of flavor and health from Japanese school lunch and snacks, but just me! Just me for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Just me in every prominent role until Dad gets home.

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And I will have to make some marvellous changes. I shall have to go from brown, mottled pidgeon to beguiling, inspiring peacock. Or pink flamingo or fierce, fast hawk. I shall have to plan every lesson, scramble and scrape for friends of his weekday. I shall have to be my best parenting and best teacher self in one, every day. I am suddenly a homeschool mom. His success and languishing between languages will squarely come down to me.

I want the flutter of inspiration and promise of making headway.

Most of all, more than my grief, much more than anxiety or hope, I want for us, resilience and the joy of something gorgeous and doable around the corner. I want us to feel warm. I’d also love to teach the boy to read, count, and love science and poetry.

It seems his education is now, more than ever, a matter of heart.

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Some Snuggly Mama-Writer Fear: Not the best material in that nest!

When I was pregnant & wondering about my new roles & difficulties, a creative mother of three. 

I wake just after 4 AM, 34 weeks pregnant with the realization of movement, the placement of knees like sticks. Have I rolled on my stomach this way, in the night? Have I shifted internally, done most of the work it will take to memorize another human while I sleep? She is more angular now, the jabs more distinct.

Soon there will be a little mouth to latch. Soon I will have to back away, give up the independence I’ve gained while my three and five-year-olds play, nap, and lunch in school. There will be a mouth. There will be my body racked, newly postpartum, a new synthesis for measuring sleep and feeds. Words will gather under my skin, will need to be let down as I find new ways to write. On clouds, in midair, scrawl on a bookmark.

I will need to relearn this “mothering while writing thing” I’ve developed. Maybe I’ll need to stave it off like deadlines one can just worm out of. No one will miss it. No one will miss my take on the world apart from my kids. Maybe it is an early retirement, or at least a writing sabbatical.

Maybe by the time this new child is taken into school, accepted with fresh bibs and labelled sheets, the world will be so different and I will not be able to offer any more words. Maybe writing will have simply been a dream, an old website, forgotten blog with links that don’t even work anymore. Is this how every creative mother prepares for maternity leave, her sad exit curled up like leaves?

How shall we tether ourselves to letters when the head hits the floor? Birth, labour, new hours to sleep and not sleep. Seems like finding ways to bake without any flour. To raise roses without any ability to smell. I pack for the rolling in of fog, a compass tucked in flimsy nursing bras. What do we bring with us to birth a child and also words? Is there room for poetry amidst ointments and salves?

Oh, how I want to be programmed in some way to keep my hand on the pen, my eyes seeing all and swiftly reporting in Morse Code, in Farsi, or Latin, in kindness functioning to give off a sound, a tangible promise for the exchange of words or jewels.

I want to stay present is all, to have birthed and stay whole, mind relaxed but pages taut. How do we stay writable when our whole makeup sways under the wave that unclips our very legs? There will be contractions, surges that come so quickly I cannot really breathe. There will be hormones that dip and molecularly change my hair. I am curly, no, straight, mist and salt. I am phantom mother-writer, both pirate and hostage on a creaky old ship.

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We women raising bodies from our own, we shift. We change, our very organs giving up space, saying, “No, you stay. I’ll get up.” We move from our spot on the floor, crisscrossed. What will I discover to be gone, or rather, who might I become?

I cannot make commitments when I don’t know how fragile I’ll be, yet I want assurance that words will be there. I want the promise of poetry, the green, blue, red, and gold foil stars on my paper. I want to stay writer, beholden to insightful critiques, to stay planted and yet, I roll with every impending contraction.

Maybe this writer thing will be a memory of something I once did. Something that fit me then like being someone with waist-length hair and hippy skirts. Maybe once the babies come in multiples, we officially can’t have it all. (See, I teeter on resignation. I flirt with the notion of failing). Maybe three is really what they say: “You’ll be outnumbered”.

You’ll never again brush your hair or even take care of your teeth. They’ll rot out of your cheeks and dirt will paste your nails. Never again have jeans that fit right and your husband will never even remember your naked body before kids. Maybe writing is the only fair trade. The thing lost in war or fallout after divorce. Simply a lost commodity, like stale breadcrumbs to toss at ducks.

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Or maybe, with the help of memory, of muscles that curl to a pen, we’ll invent a new kind of filling in. An idea that comes in the night, curled up tight in cloth, that needs to be let in. Maybe I’ll find my words in a new lullaby, just the thing!

I’ll learn how to take a journal to the park when we swing. Maybe chapters and phrases will branch out like wild things, the ceiling disappearing into a jungle, a little boy named Pan standing on the cornice in search of his shadow. Maybe I’ll be the one to help, the one with stories when my daughter asks. Maybe. I’ll have words and the chance.

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Maybe time, the wrestle of hours is okay, gestation building something in terms of writing. After all, those very tiny mouths open and open to find their own words, too. They eventually make sentences from all of those “goos”. Maybe waiting is okay.

I inhale enough to fill bottles, to practice for when air gets thin or stifling. I store up my breath for when I feel closed-in. I’ll choose to trust there will be enough, molecules left even for me. New reserves, hell, maybe a new alphabet.

There are many words that tell of letting go, expressions like, “Later on, then”, and, “After a while, crocodile.”

In an out. It’s only an exhale, the passing of oxygen through the narrowest of passages, reliance in an automatic system. I let go, ship off trust in a red balloon covered in peeling, gold foiled stars. We are both forging new identities, both of us created for birth and change. Where she kicks, I feel and breathe.

Meals and Changing Identity

I am writing about food lots lately. Who could blame me, Jewish south Florida girl in Tokyo now, home among eight varieties of mushrooms and hanging, dried out squid?

I’m an eater. I don’t understand the people who stop eating when faced with stress. I could live in a drive-through. To type one essay, I empty whole pantries and snack cabinets. It’s busy and frenetic like as if I were smoking one Marlboro after another.

As we speak, I’m (delicately?) shovelling in pizza and taking alternative swigs of Sprite and beer.

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Five different essays on my turntable–we’ve got the draft on leaving an eighteen-year life of Vegetarianism for the freedom to nosh on beef or peachy flakes of fish.

We were vegetarians who gobbled scrambled tofu with turmeric and cumin. I reported to my tenth-grade class the dangers and irresponsibility of factory farming and quoted Upton’ Sinclair’s The Factory with the ease of a Smiths’ lyric. It wasn’t until age eighteen when my paradigm shifted and suddenly I did not need to keep my identity clutching this box called “I am a vegetarian”, I loosed my grip. Dramatically. 

There is the essay on strolling Paris as my mother and the tightness that loosened on our relationship with every outdoor meal of cheese and bread, and in my eighteen-year-old dreams, Sauterne. Vegetarian then, I scoffed at the prospect of veal or frog legs. No Quenelles de Brochet, but more pasta or whatever it is we ate. Bread. Lots of bread.

I traveled to Paris with my mother as a high school graduation gift. I skipped frogs’ legs, skipped escargot, walked past all of the city’s coq au vin, anything with a fin or bone. What did I eat? Crosissant and couscous. Yeah. And this nearing college girl I was becoming? This adult would find herself in more cities, with friends and relationships. I wanted to be flexible. I also wanted to be able to cook, to batter chicken for those I loved. To expand my cooking repertoire and CV of tasting.

There is sushi, a whole electric and old-school (good pun?) world of sushi here in Japan, exactly as one would suspect. Every market boasts sashimi and maki (the rolls) on plastic trays. Our family goes to a sushi joint in Akabane, famous for the wall of life fish/call it an aquarium. Yes, while we diners pluck pickled ginger and swizzle our pats of wasabi into shoyu/soy sauce, the cooks/aquarium men spear and pull our still swimming, breathing, “glub-glubbing” meal from the water. I had/have some trouble with this, as you might be perceiving. There is a whole long essay flopping in my head. It involves having to take many, many sips of beer. One of my family celebratory trips there also involves a particularly unlucky octopus, a hook, and a sheet of plexiglass.

There is the everyday need for me to feed my family and occasionally, pack an o-bento (like on special events at kids’ school like Undokai/Sports’ Day, probably the most elaborate day for o-bento, field trip days, odd days for my husband, park picnics, and absolutely the whole season, every day of cherry blossoms). I wrote about that here in my first-ever Washington Post piece.

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It is funny to see the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness” just above my O-Bento Headline, but you know? How we relate to food can mirror and highlight how we internalize and act-out our place in this world, within our native or adopted environment, the marketplace, our fridge, stove, and place at the table with baby bird-like mouths to feed.

Food is base, it is beautiful. We are all part of this very human experience and I am a happy gal writing about the sauce and salad that came with my meal. I’ll include another bit from a piece, not because I wish to throw down my quotes like I would for Whitman, but because I don’t know what to do with all of these food essays!

I like that I could change those years ago, reimagining myself as a traveler and a lover, learning a whole other code called omnivore. A recipe, after all, can span decades and generations. New dinners can also be thrown together, a work of simple beauty and sustenance. The tomatoes gleam, skins thrown open by heat and expanding molecules. 

Here is to expanding, to getting and giving the full force of our existence, if even to prep the seemingly rote breakfasts and wash those dishes again for dinner. To becoming reignited by the senses and the part we play and plate.

Also, I will never eat those dangling frog legs parading with their “chicken taste”. I may always choose couscous and cheese over bouillabaisse. But I’m growing.

 

Uncommon Goods, a More than Great Site

*a sponsored but authentic post

I am here in Maryland visiting my brother and sister-in-law. Every counter, every nook and cranny of their home is remarkable. One stand-out space is actually a bathroom, yes, a bathroom. Nearly black walls, mod white light fixture, sleek hardware, and then this toilet paper holder that is in its own right, an art installation. The immense mirror is even backlit. Of all of these fabulous features, the one element most easily simulated in my own home is the toilet paper wall art.

I found it there on UncommonGoods’ site, near other treasure. See more rad home decor and ways to make every space more organized and brilliant.

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(Photo from UncommonGoods’ site.)

I was smitten by the site long ago and it so it is a natural fit being asked to write a post. Their offerings are more diverse than I recall.

Now, looking through new arrivals and old favorites, I’m ready to make a housemade blend of hot sauce with my husband (one of their many culinary kits!!!). I’m ready to laze with this Sriracha-inspired pillow. See this home textiles page for hand-embroidered state pillows, too! I want Florida! What a great personal gift, too!

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My wish list also contains the entire gardening section, with specialized seed bundles and bee homes.

I tell you. I’m ready to brew our own spicy ginger beer and Moscow Mules, customize our own wooden cutting boards, and stockpile gifts so that my loved ones can make absinthe (they have this, too, and a thrilling list of cocktail and infusion kits!). For my husband, magnetic running lights and clip on headlights for his sneaks.

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Part of my excitement is about the character and behind-the-scenes action. I cannot not bring up all of the good. Each product fits with their vision of environmental and social responsibility. Figures they began in Brooklyn!

Each product fits with their vision of environmental and social responsibility. Figures they began in Brooklyn!

They meld commerce with art and community. Every product features the creator(s) with tidbits that further inspire. These are real people, not nameless factories with unnamed people. They offer beauty for the home in ways that are community/global-minded.

Uncommon Goods helps create uncommon connections, from their work donating to one of four stellar non-profit organizations, providing fair wages for employees, health insurance, and a pledge to present products created with handmade, recycled, and organic elements. We, the buyer, get to choose which of the four organizations our donation will go. To buy with more than a clear conscience is a deal.

The other thing is, knowing the maker behind an object of intrigue simply makes the thing cooler. You’ll even read how these runner’s mini headlights I’ll be ordering were first dreamed up.

Take a look. Let me know which pages grab you. Maybe we can window-shop together. Or come over; I’ll pour you an uncommonly delicious drink I’ve concocted.

 

 

Traveling with Small Humans: List #1

List-Making, Part 1: Helicopters and go-carts are next time on the list! My kids and I have exhausted every other form of transportation on this summer trip. Seriously, we’ve done it all and have the empty plastic Dramamine containers to prove it.

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On Amtrak an hour and ten mins. 

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In the car today for forevvvvver. 

Some friends say they would under no circumstances travel abroad, especially sance second parents. Many say to me that trip to Publix or Harris Teeters is enough. “Just you and three children? Naaaaa.

Some say it is not feasible, no, not with the baby, too? But many have done it!

Many of us have crossed huge deltas, have left impossible situations, or jumped quite literally from a plane. I simply took a plane–granted for many hours, and came. I am not bragging; this is simply what it must be and what it gets to look like since we live in Japan and home turf is back in the US. We are here now, me lugging after and carrying much of the gear for my three humans.

I wonder if I have garnered enough wisdom from this last international flight (and many others with kids in tow), the domestic legs, and the many car trips to pen a list.

What to Not Forget Now & Next Time We Travel/This is what I’ve learned:

  • Pack Meds. Pack Cortizone, Neosporin, and pack/buy/beg for that Dramamine for helping kids not feel queasy and not throw up. Every bump, every wind of turbulence is not your friend. Those potholes you experienced allll over Philly? The enemy of kids’ tummies. Just let your boy pee on the sides of roads and in the shrubbery backs of houses. Just climbed our of the pool? Just let him take care of business outdoors; it’s worth the ease.

 

  • Help your dear daughter pee on the side of a road one day even though you will not want to, even though you will want her to be some perfect peeing fairy. Let her go our in sandals or anything to ensure that she does not oopsie pee on her shoes. That was rough.

 

  • Absolutely, hands-down say, “Yes, okay!!” to ice cream all the time, every minute! YOu are making memories. Memories are important with chocolate fudge and rainbow sprinkles. Memorable family reunions do not only need to include crunchy apple wedges. Do it up. Yes, this means my kids have been on a veritable ice cream trip, sampling from the river of ice cream mayyyybe every day. Hopefully we return with all of our teeth.

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  • Do not freak out on them when they freak out from overtired fatigue. Do not be that group of passengers, Carol, the mom from The Brady Bunch, on Airplane who hits that woman to calm her down. No mom ever quelled panic with that. Au contraire, next time, Mel, please just hug them. (I admit to you that my consequences have needed help. Hey, I am half of a parenting team for a very long-time now). My mom, however, helped remind me that I need not be too hard on my dear, sweet, travel-weary, not in their own beds in their own homes in their own continental place of Asia. We are essentially people with suitcases and family who takes us in. I can simply love on my kids and be patient and full of peace. I can try, anyway.

 

 

How Did I Arrive at This Vine

How did I get here, pedaling a mama-bike with a towering morning glory plant in my front seat? I’ve just come from my parent-teacher conference marking summer break. I’ve got the morning glory which is a tell-tale sign in Japan that I’ve got a first-grader.

This feels like my own parenting rite, me with this blue plastic planter which vine up and cling against a trellis. The frame is maybe two feet above my head as I steer. I am chauffeuring it back home, dropping it off so I can step out again. I’ll need that front seat for my son.

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Green leaves, purplish-red blossoms. A water bottle that fits in a special space at the base, reminding me of a class hamster or gerbil. Each child will water their morning glory or asa gao. They will chart it with hand-drawn diagrams, and a running narrative of keeping this vining, flowering plant alive.

“Two times a day”, she says. “Ichi nichi ni kai”, twice a day.” (Nevermind that we will leave for America this Friday. Maybe we can hand it to her Grandparents here for their balcony).

We are at friends’ home, preschool friends of my girl’s. I am able to keep up my relationships with the moms and she is able to keep being friends. The two moms came over this past week and we decided then on our first ever shukudai party/homework party. There are all sorts of summer homework assigned to first graders in the Japanese school system. They are concerned that with my girl gone in America for a month, this homework will prove too difficult, and any books too heavy for taking with. They say leave her with them, go do the teacher conference. Go get that asa gao plant.

How did I get to pedal with a towering plant, that bloom opening in the morning? They feed our children food while I am gone. They eat cold Chinese noodles with a sweet sauce, cut mini-tomatoes, matchstick cukes, and ribbons of sweet crepe-style egg. I supply snacks of chocolate cookies and rum raisin cookies that must be for adults.

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They read over my girl’s sentences, check over her addition and subtraction, curling their red pencil in a flower across the paper which in Japan means “alright, great”.

They read her journal entry, hear her question about a certain spelling of a certain word and think on it before answering. They think about how we can continue homework and reading on our airplanes.

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How did I get here, with two moms next to me, feeding my kids, checking her work in Japanese? How did I score a team that says, “Yes, let’s make dinner, too. We’ll feed our children together again and let them continue playing.” I chop cabbage, green pepper, and spring onions in her processor. I crack two eggs with my right hand, baby on left hip. I mix special flour for okonomiyaki, a kind of savory pancake, mixing these elements with her pink-handled whisk. The point is not its pinkness, but rather the fact that I am in another woman’s kitchen, in a country not of my own, speaking with sprinkles of Japanese which mixes with flecks of English. I am known somehow. My children and I are fed. I use her range and wipe down her white coriander counters. I set the table for all of our kids.

This is what I’ve wanted. This is the hankering I’ve desired—to be able to spontaneously decide with another that yes, we should do dinner, all of a sudden bringing ingredients together. To watch the blade sputter while our kids play in fits of laughter.

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This village is my morning glory. My bottle of water. That is to say, I am refreshed. I am empowered.

How did I get to be in another woman’s kitchen, watching her baby nurse, chopping cabbage, with her for a shared dinner? How did I get to take home that plant, to sit in a conference over my child in her class, with a teacher who says he has express confidence in her thinking and responsible manner? To raise up kids in this community, with tendrils that vine because of its trellis, its sun, and that water. Because of hot meals, new foods, new jokes, new thankfulness for translation apps.

It hasn’t always felt like a village. Read I Felt Like an Outsider.

We break with kids running in the street, our mothering hushes, “shizukani shitei kudasai, please be quiet.” It is summer, but this is having manners here. Neighbors need quiet on the back of our laughter; our kids must take their sweaty summer bodies and bathe. “Jaa, ikimashou”.

We fed them two meals, two snacks. We bounced babies together and handed out chopsticks, forks, plates, compliments. I pat my girl’s leg behind me and thump my boy’s shoulder. I am proud. Proud of us, proud of them. Proud of each and every leaf we’ve grown, each flower, each stem and all of those cells that even make up this particular shade of reddish-purple.

 

 

 

 

 

Onigiri with Cupped Hands

Ever had a rice ball? That is what onigiri commonly translates to, a rice ball. Ball o-rice. Except that it’s not so much a ball as a rounded triangle of rice and flavoring that often comes from fish and/or sea vegetables. They can actually come in varied shapes and sizes. Also, you should know that onigiri are life savers.

They are any busy person and any parent’s best friend. Imagine not having to choose between health, taste, and convenience. This stuffed, sprinkled, and filled rice ball is sold on-the-go from any convenient store or supermarket and made in every kitchen across Japan.

Any sports event, picnic, party, or any day may feature an onigiri. They may also be called “musubi” and there is no shortage of ideas or ways to may it your own. Think a piece of fried chicken inhabiting the center of the rice pillow or salted salmon, tuna fish thick with tangy mayonnaise, or an all-veggie experience. Onigiri are your friend.

My eleven-month-daughter already has a penchant for the all-in-one snack/meal. Just Sunday she gobbled up most of a salmon and toasted sesame seed nigiri and would have eaten every morsel, no mess, but her older sister implored me like a baby bird, “More. Another bite” until they were both wordlessly opening their mouths on the train.

Crisis averted. No tears. Happy tummies.
Japan is genius in the omusubi/onigiri department. It is as the collective, nourishing battle cry is, “No one must go hungry or wait until home until they eat something of substance”.

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What’s more, they are cheap. We’re talking around 150 yen, roughly $1.50 for a small meal. I can read your mind—rice? What, do you hold it with bare hands? Sticky, no? Quite right. That would be a bit grizzly and quite unrefined. No. Crispy nori/laver seaweed covers the outside surface, making a handy place to hold it, and also providing a crisp, snappy bite along with every soft bite of rice. Most bought onigiri now feature plastic wrapping between the rice ball and seaweed so that, by following the labeled 1-2-3 directions to pull wrapping in specific places, the plastic pulls away to provide the freshest pari-pari (sound of seaweed crunching) nori-covered onigiri imagined.

Onigiri is absolutely a Japanese experience—packing for school trips, impromptu picnics, sports’ day—These hand-packed rice balls became a staple during war. Samurai soldiers had a way of transporting handy meals featuring sushi rice (vinegar to preserve) and salted fish, pickled plums, etc. The food could last and provide them with nourishment. Onigiri comes from the word “握にぎる/onigiru”, to grasp, since they are formed by hand, similar to nigiri sushi.

What became necessity then has lasted for the same convenience and tastiness.

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Young children can make onigiri, no problem. Simply lay a sheet of Saran-Wrap over a small bowl and plop them a small spoonful or oshamoji (rice paddle) full of freshly-made, warm rice on top of the plastic wrap. Use toppings such as furikake (flavored dry fish flakes, veg, seaweed), fish, or pickled plum inside of the rice ball or sprinkled on top.

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With their little hands, they can take Saran Wrap in hands and fold up corners, shaping a kind of rice snowball, but keeping hands clean thanks to the plastic. I learned this trick from my friend a mentor, a woman who’d been raising kids and teaching kindergarten in Tokyo for decades. If not shaping rice in Saran Wrap, wet your hands for the duration of hand-shaping, as rice is sticky!

They are made for feisty kids and also, more demure adults. Again, classic.

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Onigiri may be made mini, large, sphere-shaped, or in a neat triangle. Have fun! Experiment with toppings and treasure inside for the ultimate in healthful snack or meal. The purple above is my daughter’s favorite, a divine food called yukari, a red shiso leaf with ume/plum. It is sweet and comes alive with a gentle, herbacious zest.

The green ribbons above are zuccini, parboiled. Easy, right? Onigiri can be used with most any veg, seasoning, or spread. I am easily inspired by color and I want my children to get that, too, to want to layer on the produce and flavor.

I have in my possession, the cutest little recipe book, just packed with onigiri inspiration. Many of the tricks contain techniques within Japanese cuisine, so it is much more than salting some rice or plopping a sardine on the front.

Here it is, Onigiri Recipe 101, by Reiko Yamada.

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Tonight, with all of the bells and whistles going off with our hectic Wednesday, just me and three kids post school, dance class and park, I called Onigiri Party and we rocked it. I ony needed to make rice beforehand (rice makers kick it) and have toppings and bits of filling on-hand.

Follow the guides on your rice cooker using short-grain Japanese rice or make it on the stove. If using the latter, here is your reminder primer for how to get the best rice for your on-the-go-delicacy. (Also keep in mind that the freshest, still-steaming rice will be the most flavorful. Leftover rice is better for making fried rice).

Serious Eats advises this basic rice recipe for onigiri:

Rinse 1 ½ cups of sushi rice in water, drain, bring the rice to a simmer in a saucepan with 2 cups of water, cover and lower the heat to medium-low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the saucepan covered for another 10 minutes.

Mix in your seasoning, grate in carrot, a wild handful of toasted sesame seeds, broiled fish, chicken, heck–a Scotch Egg. Do your thing. My cute handbook, Onigiri Recipe 201 even supplies a Jambalaya Onigiri recipe. Maybe I’ll work up my bravery to somehow incorporate a matzah ball. Or not. Maybe just smoked salmon and a smidgen of cream cheese or my fabulous basil-infused mustard from friends in Luxembourg. Get foodie and fresh on this ball o-rice.

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Wrap with freshly opened nori/laver seaweed, or don’t. I was out of nori tonight, but we improvised with some of that salty, thin Korean nori. Eating it out of the wrapper, sans nori is always an option.

Now take your onigiri batch to a park, bring it for a fast refuel after the baseball game, or in between waves at the shore. Get the biggest bank for your buck, er 100 yen.

Before eating, give thanks with a hearty “itadaki-masu!”