I’ve mentioned the vegetarian/vegan cookbook author Yumiko Kano before on these pages, including a review of her lunch and bento book, Saisai Lunch . Ms. Kano produces books with astonishing frequency, as do many popular Japanese cookbook authors, at a rate of 2 to 3 books a year, so it’s a bit hard to keep up with her output. But I do like her recipes a lot so I try to get most of them.
Her two most recent books are Saisai Otsumami  and Yasai no Kamisama . Saisai Otsumami, another in the Saisai (“vegetable-vegetable”) series, is a photo-rich cookbook of snacks that are eaten while drinking (otsumami), all vegan of course. A cookbook of healthy, vegan snacks to eat while imbibing is a seems a bit, well, illogical to me, but the recipes look delicious. I don’t drink much so I don’t have a big need for new ideas for drinking snacks, but I’ll be trying some out and seeing what can be adapted to bentos for sure.
Her other book, Yasai no Kamisama (The Gods of Vegetables) is a collection of essays about food, with recipes. I’ve just flipped through it so far, but this one essay, called The Power of Onigiri, really caught my attention. Here’s a rough and abbreviated translation.
I have been divorced twice. The second time […], less than a year after we had filed our marriage papers, during which time we had been so busy with work that we had kept missing each other, I found out that my husband had another woman. He would often leave the house without saying a word, and not come back until late at night. When I confronted him, he confessed that he was in love with another woman….
I was so devastated. It was as if I’d been hit by a tsunami - it was so out of the blue. I felt as if I had fallen into a deep, dark place. I wanted to kill myself.
When I was at the depths of despair, my husband said this to me. “I don’t care if you die. But if you blame me for it, I’ll never forgive you.” Those words were like having a rock fall on my head right after having fallen into the depths of hell.
But amazingly, getting such loveless words thrown at me from someone I loved helped me to regain myself again. It was as if I was able to face my loss of hope head-on…
And then I got hungry. It was as if my body was craving nourishment for my soul. And what did I want to eat? An umeboshi onigiri.
She goes on to detail a recipe for onigiri using organically farmed rice and so on. But to me what struck me about her story (besides, OMG WHAT A BASTARD HER EX HUSBAND IS!) is the fact that food can heal you, spiritually as well as physically. A homemade bento, whether it has an onigiri in it or not, may not necessarily be life-changing, but it is a little bit of healing comfort for me. It could be a cultural thing though…to me, rice (and it has to be white rice) is comfort food in many levels. I just asked The Guy what it is for him, and he said “lasagna or a crusty loaf of bread”.
Do you have a healing food, something that helped you get over a particularly rough spot in your life? What would you pack for yourself or your loved ones in a ‘healing’ bento?