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The Ballad of Narayama film posterOn Wednesday I made my first bento in almost two months… I had a movie date in Amsterdam with my friend Loes. We went to a special viewing of the classic 1983 Palm d’Or winner The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama bushikô), a film by Shohei Imamura. Last week was the Dutch première -yes, after 30 years!- and there are only a handful of screenings.

The film tells the story of Orin, a 69 year old woman in a rural hamlet of late-1900s Japan. It’s tradition, or rather law, that inhabitants reaching the age of 70 go to the top of the mountain (Narayama) to commit obasute: death by starvation, to limit the amount of mouths to feed. The eldest son is supposed to carry his mother on his back to her resting place. But Orin is still very strong and healthy…

The Ballad of Narayama is an unusual movie: at the same time pretty much “in your face” as well as burlesque — the latter possibly to soften the hardships of life that are shown. But it’s also something I’ve come across before in Japanese cinema. Isn’t the sometimes caricatural play not reminiscent of kyōgen theatre and kabuki? Anyway, I enjoyed myself regardless of the slow pace. The many images of nature are gorgeous and it’s interesting to witness how life in a poor Japanese country village may have been in another age. I was touched by the way Orin’s son was torn between his unwillingness to let his mom go, and not wanting to shame her by refusing to go along. His difficult journey into the mountains felt like a period of mourning and Orin’s first-born carrying her to her death mirrored the process of her giving birth to him. The cycle of life.

Title roll Ballad of NarayamaThe title of the film refers to a song about Orin’s life stage made up by her grandson in the beginning of the story (wintertime), recurring several times until The End, on the threshold of another winter.

Contemplating this I seem to have a theme going in my life at the moment. My current book is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, relating of her experiences hiking the Pacific Trail Crest (PCT) in her early twenties, a few years after her mother died. I’m totally absorbed in the story and can’t wait to read on.

But first it’s time to get back to the subject of this post. I was travelling to the cinema at dinner time so I’d eaten a hearty lunch earlier that day and made myself a simple dinner bento to have on the train.

Ballad of Narayama Bento (06-03-2013)

From top to bottom

  • Aubergine caviar with corn kernels, Italian crackers and walnut spread.
  • Lemon macadamia cupcake with lemon frosting (recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), more crackers, dried apricot and baby fig.
  • Cucumber salad with mini plum tomatoes, olives, radishes, chives, a cheezy dressing (recipe from Bryanna Clarke) and hemp seeds sprinkled over.

It was GOOOOD! I hope to have more bentos and nights like this. :)

Submitted to What’s for Lunch Wednesday #145 and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking.

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Chinese Literature Challenge buttonToday I’m on a hike in National Park De Hoge Veluwe with my fellow Wandelgrrls. Chinoiseries is among them and she put the screws to me with her Literary Blog Hop Giveaway rules… I’ve thought about joining the Chinese Literature Challenge she’s hosting ever since it started early February and now she finally got me to! So here’s a quick post about my –ahem– ‘list’.

Level of participation: Merchant (read 1-3 books from Chinese authors or about China).

  1. Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma

I may add a second and third title in the future but I’m wary of creating ‘reading stress’ ;) Because I also joined the 5th Japanese Literature Challenge that started this month!

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logoThat’s not really much of a challenge because I’ll be reading several books by Japanese authors anyway. Currently on my night-stand: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. I haven’t read anything by him before and I’m impressed so far: a Story with a capital S. It’s the June read for the Japanese Book Group on In Spring it is the Dawn and I also plan on reading along Thousand Cranes, Kokoro and 1q84 (I-III). Then there’s my readalong of The Elephant Vanishes with Elsjelas coming up. Counting my recent review of All She Was Worth (Miyuki Miyabe) that makes… 6 books. And there are plenty more on my shelf that I’m dying to read! Of course the difficult part in my case is never the reading, but reviewing.

1st Literary Giveaway Blog Hop ButtonIn case you haven’t noticed yet: there’s another Literary Giveaway Blog Hop going on at Leeswammes’, from June 25th-29th. There are over 70 participants! Although I joined the first hop around my birthday in February, I decided to let this one pass since it’s a busy weekend. Would have been fun to do another giveaway though, ‘cause this time it’s Mr Gnoe’s B-day! ;)

Other bookish news

Cover Zeitoun (Dave Eggers) 9789048806577I started and finished reading Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun this week, nonfiction about a family living in New Orleans during Katrina — the June read for the Boekgrrls book group. I’m probably not going to review it on Graasland. You can always check out my notes on Goodreads! The one thing that I must add is that it was translated to Dutch by one of the Wandel-/Boekgrrls and she did a GREAT job! Kudos MaaikeB!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Today is Japanese Culture Day — and statistically also the best day of the year in Japan regarding weather. Well, we’ve had some strange weather here on the other side of the globe: cold, autumn sun, rain and hard winds all taking turns. Culture Day is celebrated as such since 1948 but it was already a national holiday in 1868; November 3rd being the birthday of the great Meiji Emperor.

Bento #85 is not about Japanese culture, and not really about Dutch culture either. But it is about heritage! It is stuffed with Indonesian food, and of course the Dutch have a colonial history in the (Dutch) East Indies. So does my family… :\ As a result you can wake me up anytime just for some good asian food! I guess the hardest part of becoming a vegetarian was that I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore saté, rendang, or ajam pedis… :( I’ve drafted a blogpost about my search for vegetarian lemper some time ago — I hope to finish it soon ;)

Now, about today’s bento.

Bento #85

Upper tier

  • Asian salad of white cabbage, red and yellow bell pepper, fennel, gherkin and a soy dressing (adapted from Culinette)
  • sweet red pepper
  • red Batavia lettuce
  • nasi goreng with leek and onion
  • shiitake mushroom

Lower tier

  • boiled egg with African peper spices on gherkin slices
  • parsley
  • lettuce
  • emping (in a container I borrowed from my aunt to test its size)

We also had some leftover tumis cabbage & tofu, but I didn’t think that would taste to great cold. Although most Indonesian dishes can very well be eaten at room temperature! They’re best when they have had some time to rest anyway, so that the flavors get a chance to blend.

BTW I did eat this bento in my museum office — does that count for Culture Day? ;)

CSA (& organic): cabbage, fennel, sweet red pepper, Batavia lettuce, leek, parsley.
Organic: onion, shiitake mushroom, egg.

Today’s bento is a mix of several Asian dishes. Yes, Gnoe likes her Asian foodies :)

Upper tier

  • Indian egg-tomato curry (one of our all-time favourites!)
  • Japanese edamame
  • Indonesian nasi goreng
  • gherkin fox
  • cucumber
  • two types of parsley
  • on a bed of lettuce

Lower tier

  • Indonesian emping
  • raspberries and red currants
  • yoghurt coated apricot
  • carrots
  • basil
  • and another fox

Selamat makan!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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