Rice, rolls and childhood memoriesLet me share my childhood memories of lunch boxes with you.
In front of my elementary school, there was a small mountain, shaped like a gourd turned upside down. Every spring, my friends and I used to climb up and find a flat rock to sit on and eat our lunch. One friend of mine, whose mother made her a lavish lunch box every day, always left about half her steamed rice uneaten, because she would finish all the side dishes first.
When I went to middle school, our teachers went around the room to see whether the students had mixed grains with their lunch. This was a special checkup the schools conducted in the old days, to encourage parents to provide balanced nutrition for their children.
Mothers would spread a thin layer of barley just on top of the rice, because most children hated barley and other grains. Once teachers began to suspect this, they would ask the students to turn their rice boxes upside down. After mothers began to spread barley on both sides of the rice, top and bottom, teachers would make a cross-section of the rice box.
People who went to school before cafeterias came along probably have one or more memories of soupy leftovers from their food leaking through the lunch bag to create a soy sauce map on their notebooks. How bad those stains smelled when we opened those pages.
Some of the best lunches we had back then were a fried egg on rice and a pan-fried, battered sausage. The sausage, one of those cheap pink ones, was a highlight of our lunch, though most of us finished our meal as soon as the first class was over. In winters, students used to fight for the best spots on the stoves to warm our meal and make rice porridge.
My lunch box memories go on and on. Those were the good old days ― tough but sweet.
Students these days won’t have any such memories. Most schools have cafeterias now. I’ve even heard that restaurants deliver noodles to some schools.
One nice idea for spring might be to take your children to the park with a lunch box. There’s nothing quite like a picnic basket full of old-style gimbap and California rolls.
[ How to Cook ]
Ingredients: 3 cups of rice, 4 sheets of gim (seaweed), 12-16 small cocktail shrimp, lettuce, avocado, 4 teaspoons of tobiko (flying fish roe), 3 cups of water, kelp, 2 teaspoons of Cheongju (Korean rice wine), 2 teaspoons of vinegar, one teaspoon of sugar, a few sprinkles of salt, 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise.
1. Steam rice in water mixed with Cheongju and kelp.
2. Just before the rice is done, add the vinegar, salt and sugar, and mix.
3. Pour rice on a bowl and cool for a few minutes. Cover the rice with a wet towel.
4. Dice the lettuce; slice the avocado into 5-millimeter slices.
5. Spread a sheet of gim on a bamboo wrapper. Spread rice on a sheet, and flip it over so the rice is facing the wrapper.
6. Place lettuce, shrimp, avocado and flying fish roe on top of gim. Spread a bed of mayonnaise and gently roll.
7. Cut, sprinkle sesame seeds and serve.
by Noh Young-hee