Several weeks ago I received an e-mail from a publisher, asking if I wanted to review a copy of Bento Box In The Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood In Whitebread America. The book sounded interesting, so I looked forward to receiving it in the mail. Cautioning myself not to be influenced by the fact that the book was free, I began reading it, prepared to be honest if I didn't like it. Well, that attitude quickly fell by the way side as I was immediately drawn into Linda Furiya's experiences of growing up as the only Asian family in a small Indiana town. Remembering how most children fear being labeled as "different," her experiences are poignant, funny, and profound. And since this country's history is based on different groups of people struggling to assimilate, but retain their links to the homelands they left behind, this is a very American story, beautifully written.
I enjoyed this book a great deal, and was a bit sad when I finished it. I had formed an attachment to the Furiya family and wanted to learn more about them. The stories of what her parents endured were moving, and I was impressed with how they persevered in spite of them. And I smiled reading how her family was obsessed with obtaining Japanese foods, at a time when it was not easy to do so. Food was the crucial link to her family's identity. They were committed to life as Americans, but Japanese food provided a glue that kept them at one with their identity. To that end, they would drive hundreds of miles to get fresh fish and Japanese ingredients, to avoid running out of these items. This was well before the time when foods like wasabi powder, ginger root, and nori were featured in many grocery stores, as they are now. These foods were nurturing to the author, but they also made her feel apart from her peers. While friends ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, her lunches always included rice balls, which she feared would make her an object of derision. The book details how she would hide the rice balls from her friends, even though they were one of her favorite foods, and only eat them in the privacy of the school bathroom.
The book is full of scenes like this that taught the author about
family history and how to handle the challenges she often faced. Each
chapter ends with a well loved family recipe illustrating, in her words,
"the legacy of my parents, their stories, and the shared love of food
and cooking." I recommend this book highly.
On Saturday I decided to make one of the recipes from the book, Roasted Pork Tenderloin (Yakibuta). Once look at the ingredients and I knew the dish would be delicious. Ginger root, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce are favorites of mine. I wasn't disappointed, it was marvelous. And Bob felt the same way. I saved the leftovers and hope to use them in ramen soup. I've always wanted to make it from scratch, so maybe that will happen.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin (Yakibuta)
(Linda Furiya, Bento Box In The Heartland)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced ginger root
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup sake
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1-1/2-2 pounds pork tenderloins (1-2 loins)
Mix together the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar sake, and sesame oil in a glass baking dish or plastic storage container. Put the pork into the dish and turn to coat on al sides. Let marinate for 1 hour or, for best results, cover and refrigerate overnight. (I strongly suggest you do it for 24 hours.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Take the pork out of the marinade and put tin a roasting pan. Roast, basting about every 15 minutes or so, until the pork reaches an internal temp of 150 on a meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the loin. When done, take it from the oven and let it set to room temperature.
I heated the marinade and poured it over the loins just before I served it. I think the slices should be cut thinner than pictured in my photo. Next time I will do that. You can make a dipping sauce by mixing English hot mustard with soy sauce.
Note: Most meat thermometers show a 170 as the proper temperature to cook pork. That is out of date. Pork is safe to eat with a reading of 155-160. Any higher than that and the pork will be dry. Take the pork out at 150 degrees internal temperature and it will slowly rise to 155 to 160 as it sits on your table.