My pre-teen has become obsessed with ninjas. He watches them on television, reads books about them and even dresses like one (well, on Saturdays anyway). He folds origami ninja weapons and ties knife-carrying cloths to his calves. Maybe this all stemmed from his love of sushi or an introduction to anime and manga cartoons. Whatever the source, it has spread to my kitchen.
I know little about the lives of ninjas--things like what thread-count their sheets are, who does their laundry or if they keep pets, for example, are not readily apparent in the books or movies about them. But assuming they were like most non-eating, non-sleeping, non-laundry-washing cartoon characters, I considered my kitchen pretty safe from a ninja invasion. This was fine with me, as all those sharp little stars and swords would surely wreak havoc on my new cherry wood cabinets.
But all that changed this week when, on break from school, my son picked up a copy of The Manga Cookbook at our local library.
Suddenly, he's dressed in full ninja regalia and following me around asking if we can make Onigiri and Nikumaki, and I'm thinking they are characters he saw in a book and wants to draw. "Sure, Jacob. You know where your drawing tools are. Go for it."
"No, mom, they're dishes. Manga dishes that you eat."
"We don't have any mangoes, but I think there's an avocado in the fridge."
"No, mom, MANGA. It's ninja food. Please?"
He handed me something that looked like a softcover comic book, and I was skeptical. But when I flipped through it and saw (translated) recipes for rice balls and meat and vegetable rolls, and ingredients like pork and asparagus, string beans and carrots, I decided to seize the opportunity. I may not fully understand the magic of manga or the draw of anime, but if it will get my pickier kid to eat vegetables, I'm willing to give it a try.
"Sure, Jacob. We can make some of these this weekend," I offered. "But you need to eat them when we're done."
"Duh, Mom. Why else would I want to make them?"
"Fine. But you have to wear an apron over your uniform, and *I* will supply the knives."
I waited for him to balk, but he just smiled. At least I think he did. It was hard to tell with the ninja mask on his face.