Nutritious Origami: Fold your Way to Healthy Eating

Nutritious Origami: Fold your Way to Healthy Eating 食育おりがみ

Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.

Nishida Ryoko & Hirano Seiko

Joanne G. Yoshida

May, 2013

You've heard mothers say to their school-age children, 'Eat your vegetables' but what about 'Fold your vegetables!'.  Or even,
'Deliciously fold your vegetables!'.

A recent educational book from Japan which aims to get children to eat all their vegetables does just that, as it engages children in creative activity while developing life-long healthy and balanced eating habits.  The book is Nutritious Origami:  Deliciously Fold your way to Healthy Eating!

This English title is my unofficial translation of the Japanese 食育おりがみ (shoku-iku origami); and it's appetizing subtitle おいしく折ろう (oishi-ku o-rou).  At present the book is only available in Japanese, but because of the visual nature and easy to follow diagrams, it is tempting enough for even non-Japanese speakers to delve into.

Literally the title refers to Nutritional Education, in Japanese 'Shoku-Iku', a word which consists of the two Japanese characters for 'food' (食) and 'education' (育).  For the purposes of this book review I am giving it the more catchy title, 'Nutritious Origami', though please note that it is not only fun but also educational in its nature.

The book, written and created by Nishida Ryoko and Hirano Seiko(西田良子・平野誠子)contains carefully detailed instructions to fold 70 delicious varieties of origami.  From bananas and pineapple to Christmas cake; and from gobo (burdock root) to donburi (a meal in a rice bowl), there's something to fold for all tastes.

Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.
Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.
Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.
Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.

Your child may be a picky eater, but once she has successfully folded --all by herself !--an eggplant out of bright purple origami paper, with its splendid light purple blossoms and gently curving green leaves, she may become curious to taste a real eggplant if it is served on her plate.  She will also connect the vegetable with the bright yellow sun that it grows beneath, as the image from the books bright illustrations makes clear.

Ask your child to eat something green and you may meet with a response such as 'yecch', or 'no way', but ask them to fold some fun green peas in a smiling pod and you are planting a seed for healthy eating.  This is one premise of the educational and original book whose writer and publisher is in the business of healthy eating, school lunch, and how to devise fun ways to introduce children to healthy habits.  As well as an attitude of gratitude for nature's bountiful offerings.

Japanese food culture is known for its wonderful abundance of seasonal foods. Menu planning in homes, restaurants, and schools pay attention to what is chosen depending on what is in season.

Unfortunately, however, this deep-seated value is changing in recent years with the availability of imported produce and instant products which change the food habits of families as imports become cheaper and fashionable.

There seems to be a move away from eating foods in tune with the healthy cycle of nature.  With global attention now on such issues as TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and its predicted effect on the agricultural sector of Japan, the values that this book are teaching have a deep significance  in terms of reminding children about those essential basics to Japanese food education which revolve around the seasons.

Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.

The book groups foods to fold in accordance with the way the seasons unfold.

Sayaendo, soramame (two varieties of green beans) and takenoko (bamboo shoots) in spring.
Mini-tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, eggplant, peaches and watermelon in summer.
Kabu (turnip), satsumaimo (sweet potato), kabocha (pumpkin), kuri (chestnut), matsutake (type of valued and fragrant mushroom), kaki (persimmon), gobo (burdock root) and renkon (lotus root) in Fall.
And for winter, fold apples and mikan in a basket, with instructions for folding the basket as well!

There is also a section on foods from southern climates with easy to read short passages about how the bright sun makes the colors of the foods shine.  The yellow origami paper in the illustrations radiates that sunshine, and I can see how it would appeal to children and readers of any age to increase our appreciation for the light that makes food grow.

Likewise there are sections about the bounty of the sea and how the ocean is the source of our power, filled with abundant and nutrition-rich delicacies.

You can learn about Japanese holidays and the foods that go with them by folding a colorful futomaki (big sushi roll filled with many types of ingredients) and a red miso soup bowl for the February 3rd holiday called Setsubun which marks the arrival of spring.

Some of the items in the dessert pages are irresistible.  Be sure to fold an ichigobabaroa or sakura mochi just for the sound of it.  The ice cream bars and cones will satisfy your sweet tooth as you fold white, pink or brown scoops depending if you like your origami in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry!

Nutritious Origami Healthy Eating.

The authors recommend many ways to use the book.  For teachers, parents, and nutritionists--- encourage children to create plates to arrange foods on, or origami collages with mountains and trees for the fruits and vegetables.  Make an impact with how you garnish the raw materials. Kids who love cooking play can make a salad, a sandwich, or a whole meal out of origami ingredients.

Make stories out of them to warm the hearts of others as a beautiful means to share and communicate.  I gave the book to a friend's granddaughter as a gift, and she gave me back a gift of a splendid example of a creative use of the book.  She made an origami birthday cake for my daughter's birthday card, an original cake inspired by the Christmas Cake in the book.

In this age of increasing computer games and play, it is a tactile way to learn about healthy eating and to fold your way to an increased connection with natures bounty.
Arigatoo!  Thank you to the team of Nishida and Hirano who brought this book to our table, Itadakimasu!
(Dig in!)

title: 食育おりがみ
authors: 西田良子・平野誠子
publisher: 全国学校給食協会

Review by Joanne G. Yoshida

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