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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is a bento?

 *****I have not listed where all the pictures are from but all the  Bento bloggers are on my right hand side of my blog.

This post is going to tell you what a bento is and more... I have really taken an interest in the pictures ...So let's start at the beginning...
  A bento box is a single portion take out or home packed meal, common in Japanese cuisine. Bento lunches became popular in the US around 2006, But don't feel in the dark.. If you have never heard or seen it before  neither had I, I  learned of it in 2008 when a parent of one of my students, turned me on to it, and even purchased me egg molds and a lacquerware bento box. I like a lot of different things about the bento box.. The art of it,,, the healthy food, the colors and textures and the portion control.
 So I see you saying .."wow those look way to time consuming for me"... and that is fine too.. Bento does not mean creative.. Kyaraben is the art of creating the food to look like characters. I know many people turn there noses up at this.. but this is what I think about it..I feel food that looks like art creates a fun mood for adults and helps preschool to K-aged children overcome poor eating habits. We all know that food presented attractively looks more appetizing.
Since we eat with our eyes as well as our taste buds and stomach. In the culinary arts, they say that presentation is as important as preparation. In Japan, it's all about presentation when making Kyaraben or charaben lunches and they even have competitions.. here are some adult ones...

 I love the spa women with the facial mask.. so great..I would love to eat any of it..
You can see how it could get addicting as a Kyaraben maker, to want too out create again and again. In Japan, some schools have banned this type of lunch from students, as it has gotten to competitive.
  Here  is a look at some of the child bentos..

  The kitten one is so over the top, I love it.. but it wouldn't fit in a closed bento.. I do admire the creative and skilled artist.  Some bento lunches are made using Onigiri ( which is rice shaped into balls) it is literally the foundation of small bento box lunches. Some are stuffed with meat or vegetables. Some have sesame seeds on top or Nori ( toasted sesame)
 In an article in the New york times the author asks the question... " With all the care and devotion to the visual details in a packed lunch what does this suggest about the culture..?" I guess it's something to think about.. but I tent to think that if it looks nice I like it and if it tastes good even better. Plus any kind of art and creativity is fun for the artist. From a dieting perspective Bento lunches with or without charaben or rice is good for it's form of portion control.
   I found some exceptional bento blogs.. One of my favorites, I had a few here her blog name is Lunch in a box and she answers bento FAQ and she has recipes and tips. I like her bento store locator.

  My other favorite blog is called adventures in bento  I had the pleasure of interviewing her for you and this is what she said about bento lunches and her blog....

 this is the artist at otherwise known as adventures in bento making.. she loved the show lost and look at the bento party she made....

Wasabi Mommy said: We know that you loved the movie Adventures in Babysitting so that is where you got your blog name but where did you get your artistic talent?
AIB said:  My mother likes to take the credit for that. I've always been the creative type since I was a kid. When I was in college I did mail art and then I moved to scrap booking. Now I focus on food!
WM said:How long does it take you on an average to pack a creative "bento" lunch?
 AIB said: I've had years of practice making lunches, so I'm faster now than I used to be, but I've had even more time honing my procrastination skills, so while it would probably take me 15 minutes to do a bento while focused, I tend to dilly dally and I end up taking anywhere from half an hour to an hour.
WM:Are there packing rules to pack a bento? colors? textures?
  AIM said:Generally you want to go for five colors such as green, red, white, yellow, orange. Japanese bento don't usually contain fruit, but if you look at bento from around the world, we look to fresh fruits for color.
WM:What does the word gap filler mean and what are they for?
  AIB said: Open spaces in a bento are a real pet peeve of mine, I guess this might just come from my personal preference, but I think bento look much more complete when all the holes are filled.
WM: Does the box lunch get wrapped in anything in a child's backpack so it does not tip?( I did see on that she wraps and ties a small towel ontop)
 AIB: I rarely pack lunch for my children, but when I do, I usually put it in an insulated bag that stays upright.
WM: What is the hardest food to work with in your opinion?
AIB: I hate putting plums into a bento. I can never slice them well and always have a hard time arranging them nicely.
WM: What is the easiest food, in your opinion to work with, Not counting rice.
 AIM Broccoli is the easiest for me because you can just break off and use as much as you need and it makes a bright and colorful filter.
WM: Are there any websites you would reommend to people who are just starting out as "bento" lunch creators? for supplies or ideas??
   AIM: ( For ideas, you can of course go to my site. There's Lunch in a Box for speed bentos, Just Bento for weight loss and history on bento, hapa bento for beautiful adult lunches, or there's Bentolicious for adorable charaben. There are lots of sites out there to look to for inspiration now.
WM:What is your all time favorite bento box creation?
  AIB: I don't know if I have any one favorite, but I did feel really good about my Somen Bird's Nest bento, even though the yolk looked terrible.
WM:What "bento" box creation took you much longer than you expected and why?
AIB: Definitely my 300th bento. I literally got 0 sleep the previous night, which is why I'm dreading Monday, when my 500th bento is "due". , I enjoy talking about bento all the time.
This is her 100th bento...
My other favorite blog is good for health and weight conscious adults, should be everyone... Just by Makiko Itoh and the sister blog site click here for sister site

So if I have inspired you to want to "play with your food" or even if I got your interested in making or bringing your lunch to work, instead of spending money at a fast food restaurant or expensive restaurant than I accomplished my goal. 
 When I first started out I did not have anything but one egg mold, heart shaped - so I used straws to cut cheese and egg in circles and I used bottle caps for cheese and hard boiled eggs. Now I don't have as much as I would like but I hope to build on it.. I know hot dogs are not great for you but I would love the weiner shapers that make hot dogs look like things.. penguins, crabs. etc.. I love the site the meme Muffin Tin Monday because she has an idea like a bento but it's just a fun lunch.. I join her every Monday.. if you want come along... too... just click here
  I believe this one is from lunch in a box and it's one of my favorites..Now your asking why none of my bentos are showcased here????.. I am not worthy yet.. maybe by September I can show some off.
  If you read the entire post.. thank you!!!! I worked very hard on the research, the interview and the pictures.
 I leave you with one more beautifully photographed lunch from


Ellie said...

Great interview; I agree food needs to be fun! This was really informative and inspiring! I have made faces on tortillas w/hummus and veggies and shredded cheese. I have done the muffin tin lunches, gold fish, pbutter, trail mix, fruit, veggies sliced. You bring back lots of memories of things I have done to
get my children to eat. Present things in a pretty way!~

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rObrak said...

Wow! That is very awesome lunch pack! I love it and also the interview, great job! As for a suggestion, why don't you also try to pack your lunch in a stainless steel tiffin container? Because I often notice that bentos are packed in a plastic ware containers and haven't seen anyone who uses stainless steel containers. Just a thought. =) But I suggest that stainless steel containers are safer than plastic wares/plastic bags because it is 100% BPA free, especially at Happy Tiffin. You can avail it at more affordable price, all the more it is stylish, more convenient to use and you can even pack 4-6 different dishes in one single carrier. And what I liked about these containers is that it is eco-friendly. ;-)

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