Speaking of samplers, Rainer and I are rather transfixed by bento boxes. These little Japanese lunch boxes are samplers of tasty tidbits, portability, cuteness, elegance…bentos seem to have it all. Supreme coolness points go to anything stack-able. There’s also so much to be said for a lunchbox about which the following can be written: “In the peaceful and prosperous Edo Period (1603 to 1867), bento culture spread and became more refined.” Wikipedia Bento
Rainer needs to pay better attention to his lunch and snacks at work. He exercises a lot and hasn’t found the right balance of food and timing. He also hasn’t found the right way to get himself paying attention to food before a last-minute dash out the door. Similarly, the kids’ lunches could use a little attention. I make mine super-healthy and filling, but since I’ve usually just popped off the treadmill, I’m not always creative and lower my standards a bit for the kids’ lunches.
Want to follow me down the rabbit hole? Here are some wonderful links to get you interested:
Step One: Get Inspired
Here’s a YouTube video that will knock your socks off with cuteness. While a lot of time and effort goes into making bentos that are works of art and insanely cute, that’s not how we’re going to go about it. Perhaps the occasional foray just to try it out, but not often. Totoro is a favourite here, and there are enough Totoro bentos to give me plenty of ideas.
French Bento: decorated and pleasing to the eye, the food is very French, opening up the possibilities for the sorts of food that pack together well. Tarts and quiche and ragout, oh my!
A tutorial on how to make a sheep rice ball, that your sheep may frolic and gambol on fields of green with other farm creatures.
Step Two: Do Some Realistic Research
Just Bento: this extremely thorough site is the one that has completely swallowed me. Health-conscious, non-cutesey, extremely practical. Recipes with time-lines and calorie counts, a commitment to 20 minutes or less of prep time, and articles. If you can’t find me, odds are I’m at this website digging through the mound of inspiration.
A few favourites from the site:
- Tamagoyaki: easy layered egg rolls. We tried this the other day. That slightly sweet egg taste you always get at sushi restaurants.
- Potato Salad and Curry Bento
- Choosing the right bento box
- Bento calorie control tips
Two bento systems we’re considering for Rainer down the road: Mr Bento and Happy Tiffin. These are stack-able, very portable, and look like they’d handle a soup meal, a salad meal, or leftovers, as well as snacks.
Step Three: Plan
Along with some silicon muffin liners to hold food (see here or here), we’ve bought a few glass containers – there being no source for bentos locally or online in Canada that we can see. If we turn out to be non-bento-ers, the containers can just hold leftovers.
Now, using Just Bento’s Weekly Planner, we need to brainstorm foods that we think will pack well and meet our standards for nutrition, taste, and speed. For the kids and I, packing won’t need to be precise, but a tightly-packed bento seems to be the key for keeping foods attractive and separate. Some of the foods that we’ve thought of: quesadillas, pitas and hummus, curry and rice, chef salad, boiled eggs, barley salad, chili…
We hope to get the kids involved in this, although not all 4 of us every day. I’m not planning on making these for us at home every day of the week, but maybe for the three school-days on which I run right before lunch.
Overwhelmed? Try Muffin Tin Monday, an at-home version of the lunch fun.