in the interest of lunch
October 6, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’ve been a dedicated lunch-packer since my early days of middle school prepubescence: carefully and dutifully arranging peanut-butter and crackers into tupperware containers, nestling ziploc bags of carrots and apple slices around the occasional coveted-by-all Capri-Sun… Essentially, honing such skills of meticulous organization and precision that, sadly, have only ever manifested themselves when it comes to my methodical and ordered meal-planning and grocery shopping.
So what does this have to do with studying Japanese, you ask? Well, it has everything to do with studying Japanese and realizing that my previously-unappreciated and esoteric lunch-packing skills are the necessary prerequisites for the art of making Japanese-style BENTO LUNCHBOXES!!!
While taking an intensive Japanese course over the summer, I wanted a method of lunch-packing that was simultaneously portable, easy-to-make, healthy, and, most importantly, utterly adorable. And lo and behold: bento lunch boxes to the rescue with their assemblage of super cute rice balls, cut-out fruits, colorful containers, and foods with faces!
So every morning before class, I cooked up some rice, boiled a vegetable or two, and daintily minced slices of pineapple, strawberries, watermelon, or banana to add color and sweetness to my salty-and-starch base. I felt so happy to be learning a language while also engaging with a cultural tradition that reaches as far back as the 16th century to the roots of lunch-on-the-go with Japanese travelers and sightseers. Nowadays, you can buy a Bento lunch in any convenience store, a train station, or even in a department store. But everyone knows Mom’s cooking is the best–and true to that sentiment, a typical Japanese housewife spends a considerable amount of time every morning and evening preparing bento boxes for her husband and children!
For the average college student, though, it definitely makes for a unique lunch experience, and helps conserve time, food, and energy by making them ahead of time in a reusable container. Not to mention the health benefits of eating smaller portion sizes and, if made in true bento-fashion, eating foods in five different colors!
Try it yourself!
1. Find a small, sealed, plastic container such as a snap-top ziploc or gladware container
2. Divid your Bento into three parts carbohydrate, such as rice, pasta, or bread, one part protein, like meat, egg, tofu, or beans, and two parts fruits and vegetables.
3. You can prepare everything in the morning and pack the Bento as you go–it doesn’t need to be refrigerated or re-heated, just eat within 4-5 hours of packing and enjoy!
Be creative, have fun, and remember: eating cute food is good for you :)