Friday, July 15, 2011


Okay, so this isn't exactly part of the cookbook, but I want to share. I've been smitten with bento boxes. A bento box is the traditional way to take food along with you in Japan. There are now people all over the world who avidly pack bento box lunches for family members, and post photos online of the results.

Frankly, I thought it was silly when I first heard about the trend, and saw pictures of fussily-arranged food. But then I started assembling my toddler's dinners into faces in order to entice him to try new foods. The decorative dinners were both easy to assemble, and successful in their stealthy mission of food diversity for the picky kidlet. It's a short step from there to putting the food in a box, and suddenly I had visions of picnics.

And school lunches! We're still a couple of years away from that, but already my mind has been going back to my high school days when I began to realize that every lunch from home was packed in multiple plastic bags shoved into a paper bag, along with a juice box or can, and all of it going to the landfill, day after day after day. And the alternative was a greasy, over-processed school lunch served on styrofoam and paper trays and milk in a carton, again, all heading to a landfill.

My children will not be a conduit through which our resources become trash! They will go to school with some sort of reusable container. And, unless school lunches get the overhaul they sorely need, I'm guessing their friends will look on with envy.

Anyway, here is the box, closed up, with a soda can for reference. It holds just enough to fill me about 80% full when I'm starved, which makes it a great method of portion control. (I'm still trying to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and I have a bad tendency to over-eat.) And when I'm not starving, I find myself hard pressed to eat everything I pack into it. You can squeeze a ton of food into one of these things.

The boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Gabe's looks like a panda. Mine also came from Amazon. Chris will be getting a sexy black box fresh from Japan. I got him one of the largest boxes I could find. If it's too big, he'll be eating extra salad. You can never have too much salad.

But back to cookbook stuff! What is in the box? The top layer is salad - just some plain greens and a few slivers of purple cabbage, grabbed from the leftover batch of prewashed salad. There will be a section in the cookbook on salad greens. With that are some pea pods from the garden, and a splash of salad dressing. The dressing wasn't actually home-made, but the book has a recipe for a similar dressing.

On the bottom is some leftover cooked grain - millet - and some cheese. The cookbook will include a general recipe for cooking whole grains. Next to that is some leftover chicken. The chicken started off this week by being baked - the recipe for which is in the book. Then, after a few days of eating off of it, I tossed some into a pan with taco seasoning - the recipe for which is also in the book - and onions and water, and this became the basis for a dinner of fajitas - yet another recipe which will be in the book.

I was in a hurry when I threw this box together. It took five minutes. And that included washing the box.

You may have noticed the little food flowers there in the box. . . I couldn't help it! I bought little cookie-cutters to make fun shapes out of cheese and veggies. So frivolous! And yet. . . it adds so much enjoyment to eating the food. You appreciate the food so much more when each bite is not as anonymous as the next. I bet that's one more reason why the Japanese are so slender.

I won't suggest to anyone who is on food stamps that they waste their money on miniature cookie cutters. That is exactly the sort of detail that makes professional foodies appear to be out-of-touch. Yet here I sit, looking forward to decorating tomorow's lunch box. . .


  1. I wish I was less lazy in the mornings, these are awesome! My new office building has a real fridge in it, so I can bring lunch for more than one day! The problem is that I will never get up earlier than I already do to make lunch. Do you think that making one of these the night before is feasible? Or will it turn into soggy mush by lunch time the next day. Right now, I eat nuked leftovers or *barf* TV dinners.

  2. Hi Dori! Sure, you could totally get a bento ready the night before. I imagine you'll want to keep your foods a little more separated, so that you don't end up with soggy rice. Get a rectangular box and some of these: