So almost everyone needs a lunch for either school or work, so why not make it fun? That’s pretty much the point of a bento. Bento is Japanese referring to a packed meal. So sure you can just call it lunch, but what is the fun in that 😛
There are actually different types of bentos, which mostly are unknown about unless you either live in Japan or are interested enough to really do your research. Without going into detail on everything, and in turn boring you, there are two styles that are most commonly seen. There is the charaben which is “cute bento”. The elaborate ones that look almost too pretty to eat. Not everyone has the time to make these so there are also just the plain bentos. Nothing is wrong with the plain, its the most common, and also tends to be cute as well. There are simple and quick ways of packing your lunch to still make it look adorable, without having to spend as much time as you would on a charaben. For instance when you can just throw a pile of something in a box, instead stack it neatly. When making sandwiches or even mashed potatoes you can use a cookie cutter to shape them. Really, how elaborate or simple you make your lunch is all up to you.
Typically they are packed as 3 parts carbs, 1 part protein, and 2 parts fruits and veggies. As I said that is typical but there is no law saying you need to fallow that. Same thing goes with sure bento is Japanese, but that does not mean you need to pack Japanese food. Really its no different then what you might already be packing for lunch, with just a little more thought into the presentation.
Some of the perks to it is that if you have a picky eater they might be more tempted to eat their veggies if its something that looks fun. I will admit it, before I started packing bentos I never packed many vegetables in my lunch. To add color and to help fill the box (which is important because if its not filled in tight things will shift) vegetables became a necessity, and I am not one to waste. So it helped me to become more healthy in that aspect. Another perk is if you have fun packing your lunch, your less likely to just pick something up. I repeat have fun with it, but don’t set the bar too high or you will give up on them. I pack some fancy bentos or charaben when I have the time or am really inspired. Otherwise just using colorful food and thinking about your layout can make it cute without having to spend a lot of time on decorating. On that point sure there are lots of accessories and tools that you can use to decorate your lunch, but not everyone has the funds to get them. Don’t let the hold you back! I have been packing bento lunches for over a year now, and I just got my first set of accessories for them. They are nice, and can speed things up, but that does not mean you need them.
The main reason I love bentos is I enjoy making them for Brent. I know that sounds cheesy but I like making things a little extra special for him at times. Making a bento for someone shows that you care for them, and that you want to put that little extra effort in for them. In Japan it is actually becoming a problem in schools because mothers make it into a competition of sorts. The more elaborate and the more time put into the lunches, the more they care for their child. I don’t think how much you love someone should be measured based upon how much you put into their lunch, but it is still a nice way of showing how much they mean to you. Of course I also pack my own, because well their cute and I want one as well.
Over all what is a bento? A bento is nothing more then a packed lunch. I pretty much just look at them as another craft… and you know I need more of that in my life 😛
So if your thinking about trying to make your own, do it! Adding some eyes to your food or some well thought out cut outs really just make your food more fun. And admit it, who doesn’t like to play with their food 😉