Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back To School: Bento Boxes Can Help You Pack Lunch, Then Make Your Lunch Entertaining

This is the season to start packing lunches, either your own or for a kid in your life.

If you're looking for inspiration -- and some practical advantages -- consider bento boxes and the Japanese accessories that go with them.

I wrote about bento boxes two years ago when the Hanoori Home Plaza was new in Catonsville. At the time, I bought a bunch of accessories like tiny sauce bottles and silicon cupcake liners with a plan to make art. But that never happened.

My first argument for bento boxes is that they can be simple and useful. I bought a half-dozen of the same boxes -- a 950 ml box that says "vive" on the bag and "Asvel" on box. Each rectangle has three interior pieces. I fill each section, then cover them with "Press and Seal." Because they're identical, my drawer stays somewhat organized, and there is no problem if a piece of two warps ove time.

I pack leftovers.  The beauty of the bento is that I just fill the containers -- three separate items, the big one with whatever I have most and hand and the smaller two with everything. A full box means a full belly.  Trust me.  I supplement with little containers that I throw together -- cut vegetables, hummus and olives, some slices of cheese and pepperoni. Hanoori sold my boxes for $12. You can find all kinds of versions, and they'll pay for themselves in a week.

The next argument is that bento boxes can be great for kids. At the simple end, Japanese is cool. This is the way manga characters eat lunch between panels of their cartoons. Your kid can control their lunch. But you can go crazy as well. You can make food that looks like characters. You can read blogs like Just Bento, Bento Lunch, or Willow's Bento Box. You can buy all kinds of items at Hanoori like tiny forks, cookie cutters, and dividers.

As a practical matter, I have learned that bento boxes survive in the upper shelf of the dish washer. Some of the interior pieces have twisted slightly over the past two years, but they still work together. 

If you like this bento idea, check out the Lunch in a Box blog.  It hasn't been updated in a year, but this was one of the first blogs that inspired me to buy bento boxes.  She has great inspirational pictures.  Biggie was also one of my first inspirations about how a food blog could be fun and not take itself so seriously.


Anonymous said...

Any idea if they have microwavable bento boxes?

RDAdoc said...

Another cool product I recently bought was lunchskins reusuable cloth pouches that can be used to pack sandwiches and snacks for lunch. I always feel bad using plastic bags so these are a great alternative!!

HowICook said...

I use the 650ml leaflet tight brand by Takeya box. It looks like the green box at the bottom of the large photo. It has 3 removable compartments and a rubber air/water tight silicon seal that's removable for cleaning.

The writing on the back is mostly Japanese but the descriptions on the web describe it as dishwasher & microwave safe. I have machine washed and microwaved it numerous times with no warping or other problems.

MaybeKathy said...

The best thing about the bento boxes at Hanoori is the sayings written on them:
"Insisting that is wins, today I have won the rabbit elder sister." and
"The childhood pleasure ubiquitous looks like present's mine." are two of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

I put most of my wife and son's lunches into bentos. It helps that she is japanese and helped me get started with it in the beginning. If you have a plan of attack its super easy to do. You can get seaweed punches that put smily faces or what not onto it.

Also, if you can find egg molds, they are good at making hard boiled eggs fun.

Re: Microwave we microwave ours with no problems whatsoever.

Amazon has a decent selection of bento stuff as well as could be NSFW).