A few weeks ago I was blog hopping and ended up on a blog that had a positive review of an Americanized verson of the Japanese Bento box. It is called a Laptop lunch box. http://www.laptoplunches.com/ This is a very cool site with nutrition information and expensive but very cool lunchboxes. The company was started by a few mom's who found that the average school age child throws away over 50 pounds of paper and plastic and left over food every year. The boxes and containers are lead free.
I then googled "Japanese lunchbox", "Bento", and "Obento" I've been sifting through the sites. I am finding it highly entertaining. Perhaps I am easily entertained. There is a whole culture of Bento and it isn't just in Japan. The cartoons we import from Japan have brought bento to the world.
It is said that when your family member opens their bento/lunchbox they will feel the love from the mother who packed/made the food. So mothers try very hard to make the food look and taste wonderful. (is it just me or do we think this way about the stuff we knit for our family too?) Sometimes they seem to compete. It is a status thing for their kids.
On Ebay you can find cute Bento boxes, little bottles for condiments and little molds for rice. In Japan there are monthly magazines devoted to making Bento for your kids, calendars with pictures of bento boxes packed with tasty food.
There are blogs devoted to fans of Bento. One Japanese American mom takes a picture of her kids boxes after she cooks and fills them every morning. How do you use your camera phone?
Here are some of my favorite sites to check out.
Learn about the culture and pack a virtual box at:
This girl has explained things really well, has great links and
pictures of her bento box collection. Please check out her links.
I am now trying to get DD2, who is still in school, to get interested in Bento. Why? Because it seems healthier than most american options for a boxed lunch. I have always utilized leftovers for DH and I, but the kids never seemed to want to deal with leftovers. Leftovers aren't cool.
I think we can do better than a PB&J sandwich, bag of chips, and fruit rollup. Not that my kids ever took that combination to school. (preschool/MDO started yesterday and lots of my 3 yr olds had just that lunch in their lunchbox.) Sometimes DD2 will go years with the same lunch, day after day after day. She is toying with the idea of being a vegitarian though and perhaps this bento idea will get her to eat a varity of healthy foods.
Also, we run around so much with Ballet 5 days a week it seems impossible to feed her right sometimes. A lunchbox full of interesting food to eat on the way home from ballet might be just the ticket. I wonder how she'd feel about chopsticks?
If I were homeschooling I'd probably do a whole exploration of bento as a cultural lesson. In fact I might just recommend it to some of my friends who homeschool! They may just be busier than I am.