Hello Fenrir here–and in a big and unexpected plot twist, we’re going to have a quick bite of a fantastic feast in miniature today and a Food for Thought tomorrow! Wow, what a surprise, didn’t see that one coming–just like the Spanish inquisition.
Anyroad, today we’ll be taking a look at the humble bento box and how it can pretty much be your new best friend when it comes to preparing food for the road.
Bento is a single-portion take-out or home-packed Japanese meal, that typically consists of a carb (rice), followed by protein, vegetables, and fruit. You can think of a bento in terms of a ratio, something like 4: 2: 1: 1 is pretty common (4 parts carb: 2 parts protein: 1 part vegetable: 1 part fruit/extraneous matter). So it is a pretty hefty meal that covers the basic food groups, all wrapped up nicely in a pretty convenient package.
Whether they’re mere plastic containers, to even lacquered box sets, or the cloth-wrapped two-tier set typical of most anime, the bento comes in all shapes and sizes, and all ranges of foodstuffs to deliver a pretty powerful punch of much-needed food for energy. While Japanese food can be the norm, you can pretty much pack anything that’s not too liquidy into a bento box: throw in some pasta, for instance, or have a salad fill up your lower compartment. And you can go pretty simple–like Mei’s classic bento featured in My Neighbor Totoro–or pretty eccentric with a charaben, a bento lunch that is pretty much designed to look like a character.
I mean, it can get pretty cray, and wickedly artistic when it comes to molding grain into Pokeballs. (Of course, I do wonder if people actually eat these? They’re just too pretty, why ruin it?)
Also did I mention that most bento boxes are convenient? Their compact size is off-set by the fact that you can easily portion how much you eat at one sitting, too, and if you follow that 4: 2: 1: 1 ratio you’re pretty golden for having a well-balanced meal.
And I suppose I could wax poetic about the bento as it appears in Japanese media, its implications as a sign of wealth and status, or as some sort of wifely rite of passage to prepare a proper bento… And I suppose we could talk about the ways they can look really gorgeous, and how watching people on screen eat them can suddenly get the tumbly all rumbly, but well, we’re running kind of short on time and I need to catch a bus to NYC.
Did I mention that they’re convenient? That’s why I’ve elected to pack a bento–and one for Starshine–for our NYCC excursion in an attempt to create a healthy-ish meal and off-set the cost of heading to a convention. No over-priced french fries and onion rings for us to munch on all day, we’ve got a bento here.
For reference, and for some pretty amazing food-blogging and pictures, I also recommend for all you bento-curious to check out these three blogs: Just Bento, Just One Cookbook, and Cooking Cute, which has inspired many of my own bento-making excursions. These sites are basically my holy trinity for bento resources, with plenty of tips, tricks, recipes, cute food pictures, and sales/give-aways of bento items. Definitely worth a look, with many detailed and illustrated examples of making the perfect bento;Just Bento in particular has options for gluten-free and vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, definitely a plus!
I personally was able to keep a steady supply of bento boxes throughout my highschool years, if only for the satisfying feeling of having a cute, planned out lunch instead of PB&J.
So save time, save (some) money, and be proud of making a pretty cool looking lunch–that’s the beauty of bento making!
Now for today’s bento… Well, I think we can be a bit casual about explaining what’s going on here; like I mentioned above, there’s that 4: 2: 1: 1 golden ratio, which I played around a bit with these two boxes:
- Six quiches of varying flavors: Cheese, Spinach, and Mushroom — they make a pretty color combo, although Starshine lacks the mushrooms because those are not her friends (Arguably our carb component, sort of satisfies vegetables)
- Four dumplings: Two each of pork and cabbage and chicken dumplings; these were some pretty nifty microwaveable kinds, so yes, I did microwave them to save some time and as much as I love them pan-fried, didnt’ want the extra oil (Arguably our protein component, also sort of satisfies vegetables)
- Celery! Because why not, it’s leafy, it’s green, it’s crunchy
- Three slices each of mangled apples–I mean apple bunnies
- Two cheese sticks each, to compliment the apples, although I think I’ll just hand mine off to Starshine because I like cheese well enough but I might not be in the mood for it…
And that’s it!
Yes, it’s really pretty simple, the quiches are a nice elaborate touch, I suppose, and well, I tried with the apple bunnies. I tried. But overall, it’s a pretty hefty bento that is chock full of finger foods that won’t make too much of a mess and that can be nibbled on at our leisure when we find quiet time in between rushing to panels and waiting in line.
Or well, at least that’s my hope for these little boxes… to tide Starshine and I over so that we don’t feel the temptation of 7 dollar fries, ugh.
:’D Annnd, that’s all there is to this tiny Fantastic Feast — tune in tomorrow for a special Food for Thought that’s also conveniently Comic Con themed!