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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bento, a new fad ?

Who would have thought that Bento would be such a fad?

I read that even American kids are starting to bring bento boxes with well proportioned balance meals (one part protein, 2 part fruit/vege and 3 part carbo) to school instead of their regular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Dont know how much of this is true though, cos most of us do not bother to check whether contents of most articles we read are substantiated or not unless it is a matter of importance to us.

A bento is essentially home packed food, preferably home cooked. Some articles says that a bento should be 4 part carbo, 3 part fruit/vege, 2 part protein (chicken/fish) and one part calcium/snacks. But some says its 3-2-1 proportion.

I have seen many elaborated arranged bento meals at some Japanese food blogger's site, and I have often wondered where they find the time to do that. It took me all I can to just cut them with cookie cutter.

Although I see a trend in bento blogging and bento awareness, I rather think that bento is an evolution from home packed lunchboxes. I also think that bento meals is also the evolution of us going enviromental friendly and going green, (you know, cloth diapering instead of disposables, reusable bags instead of plastic)
and i think for non lunch box packers, it definitely is a fad, but I would love to know what others think.

After all, ever since time immemorable, Asian schoolkids in Malaysia (by that, I mean, the small minority of lunch packers, not those who buy food at the school canteen) has been known to pack rice,meat and vege to school except that most of our then lunchboxes wasn't compartmentalised like today's bento boxes. Nor was it cutely decorated with ornaments like foodpicks, foodcups, soy sauce containers, baran dividers. Nor were our rice moulded in cute Hello Kitty shapes or sprinkled with furikake on Pooh Bear stencils.

Perhaps a percentage of non-lunch packer may be tempted into preparing bento meals for their kids with the aid of those cool accessories, but steadfast non lunch packer would still have their own reasons for not packing food from home.

In the course of bento packing, I had learn some tips to building up a food stash for quick bento packing, some ideas for toddlers bento, or how to go about cooking certain Japanese bento food.

I note that most bento meals for kids are mostly finger food or food easy to eat, ie with just a foodpick. If its rice, its usually moulded into bite size or finger food pieces. Also, the prepared meals are usually pleasing to the eye, which is really important for a picky toddler like mine. Besides that, the traditional bento meals relates more to Chinese food, which I thought is nearer to our culture in term of familiarity than the western lunchbox.

I figure that if the kid must eat, then better eat Asian food and start them young. My Kimberly grew up on western food and would have nothing but pizza, spaghetti, pot roast, casseroles etc. She wont eat rice and Asian dishes till a very much later age about 6. The only Asian dish she like are soy braised chicken and fritters. So that's all my MIL fed her in her growing years till she came back to stay with me. Incidentally, I brought Kimberly back when she was 6 years old and quit my job to practice on my own so that I could have time with my kids.

Anyhow, I used to have a hard time preparing food for her. She doesnt usually eat what me and DH eats and I usually end up cooking small portion of stuff like salmon pasta or poached cod fish with garlic bread for her and freezing individual portions of pizza and meatloafs for her meals.

Now with bento, she is eating rice (moulded in shapes of car, bear etc) without prompting, and she is eating most of what I have prepared for her, kudos to those useful bento tools that makes it possible for Hello Kitty shaped carrots and potatoes, musical notes toothpicks that hold tuna sandwiches together, and so on. She is even asking to bring bento to school for breaktime.

New trend or not, fad or not, bento did get my kid bringing food to school, and it did get both kids to eat during the hours when i am not around to monitor them. And I am definitely not complaining !


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  • In my case, its 2 part fruit/vege, 1 part protein, i part calcium and 1 part carbo.

    daddy says too much carbo not good...

    By Blogger Rachel, At 11:01 AM  

  • you are so right about bento catching on.. i must be the latest convert.. thanks to bento bloggers like you who have truly inspired me and also convinced me that packed lunches are healthier and could be even more yummy than you average hawker food fare. thank you allthingspurple and have a wonderful week :D

    By Blogger YozoraNiteSky, At 11:26 AM  

  • This is such a lovely bento post to read. I think I must get my butt up to start packing bentos for the kids and guess what, I did my storeroom cleaning last week and gosh! 1 whole big box of bento accessories still unopened.

    By Anonymous suesue, At 12:52 PM  

  • Aiya... I must wait at least 1 year more to join bento frenzies. At that time, I think all of you will on something else, and I'll be left alone ... aiya.. hehhe

    By Blogger LW, At 5:13 PM  

  • congrats for doing such a great job as a mummy who can cooks so well and hv the time to prepare such hearty meals for your adorable daughters!

    By Blogger andrewjune, At 10:13 AM  

  • hey, that's a very good thought u have put up on 'bento'...which i absolutely agree!
    my boys looked certainly pleasing & HAPPY with my bento so far... hopefull my bento journey can go far !!
    u r so 'wai tai' quiting yr job for d kids while mastering yr bento preparation skills! kambate & kudos to u..

    By Anonymous jacss, At 1:49 PM  

  • I stillhave so much to learn on bento-ing. I only found out wat furikake is moments ago after googling it up when i read it in your posts.

    I would love to learn more ideas and tips from you. "Chia you" bentoing!

    By Anonymous shooi, At 9:26 AM  

  • love this post! fashion or not fad or nor like you said, I think this is a positive sign in parenting as well.
    I am not a 100% bento-er yet. I do pack breakfast for my girls, if I have time I make it pretty if I don't have much time, then I still pack their food in cute boxes , decorate it a bit. Well , this is just optional.
    So what I am going to say is that bento mean lunch box or bring our lunch box to school or work. It doesn't have to be cute .
    The positive side is that we know what will our children eat, how much they eat, and I think it is great!
    I am looking forward to pack for my girl next year when she will be in primary.

    By Blogger Sandra@miabambina, At 2:18 PM  

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