Meal Packaging: Bento

22 Nov

Culinary art in a lunchbox – that’s how one site describes bento, the Japanese tradition of packed, mobile meals. Whole sites are devoted to this tradition and the web abounds in obento. Lets start with some kawaii (cute) bento.

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As you can imagine, a lot of that goes to school in packed lunches. There are all manner of helpful accessories such as cutters, picks, cups, separating sheets and things you haven’t dreamed of. Indeed, there’s even an app to help you find bento recipes. Moreover, there are loads of how-tos such as at this flickr site.

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But the bento tradition is not just for children’s meals, it’s also the term for packed lunches at work, such as in the scene below, …

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… or really at any time. And it goes back a long way. Take the Shokado Bento: a square – often lacquered – box separated into four (or more) compartments. Apparently this dates back to the early 17th century, says Fukui Craft.

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You can make bento yourself at home, and, if you’re ambitious you can enter the International Bento Contest (see the 2013 winners here). Or you can buy it at many stores and even from vending machines. The future may even hold a computer filling bento boxes, as at the International Robot Exhibition 2013 in Tokyo here.

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Travelling? There’s a special name for railway bentos: Ekiben (from ‘eki’ = train + ‘ben’ short for bento). The following pic is the display poster of ekibens on offer at the Tokyo’s Ekiben Matsuri (train bento festival store).

IMG_4976_kleinTo me the lacquered lunch box versions are particularly beautiful. There’s a huge variety for sale out there, with one, two or more tiers, square, oblong, round or flower-shaped, traditional, modern or cute, with or without carrying bags, bands, handles and chopstick holders. Take a squizz at casabento, for example.
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One Response to “Meal Packaging: Bento”

  1. Truida Prekel November 23, 2013 at 22:18 #

    Thanks, Carola, for fun and interesting ideas your share from all over! Love the Bento creativity!

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