July 05, 2014

The First Bento

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? I mean, my first post on this blog was about soap. Ya-ha. Soap. I am really that sad!

And so my bento journey has to start somewhere. I mean, it probably started a while ago when I was looking for veggie lunchbox ideas on the Internet, or over the last year when I paged through lunchbox pages on Pinterest because I was having lunch box withdrawal syndrome. Yeah, I know- you thought I couldn't get any sadder than the soap post. Well, I hate to disappoint!

I'm trying to start work on the Look Wider programme, which is part of the Senior Section of Girlguiding UK. Which should really be easier to explain. The Look Wider programme is split into 8 Octants such as Creativity, Fit for Life and Community Action. Each Octant is split into 3 phases. The idea is that it challenges you to try new things and develop a whole range of useful skills.

For the second phase of the Creativity Octant I've decided that I'm going to concentrate on creating bento Boxes for my lunch. Why? Yeah, I don't know either. Well, I do kind of. I really, really like looking at other peoples bento boxes, so why not make my own? Plus, it solves the problem of the aforementioned lunch box withdrawal syndrome. It's fun, and I have to make a lunch box anyway, so why not make it count? Because I'm doing this for Phase 2, I have to spend roughly 20 hours making bento. Yeah, I know. Thatta a lot of bento.

Is it a challenge for me? Well, if I had half a cheese sandwich, a handful of grapes, a few almonds and emptied out a pre-cut apple bag EVERY DAY for however long it took for that to become 20 hours worth, then probably not. Well, definitely not. But if I take the time to do it properly - well then, yeah, it's gonna be a challenge. Because;

1. TIME Yeah, this ones a biggie. Some things a la bento take the same amount of time to do as it would to do the non bento equivalent, for example, it possibly takes as long to cut a sandwich with a cutter as it does to use a knife, but other things, like making apples into bunnies, takes longer. Right now, I kinda have a lot of time on my hands, but when I go back to college, it will be a different kettle of fish entirely. I will be busy. And I will be tired. I may not/probably won't want to take the time to make a bento every night. Why spend time and energy when I could just throw a packet of breakfast biscuits in my bag and call it lunch? (Yes, I have done that in the past. A balanced diet I know). I foresee that it will be challenging to spend the required amount of time making my bento boxes.

2. LEFTOVERS One of the most simple ways to increase the 'cuteness' factor of a bento box is to cut out shapes out of the foods your serving. (Like the cheese clovers below). However, your unlikely to see the pieces that the shapes were cut out of. These are the leftovers of 'scraps'. These can't be sent to the landfill- we're trying to be 'green' over here people! And there is no point buying food if your just going to waste it, and so these leftovers must be used!!! So I'll have to be clever and think about creative ways to use leftovers.

3. RECORDING As part of the challenge, I am going to record every bento box that I make on this blog. Yeah, get ready for a lot of bentos people. Apart from everything else, it will probably be more of a challenge just REMEMBERING to take a photo of my bentos. For example, it was only when I started writing this post that I realised, it may be a good idea in future to take a picture of my ingredients and equipment before I start, and include that in my posts. Also, just because I have the pictures doesn't automatically make them appear on my blog. Sometimes it takes a while. For example, I actually made this bento over a week ago.

4. BALANCE We all know how important a healthy balanced diet is, and this applies to bentos too! I'm not sure if it's easier or harder to have a balanced diet in a bento box, but I'm sure I'll find out. There are arguments for both sides. Each box must contain a COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATE for slow release energy and a 'fullness' factor, two portions of FRUITS and/or VEGETABLES because they are full of good for you stuff, and because there my favourite bit, a high(ish) PROTEIN source, because otherwise people get annoyed at you (yes, I do know why its important. I'm just tired of the lectures) and a decent source of CALCIUM which is probably the most challenging bit for me. That and the protein.

5. BOXABILITY Is a challenge. Like, really a challenge. You need to have a box big enough so that it fits your lunch in, but it can't be too big, or else your food will move about and you will end up with a mess come lunchtime. Also, preferably, it needs to be one box, although you can use mini boxes/mini bottles, silicone/paper cups and separates within that box, as well as using tiered boxes. Although, we will draw the line at drinks. If I include milk, a smoothie etc, then that goes in a separate container. I am not having my sandwiches floating in liquid. Unless that's an Oreo sandwich in milk.

6. PACKAGING Or more importantly, the lack of packaging. We should be trying to go waste free in these bentos. No little packaged things. However, some things, like hummus and cheese, I normally get in single/duo serving containers because I'm the only one who eats them, and so it would be a waste otherwise. Also, if I put a yogurt tube in my box, well, that will be in a tube, obviously. However, the challenge will be to use the least amount possible.

7. CUTENESS My bento needs to look appealing- the whole point is to make children (who are younger than me) eat up all there lunch. However, who doesn't want to eat cute food? I mean, that question doesn't even need asking. So I can't just chuck any old thing in a box, I have to make it look nice.

8. PLANNING This is another of those 'lets be green'. I need to plan what I'm going to have. And not just 5 minutes before I start making my lunch, I need to plan a few days to a week in advance. Yeah, its a faff, but its important. If I need carrots, for example, I need to put them on the shopping list before my parents go shopping at the weekend. Also, I need to make sure that I use everything up before the best before date. So if I want to use Quorn pepperoni one day, I need to use it the next day to. So I need to make sure that I do the challenging thing of planning. And actually sticking to this plan where ever possible.

9. EATING There is no point making a lovely looking lunch if I don't eat it all. If I'm not eating it all, I'm making too much. However, to incorporate all the components of a balanced bento, sometimes it makes a lot. So I need to work on the balance.

The bento boxes will start slow, as I'm not at college at the moment. Although college broke up yesterday anyway. Your just going to get my once weekly packed lunches from when I go for treatment.

And so here it is, the first bento:

A hummus and spinach (and carrot to add color) wrap, rolled up and cut into roughly 1" pieces. Carrot sticks and a cut up tomato to make up the rest of the two points, and topped off with clover shapes cut out of a Tofutti cheddar slice.

The colours are vastly muted. For example, the cheddar slices are actually orange.

So, how did I do?

2. LEFTOVERS The rest of the cheese slice I cut out I used in my dinner that night to top my rice. So a gold star for me.

3. RECORDING Well, this is a week late, so maybe loose that gold star.

4. BALANCE The cheese slice doesn't contain any calcium. When I made this lunch, I thought that it did. So we will stay neutral on the gold star point.

6. PACKAGING The hummus I get in duo serving containers, because it means that less gets wasted. Which is a plus. The Tofutti slices only come in individually wrapped slices. One, I'd let go, but two? That will have to be a minus star.

7.  CUTENESS Well, the student nurse said it was cure. Back to neutral

9. EATING I ate almost all of it. My Dad was worried there wouldn't be enough, but there was a lot packed in there. So I will regain that gold star.

So, after all that, I finish with one gold star. Not bad for a first attempt. What do you think?

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