July 06, 2014

The One With The New York Bento

Can you tell I've been watching Friends recently?

Okay, so the last bento post I talked about what my aims were with this bento making thing. So this time I better talk about what a bento actually is. Thinking about it, I should have probably done it the other way round, but no ones perfect, right?

The bento started in the Edo Period (1603-1867) (according to Wikipedia) as a travellers meal. In the Meiji Period (1868-1912) train stations started to sell bentos, and children took them to school as a school meal was not provided. After World War II, the use of bentos declined as a bento was one way of highlighting the gap in social status (a bit like why we wear school uniform), however, they gained popularity again in the 80's. This is when the plastic bento box came into play, and bentos are now a common sight in Japanese schools. 

A bento is defined as a single portion meal (traditionally consisting of rice and side dishes) served cold, either homemade or takeout, served in a box. Makers of bento put a lot of thought, energy and time into their bentos for their children or spouse (or themselves). 

Bentos are a growing trend in America, where different types of food are compartmentalised, and the main goal is often to make the food look as appetising as possible. The traditional Japanese ideas behind bentos have been adapted to suit the western diet in these 'American bentos', while still being appealing to look at and containing a wide variety of foods. 

I have chosen to follow the 'American' style of bento mostly because I have always been taught that you can't have rice in your lunchbox. Its a health and safety nightmare. Its a bacterias favourite place to thrive. Its just a no no. If your not going to have rice fresh, it should be stone cold from the fridge, or used in a fried rice dish. Or in a pudding. But rice in a lunchbox? We just don't go there. Also, due to it just being me, I can't keep a range of okazu (side dishes) in the fridge to include in my bento. They would go off before I finished them. 

I can however, make my lunch look pretty. 

Okay, this one wasn't so pretty. We may say it was cute, but not quite pretty. I wasn't feeling well. Give me a break, please? 

I know what you're thinking, whats it got to do with New York. Now, are you sitting comfortably?

  • A mini bagel with pepperoni and (vegan) cream cheese. Kind of what I imagine that you can get in a New York deli. 
  • Olives (pimento stuffed- its what we had in the cupboard), the perfect accompaniment to a sophisticated martini. 
  • Chopped up apple - well, New York is the Big Apple after all. 
Now do you get the (admittedly strained) connections? Yeah, just use you're imagination. 

So, how did I do. I'm going for blue stars today. 

3. RECORDING Well, if it wasn't for me being so late posting last weeks bento, I would have recorded this bento yesterday, just one day after it was made. So, one blue star. 

4. BALANCE Okay, no calcium source, HOWEVER, the (real) cream cheese I was planning to use had been used by someone else (although I did pay for it) and so I couldn't. That wasn't my fault, and so I'm not going to let it affect my stars. 

6. PACKAGING This is where I loose a star. I used the olives from a 'snack pack' because the ones in the jar looked a bit unappetizing, so I decided I'll save those for cooking with. The apples came ready cut in a bag, because Dad had bought some and they were in the fridge. 

8. PLANNING I have had this one planned for about a month now, so, gimmie a star. 

Well, that leaves me with one blue star, how long do we reckon before I get more than one? 

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