Bento Boxes


Wall-E bento. Image from here

One of my favorite classes in college was called “Feast or Famine: The Ecology and Politics of Food”. Any class that looked at food from an anthropological perspective= totally up my alley. We covered all sorts of ground during the semester– from working at the local food bank, examining the evolution of sugar as a commodity, to putting on a large Indian-style dinner in honor of Gandhi’s birthday.

I loved learning more about the history of Japanese bento boxes. We only scratched the surface, but the sub culture of parents in Japan who spend so much time transforming their child’s lunch into a beautiful and often anthropomorphized creation was fascinating and definitely put my PB & J sandwiches to shame. Making the food visually appealing defines these unique lunches whose typical components include rice, meat or fish, and some kind of veggie (usually pickled or cooked). They are each compartmentalized in the bento box and meant to serve as vehicles for easily portable meals.

Cow themed

Cow themed. Image from here

Image from

Image from here

I think especially when it comes to food, our eyes and stomach are definitely in some kind of communication. Even though I’m technically not a kid anymore, I still like arranging (playing) with food. The bento box is distinctly Japanese, but certainly falls somewhere on a universal spectrum connecting food and art.

My amateur version of a bento bowl

My amateur version of a bento bowl

Bentos boxes are easy and nutritious ways to combine simple ingredients and make lunch more fun. I tried creating my own version by putting smoked salmon, dried seaweed, asparagus, homemade pickled onions, and rice together in a bowl.  I also added some hot sauce and rice seasoning.


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