Wow what a journey I’ve been on this week. Quirk Books sent me ‘Yum Yum Bento Box, Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches’ to review and it is has taught me so much. I’m thinking about food and food presentation in a totally different light.
Now let me explain… A Bento Box is a Japanese lunchbox, presented in such a way that it becomes more than a packed lunch but a thing of beauty and interest. It is the current craze in Japan for Mothers to produce these boxed lunches and the ideas for them are endless. This book gives over 100 ideas to get you started on making your own Bento Box and believe it or not these are so inspiring that my mind has been in a whirl thinking of all the possibilities.
Nevertheless, I have to be truthful, when I read the brief for this book, I was interested but skeptical. I thought that Mums in the ‘real world’ wouldn’t have time to produce a Bento Box, but when the book came and I actually gave it a try I changed my mind. I realised rather than a Bento Box taking a lot more time it is about a different mindset. You can still put in the usual suspects, sandwiches, a yogurt, some fruit or a pasta salad, but you just need to think about the presentation. Cut the your sandwiches with a interesting cookie cutter and you have animal shaped sandwiches, slice and arrange your fruit in a fan and it just looks better.
The principles of the Bento Box go further than just presentation, they make you consider portion control too. The Bento Box works on the concept of 4 parts vegetable, 3 parts meat/protein, 2 parts grain and 1 part fruit, dessert or condiment. Having the 4, 3, 2, 1 principle to work from focuses you on what you’re actually eating for lunch, and I say YOU, because Bento Boxes can be for adults as well as children. Using this principle it is easy to recognise when you are eating too many carbs and not enough vegetables, or too much protein and not enough fruit. The Bento Box really does get you thinking, and on so many different levels.
I’m so pleased I got to read this book. I’m going to work on it, maybe not everyday but now and again, and the ideas can expand to how you present your everyday food, making your plate look prettier, especially for a birthday or dinner party. You can see my first attempts in my photographs.
In my first attempt my son and I baked some olive and cheese scones, cutting them into shapes and packing them alongside fruit, vegetables and cheese. I thought using shaped scones would give the Bento Box an English twist and show how you really can do anything you like with your box. In my second attempt I wanted to demonstrate that you can turn your usual lunchbox into a Bento Box without any fuss, so here I made a shaped sandwich, popped in some sausages left over from dinner, added fruit, carrots and a yogurt; a standard lunch box just with a bit of a makeover! The cupcake cases I used in the boxes are suggested in the book, they are used to divide food groups and are an attractive addition to the box.
Well, now you know all about Bento Boxes, but really I’ve only skimmed the surface of this topic and I could go on and on and on. Even if for nothing else this book is worth buying for the pictures, the beautifully designed boxes with cute, gorgeous and clever uses of food is totally absorbing – not only could this be your new recipe book but your new coffee table book too. I like and I know you will too!
If you want to find out more about Bento Boxes try visiting these websites:
Yumyumbento.com; aibento.net; cuteobento.com.