Bento is a Japanese-style home-packed meal. It is available throughout Japan. It consists of bite-sized rice, fish, and vegetables which are carefully prepared in a box-shaped container. Chopsticks are commonly used for this.
The word “bento” originated from the Song Dynasty in China, meaning “convenience” or “convenient.” The earliest bento was made during the Kamakura period. During that time, rice balls were cooked and stored in small bags and carried by people whenever they travel. Above, is a picture of a bento stored in a lacquerware during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Nowadays, homemakers are very particular in making bentos for their family. It is not only food but an art for them. This is a skill which every homemaker should practice.
One popular type of bento is the “kyaraben” or the character bento. The food is inspired from the popular Japanese animations. You can actually make any character you like. This bento is intended for children so as to increase their interest and appetite in eating the food.
Another form is the “oekakiben” or the picture bento. As you can see above, it looks like a picture. You can actually make any images from plants, animals, scenery and the like.
Lastly, is the “shikaeshi” bento. This is what you call as the Japanese wives’ revenge. It doesn’t look yummy, does it? Japanese women are by nature, kind and obedient. They make bentos everyday for their children and husband. There comes a time when husbands and wives fight. Ailing from stress, the wife will usually express her anger and emotion by making her husband such kind of bento. Other women, wouldn’t make any. Some would even alter the taste of the bento as a way of avenging her hurt feelings.
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