I’m pretty sure that most of us have experienced packing food for lunch may it be in school, in work, or during a picnic.
In my country (and in most countries, I guess), preparing boxed lunch is quite simple. You prepare the lunch box, put cooked rice in it or some bread, and top it with any dish available. And your boxed lunch is all set.
In Japan, it is not as simple as that. Packing lunch requires creativity. A mother (or whoever prepares boxed lunch) should possess some artistic skills. When Japanese students open their boxed lunch in school, it shows how well their mothers did for them. Bento, as what it is called in Japan, boxed lunch is something that students can be proud of (or the opposite) about their mothers’ skills.
Most of the days, students have lunch provided by school (parents pay for it monthly), but, there are also days that students need to bring their own lunch and this is the time that everybody’s excited about what’s inside their boxed lunch.
Not only in school lunch, but also during the school festival, school excursion and especially flower viewing Japanese make boxed lunch.
Let’s take a look at what’s inside a Japanese bento. Here are some examples.
Rice ball or onigiri is basically not round in shape but is triangular. However, this rice ball can actually be shaped into different forms of animals like cats, dog, koala, panda, even pigs (choices are limitless as long as you can make it). Not only animal design but flowers, too. Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, broccoli together with other leafy vegetables can make a great and colourful bento. Eggs – boiled or scrambled is also common in an bento.
Nicely-made bentos are so pretty that it seems a shame and a great waste to deform and eat it. But, of course, we need to eat to survive. When you have Japanese bento, not only your stomach will get full, but your eyes as well. ‘Eat the art.’