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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Battle of the Bento Box

While walking my first grade class down to the cafeteria last week, I took the time to see what was being served. Three words for you: is it edible? Seriously, the food looked horrible. All the way back to my classroom, I couldn’t help but wonder if my student's parents knew what their kids are eating. I realize that it’s much more convenient to give your child lunch money, rather than to assemble something yourself. Truth be told, I can barely make my own lunch most days.

Seeing the food in my school's cafeteria got me thinking about my time living in Japan and the amazing lunches the children brought to school each day. I was always, always amazed at my student’s lunches (a.k.a obentos) in Japan. I would often ask, “What time did your Mom get up to make this piece of art? Is that octopus made out of a hot dog? No really, what time did she wake up?”

The funny thing is that the students never thought it was a big deal. They just assumed everyone ate lunches like this:

These are typical photos of lunches made in Japan. (No, I am not joking.) It is assumed that if you’re a Mom, you’ll wake up at 5AM (or earlier) and make your family these oh-so-simple lunches.

Here is a photo of a traditional bento box lunch:


Here are some photos from lazy, slacker Moms:




I have to admit that I did try my hand at making my own obento during my two year stay in Osaka. Sadly, I wasn’t very successful. (Shocking, I know!) For starters, it took me about 2 hours to make my lunch. Second, every time I would bring my lunch to school my co-workers took note and seemed to critique my feeble attempts. I heard a lot of “hmmmmm" and "interesting”, which translates into “you suck” in English.

One of my frivolous New Years resolutions (they’re all frivolous) is to once again try to conquer this cultural art form of food assembly. Luckily, I have another four years to master it before Emi goes to school. Tyler advised me to keep things in perspective, and not to shoot for the moon. “Kacey, you shouldn’t try to be a bento master. Just make it good enough for Emi to be the envy of her classmates without them thinking you're crazy." Always thinking that husband of mine. Until then, I’ve found some websites that offer tips and videos on making the perfect bento box. There are also plenty of stores that sell bento goods. One of the best sites I've found so far is this site. They are a one stop shop for everything bento.

Interestingly, the websites and Flickr pictures in this post are all from businesses and people in the U.S.


It looks like the battle for the best bento box has already begun. Rats!

-Kacey
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30 comments:

Mama Zen said...

Those lunches are amazing! I will be positively guilt ridden about tossing a PB&J in the lunch box for the rest of the day!

Monica said...

oh. wow.

I usually only feel inadequate during olympic years.

Those are amazing.

Willow Tree said...

So much for thinking I was right on top of that with my son's lunches. His ham and swiss, applesauce, sour cream & onion chips and 2 homemade cookies don't seem exciting anymore. I've got to go draw on a napkin or something.

Seriously? AMAZING. One of the neatest posts I've read in a long time, really made me say WOW over and over again.

Blessings,
Carolynn

blueviolet said...

I'll bet the kids don't even give those fun meals a second thought either because everyone has them. They're amazing. How completely fun. Of course, that's beyond my scope of what's possible. I'll leave it to you.

Kailey said...

Wow, they're all impressive, but that flower garden one is amazing!

Debbie said...

I don't think you should jump on this trend. That is too much time making food and too little time eating it. And do NOT show these to my kids.

♥georgie♥ said...

geesh i feel like a failure LOL
I just stopped at small-mart and bought a lunchable does that count as bento?

Jo said...

The Japanese put our aesthics to shame. Their ability to gather all the parts, smell, taste, sight etc into one WHOLE wows me and delights me.
I must say I am glad I am not a Japanese mother, getting up at 5 is not my idea of fun.

Jo said...

Hmm, this has me thinking, perhaps I could draw faces on his formula bags that he "eats"? LOL

Kristina P. said...

This makes me tired.

Mainly a midwife said...

That is amazing. What would a subslacker mom's box look like, because that would be mine! But...they do look yummy and it reminded me that I'm meeting friends for lunch at a Japanese place. Yum.

Lara said...

I've seen these before and am amazed. I pack a lunch for my daughter and it takes me about 3 minutes. All I have to spare!

forever folding laundry said...

That is just amazing! Pleeease don't try to start that trend here, though! I have a hard enough time throwing together a sandwich in the morning! If I have to start dying rice with food coloring I might have to be committed.

Jillene said...

I want one of thise lunches for myself!! They all look AMAZING!! I wish our elementary school offered food like that!!

Jill (Sneaky Momma) said...

Great pics! I learned about these lunches a couple of days ago. They're beautiful and traditionally healthy, too! Yum!

TrueLoveIsaMama said...

I had to scrape my jaw off the floor after viewing those... What is the matter with us Americans? Also, side note, while I was a teacher I had to hold back my gag reflex at what the kids were being served. However, in my 7th month of pregnancy, after eating my own lunch and still feeling hungry I would...gasp... eat one of those lunches too!!

Counselormama said...

OMG! Those are beautiful! And, excuse me, but if I made a creation that beautiful, and that took two hours, and then my kids ATE it? They would have to run and hide!

Mina said...

Well, I guess my kids are ones with a lame mom who get a juice box, granola bar, banana and pb&j. Good for you. You'll have to post some of your creations.

The Blonde Duck said...

Holy crap! I never heard of this. It's amazing!

seriously? said...

Alright Three Bay B Chicks...who gave you permission to go to my kids school and take snap shots of their lunch that I so painstakingly put together the night before? I mean really? Took me for-ev-er to do those lunches.

OK, in all honesty...my kids lunches look like 3 quarters, 3 dimes and whatever change we find in the seats to make the correct amount.

Live.Love.Eat said...

Wow, I have seen these before and they're awesome looking. I order my son's lunch once a week which is pizza. Other times it's 2x a week, otherwise I make his lunch. However, there is no way I could do these Obento boxes. I do put a smiley face on the aluminum foil though :)

stephanie (bad mom) said...

While darling, there is no bloody way I would take that much time to create something my children were going to scarf down in 15 minutes or less. Actually, my son would refuse to eat it because it was so cute. (He would not peel the banana on which I drew a smiley and wrote "EAT ME, I'M DELICIOUS!")

Just wow.

Stesha said...

It looks like artwork!

btw-visit my blog to see where you live

Yaya said...

OMG! That is awesome!

You are a "Cool Chick"!

Heather of the EO said...

This just absolutely blows my mind. I'm pretty sure that my 3 yr old would eat ANYTHING if I made it look like Wall-E. I'm so impressed.

And we walk by the lunch line at preschool when I come to pick up my son and it pretty much blows me away that kids are eating the stuff I see. I did always love pizza at school when I was a kid though. I think it's different now.

(I have no idea why I just started writing a memoir, but whatever.)

Mara said...

Those are amazing! I guess they would separate the cold stuff and hot stuff so it can be heated? I would hate for warm cucumbers...

Omah's Helping Hands said...

Wow! Who has the time for one? But who in the world without the teachings can pull this off?

Although for the Japanese, it probably does not take them long to make them at all. Puts us to shame.

Melissa said...

Oh my... the peanut butter sandwiches I send with my kids just aren't gonna cut it, are they? I did pack blueberries today... do I get a bonus half a point for that??

Meg said...

The Japanese have the market cornered on cute. Of this I am certain.

Jessica said...

You're going to have to post some pictures of your attempts... it is rather inspiring, isn't it? I'm not sure if Joshy would eat blue rice, though...