What is a Bento? Part One - The Food
Customers come into our shop asking - what is a bento? The word 'Bento' originally comes from the Japanese word for 'lunch' and/or 'lunchbox'. So what makes a 'Bento'? It really is flexible, there is no fixed format but since its origins are from Japan, there are a few things that make a bento what it is.
Ms. Popowa in her book BENTO POWER explains 'Bento' is based on the Japanese everyday meal. That is, rice bowl on one side and many bites of small dishes complimenting each other and the rice. The 'bento' is a boxed-up version of this way of eating. Another aspect of what makes a bento - is the visual presentation which is important in Japanese food and culture in general.
If you've seen Japanese 'Bento' boxes, you may have been surprised at the smallness of the boxes. This is not just because of portion sizes but food in a 'Bento' is packed snug. The components are neatly grouped, using separators like silicon cups or fresh lettuce. Ms Popowa goes on to explain that packing our 'Bento' like this also means less air in your box, so the food stays fresh for longer. So when you open your 'Bento' box at lunch, everything is still in its place like when you packed it at home. In Japan food is beautifully presented because it is said we eat with our eyes first! By packing our lunch snug, you would be surprised at how it helps with the final presentation.
The ritual of the everyday 'Bento' is the feeling of home that is presented in the lunchbox - an extension of a mother or father's love ...