Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bento Boxes!

To take a break from the art and sketch posts, I'm going to talk about bento boxes!

For those who are unfamiliar, a bento box is just Japanese meal-in-a-box. The most familiar kinds are the ones people bring to school or work, but there are some made for art and some made for home.

I've been looking into bento boxes as a solution to my healthy eating dilemma, especially at school.

Back in January/February I told myself that I would eat healthier: less meat, more fruits and veggies, smarter choices regarding everything else, making everything I eat really count. I went vegetarian for a week and continued snacking healthily for a while, but when I got hit by 3 huge art projects, it didn't matter anymore: all that mattered was spending as much time on the projects as possible, and maybe eat when I remembered. And boy, was it easy to forget.

It's hardest on Mondays and Wednesdays. I basically run a 12-hour school day, and if I rushed out in the morning and forgot to grab snacks, then I'm stuck starving myself so I could save money by buying only one thing, usually a Subway sandwich, before my night class. I end up exhausted, irritated, and so very hungry. When I'm feeling especially cheap, that Subway sandwich often turns into chips and $1 chicken sandwiches from Carl's Jr. I feel disgusted that this happens a LOT these days.

I started to think about how I can make this better for myself, when I was struck by a distant memory of my mom packing me lunches in little bento boxes for me back when we used to live in Okinawa. Granted, we lived on a U.S. air base and I wasn't carrying bentos every day, but she liked implementing bits from the native culture into our daily lives. It hit me: bento boxes! Of course!

Now, of course I have little tupperware boxes to put stuff in, which easily works as a bento box. So why focus on the specificities of bento boxes? Well, it's not about the box, but the artistry behind it. Like everything else the Japanese do, there is an art behind bento box making, involving portion-controlling and meal planning. The Japanese are well known for their healthy eating lifestyles and this goes for their bento box lunches as well.

I came across a website called Just Bento that has been extremely helpful in my bento-making endeavours. The best part about it is that it contains recipes for bento boxes–which is important, since bento box lunches are often meant to be eaten at room temperature (perfect for the college kid with no access to a refrigerator!).

Although I know full well that I could just say, "put a balanced meal in a Tupperware box," focusing specifically on bento boxes helps me out more by giving me something specific to plunge into. Bento box making is an art finely crafted by the Japanese, and if I start from there, then I figure I should be good to go. I'll need to devote more time and effort than normal, but hey, I'm willing to do that if it means avoiding having to constantly eat those $1 chicken sandwiches.