Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I’m not a terribly difficult person to understand. In fact, I’m the opposite: I’m very simple. Something it never takes anybody very long to learn is that I’m obsessed with Asian culture. Generally speaking, I just like culture, and we’ll eventually cover all the things that have caught my attention, from vegetable and tea dyeing tribal-inspired tunics, to the spice based spa teachings of Indonesian “jamu”—which, by the way, I heavily advocate.

Today, however, we return to the green principles everyone knows as “the 3 Rs”, as always: taking care of the planet while taking care of yourself!

There are many things my mother unknowingly taught me that lend themselves well to a green lifestyle, even though she is far from green. My mother taught me to be creative with food; as a vegetarian raising two children, she needed to find interesting alternatives to cucumber sandwiches—and voila! My dedication to the bento box was born.
Colourful combinations of carrot sticks and rice, with what, to this day, I only know by the name of “mopple”, set me apart at school lunchtime and it simply stuck.

“Bento” is simply a term that means boxed lunch. You can buy bento boxes online or at Asian specialty stores. They come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes—from sleek and utilitarian, to cute and colourful. Most have inner partitions for food groups. I love them because they’re reusable, and are traditionally wrapped in a scarf that doubles as a napkin or place mat; and in this scarf-wrapping, you can (gasp!) pack your own utensils!

Typically, a bento meal consists of the following:
• rice
• protein (meat, tofu, or eggs—depending on your diet)
• vegetables
Making for a balanced meal. Sometimes a bento box also carries a sweet dessert. ♥ Desserts can range from simple cupcakes or scones, to one of my favourites: honey and sesame fried pumpkin.

But, by no means, limit yourself to this, or even to Asian cooking. I often pack my bento with colourful Indian foods. One of my favourite examples of what might go into a western bento box was in the new Nancy Drew movie.

Explore different food styles so as not to get bored! Because I am gluten-intolerant, a lot of rice goes into my bento boxes, but I never get bored because I’ve discovered many different varieties. I never use “Uncle Ben’s”, and it’s nothing personal, I simply find it very bland. I use a lot of sushi rice, as well as “Lundberg” rice blends. I love their “wild” blend and even more so their “black japonica” blend, which once cooked has a beautiful mahogany colour!

There’s nothing better than a beautiful and colourful lunch waiting for you to keep you dining in!


  1. I'm a bento-er myself (actually, I'm going to be running a parent-and-child healthy eating workshop called "Oh! Bento!" at the Art Lounge I teach at). I have a couple of cheap-but-pretty boxes, provided by my Vancouverite roommate, who brings us gifts from the Japanese dollar store every time she goes home.

    I find they're great for portion control, as well as for healthy eating. I always try to balance my meals based on colour -- not too much white or beige in there! I use fairly juvenile boxes (easier to get) -- shoebox style lube sheep ones. If I fill one level with rice or similar, it's a good, very filling lunch.. but much less than I would eat on plate or out of a bag

    .I have the most fun making cutesy lunches for others, using tiny cookie cutters to shape carrots or meat, and turning rolled omelettes into flowers. Variety makes it seem like there's more food there, so a (reuseable) cupcake cup worth of lasagne, paired with a spinach salad, a cup of almonds, soy beans and raisin, a cookie, and some blueberries and peppers, is just as good as a whole big dinner-size slab.

    My roommates also bento --Ashlyn uses man-style boxes (big, square and flat) because she likes sandwiches and snack foods, and Olivia uses a plastic box shaped like a hamburger, because she's quirky that way.

  2. Haha, I love that! Bento on, Megan, bento on! I've got a few... I have a tin explorer bear and various others. I'm going to try my hand soon at making them.