Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Bento Lunch Experiment

The bento box has always appealed to me. I'm what's known as a sectional eater. If you serve me a meal of meat, veg, and starch, I'll turn my plate clockwise until the veg is closest to me and will proceed to eat one section at a time continuing clockwise around the plate. I also don't like my food to touch. This has fascinated my counterpart over the years, and he regularly prepares meals to thwart this tendency.

Given this quirk of mine, when I discovered bento boxes,  I felt like there was someone else out there who understood. The entire concept is ingenious - each item unique enough to stand on its own, placed in its own separated section of the box. If I had my way, all meals would be served in this manner.

Recently, through various food blogs, I've discovered the world of DIY bento - websites devoted to photos and ideas for turning standard lunch fare into a bento experience, extending the concept beyond Asian cuisine so that anything can become part of a bento box. This is my favorite food porn. I marvel at the creativity that goes into these lunches. The sheer artistry of the garnishes alone is breath-taking.Today I decided that it's time to give it a try.

My bento lunch is going to have a nice, wintery, Northern European feel. I'm making mini sandwiches that I'm going to pair with a fresh slaw. And I'm going to add a fruit section of tiny Mandarin orange sections. I'll use parchment paper between each section.

Mini Sandwiches

Nothing fancy here - just French baguette and kohlrabi, both sliced thin; mustard; brie; and Braunschweiger made into small, bite-sized sandwiches.


My knife skills are not what they should be for this task, so I am using the not-very-chefy technique of the food processor. The slaw consists of apple, kohlrabi greens, carrot and a little shallot, tossed with some sushi vinegar and a little sugar. It's a little bitter from the greens and the shallot, but the apple and sugar cut this a bit.


This was more challenging than I thought. I wanted to use the parchment paper to create individual compartments inside my Snapware but couldn't figure out how to do this. Once my counterpart realized what I was up to, he was so impressed with the creativity of this venture that he gladly lent an origami-skilled hand.

He made little boxes out of the parchment paper that will keep everything separate and even added little sheets of paper between each sandwich. Here's the finished product.

I can see that I have quite a way to go. While all the flavors should work well together, it's visually out of balance. And I didn't even attempt a garnish. But I did have fun, so I'll keep at it. For some real bento lunches, visit Gamene's photostream on Flickr and check Foodista for a weekly Bento Love posting.

1 comment:

  1. we love bentos here. we all (6 of us) have them (well the youngest has a modified one). i've taken pictures over the past 2 years of our bento lunches. today, 2 of the kids had leftovers in theirs. pizza, crackers, cheese, salami, pepperoni, and 2 cookies for dessert. and of course a juice box to drink as well. They still love to eat out of them. Kids at school are in awe of them as well.
    Another bonus, if you're wanting to watch your weight.. the mL of the containers used are approximately the amount of calories in your meal. something i learned a couple years ago as well, that sealed bento box meals for me :D