I love that the concept of packing bento-style lunches has reached insane levels of popularity these days with whole sites dedicated to the concept. As someone who was born in Hawaii, I grew up eating bentos from Zip-Pacs to custom-made creations from the Shirokiya food hall to home-made containers packed with leftovers. I say "born in Hawaii" as the dintinguisher because in Hawaii everyone—not just Japanese people—are familiar with bentos. It's part of our culture and people pride themselves on packing a good one. Do you include plain musubi or nori-wrapped? Should you include takuan or kimchi? Fried spam or a hotdog? People in Hawaii can talk about bentos for daaaaaaayyyyyyyyssssss.
When we moved from Hawaii to California in 1981, I was in sixth grade and I remember vividly the day I brought a bento to school for lunch. It was packed with musubi (rice balls) and fried chicken and I remember thinking about that lunch all morning. When it was time to unpack our lunches. Twenty heads swiveled my way to see what I had in front of me.
Little did I know I had just committed my first junior high faux pas.
Had they never seen a small, pink, plastic, compartmentalized Hello Kitty bento box with matching chopsticks before? Apparently not. What is that? What are you eating? everyone wanted to know. And I was stuck in the uncomfortable position of having to explain it all. I never brought a bento to school for lunch again, and I kick myself for that, because I wish I had had more confidence then. Being the new kid, I did not.
Which is why, now that my little one is in Kindergarten, I am delighted at the possibility of packing lunches for her. I know it sounds strange, but I was born to pack a lunch. Born to bento, as it were. I've been looking forward to this day for a long time. She has her horsey lunch box (a birthday gift) and I do have a Sigg water bottle, and a small Thermos container to keep soups warm (her request), but that's not enough to pack a proper bento lunch.
I took a trip down to Han Kook Korean Supermarket this morning (It's like the Wal-Mart of Korean markets, really. They have everything...) and stocked up on essentials for my school lunch arsenal. They are as follows:
Tomorrow it will be stocked with inari sushi (per Bunny's request) which I just made, and fruit, and well, I'm not sure yet. I'll be sure to show you what it looks like when its all done tomorrow.
No one should love packing school lunches so much. I realize it isn't normal, but I've been making lunches for my siblings since I was old enough to spread peanut butter on bread with a butterknife. Can't wait to share this experience with you as part of my new food feature "Bunny's Lunch Box." We're going to partner up to create fun lunches that are healthy, tasty, and fun to eat.