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Cool! Obama's face for lunch!
December 11, 2011 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Normally I manage a sandwich, pieces of fruit and veg, a yoghurt and a carton of drink for my kids' lunchboxes. In some parts of the world, it seems, only mini sculptures of cartoon characters, piano keyboards and pictures of Obama made from seaweed will suffice. Want to join in? Turns out Youtube is a goldmine: next week, give your child Octopus sausages!. Or buy a book!
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots (20 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
My Japanese wife lives in absolute fear that one day she'll be too sick to make a bento, and I'll just send the kids to school with a couple of convenience store rice balls. They really do take this stuff seriously.
posted by chomarui at 3:40 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cute post. Most of the big chain restaurants here in Japan also have special plates for kids called the "okosama lunch/plate," which often have drawings of popular cartoon characters in ketchup. Doraemon and Anpanman seem to be the popular favorites.
posted by Kevtaro at 3:46 AM on December 11, 2011


When you have to get ready for work and get a kid ready for school in five minutes, sometimes you don't have time to make mini sculptures.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:11 AM on December 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


We make bento for lunch sometimes, but I have to start the night before and it never looks as good as those! Thanks for the post!
posted by garnetgirl at 5:27 AM on December 11, 2011


Wow, that reporter seems amazingly awkward. "These. Lunch... es.... have... been elev.....ated to. An. .... Art? .... form."
posted by odinsdream at 5:28 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had no idea. Very cute.
posted by shoesietart at 6:09 AM on December 11, 2011


I actually have a bento cookbook (an "idea book" for my grownup tiffin) and it's actually more than just the art of it. Bentos also have a whole nutritional science to them; bento boxes are the size that they are because they take the daily caloric intake of the recipient into account. Those lunch boxes aren't just cute, they are painstakingly nutritionally balanced. The art of it is intended to just be a secondary thing - "well, why not make the food look good as well as taste good?" (Along with "let's face it, how else are you going to get the kid to eat vegetables?")

It's way too easy to get caught up in competing over how "kawai" the food can be, but - the kids are eating way better than most ADULTS in this country.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I remember when my mom packing leftover lasagna for me was a big thing.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:09 AM on December 11, 2011


Pink, pink, so much pink.

(Maybe it's because my school lunch was a peanut butter rye bread sandwich in a paper bag. Brown in gray in brown.)
posted by benito.strauss at 7:38 AM on December 11, 2011


What happens to all the scraps when you cut the crusts off or painstakingly trim food into ornate shapes? I don't mean this critically, I mean do you put it into other dishes or toss it out? I understand that urban Japanese waste disposal involves many multiple bins and pick up dates for different sorts of trash, so I'm curious to find out what the relative volume of things like that are.
posted by Phalene at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2011


> Those lunch boxes aren't just cute, they are painstakingly nutritionally balanced

Could you say more about this? They look like big balls of white rice to me, with a hot dog, mayo, and a few slivers of seaweed. (They also look adorable, and delicious.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2011


If I had to do this for my kids every morning, I would probably explode. As someone who appreciates art, especially food art, there were some fine creative feats in the links, but my guess is that most moms are not doing these things out of a love for the craft or creative self-expression, but out of the cultural pressure to be The Good Mom, and Good Moms make slavishly devote themselves to creating elaborate bento boxes. It reminds me of the whole "you're not a good mom unless you devote at least 30 hours a week to driving your kids to lessons of one sort or another" strain in American culture. I'm sure there are some moms who do it out of sheer fun or love or creative expression, but just watching that first clip filled me with a kind of parental anxiety that I loathe.
posted by madred at 11:04 AM on December 11, 2011


This is the only reason I can think of to have children.
posted by cmoj at 11:39 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could you say more about this? They look like big balls of white rice to me, with a hot dog, mayo, and a few slivers of seaweed. (They also look adorable, and delicious.)

Going strictly from what's in my book -- I'd wager that there are some vegetables tucked into the middle of those rice balls, and that some crudites or apple slices or orange wedges were tucked around the hot dog or other foodstuffs to keep it from shifting out of place during transport. The book I have discusses a lot of different things you can use to decorate your rice balls, or fill them, or the rice canvases you pack into the bento -- but it also talks about how to carve apple slices into rabbits, how cherry tomatoes and baby carrots not only can be packed next to the hot dog but an also be eaten, and you need the vegetables anyway, so there you go.

They also give a very specific formula for how MUCH rice should be in each box, depending on the age of the child; as well as how much meatstuff and how much vegetable stuff. One bento menu they suggest -- as one of their faster-to-make ideas -- is a series of smaller rice balls, but each one is rolled in a different vegetable coating -- corn niblets, peas, etc. - and then skewered on a skewer with a single meatball; you make two of each and you have a couple of funky-looking kebab things.

And seaweed is actually pretty damn nutritious. The strips of nori used as decoration maybe not so much, but I wonder if there isn't a little bit of a seaweed salad tucked into the box as well, or some pickled somethings inside the rice balls, or something like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on December 11, 2011


Granted, there are probably some parents who get more caught up in the art than they do the nutrition, or who just go with "oh, hell, here's the rice and here's the hot dog, there I'm done", but there are actually a lot of vegetable options for bentos that probably get snuck in there, and that's kind of the point, I think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:48 PM on December 11, 2011


If I had to do this for my kids every morning, I would probably explode. As someone who appreciates art, especially food art, there were some fine creative feats in the links, but my guess is that most moms are not doing these things out of a love for the craft or creative self-expression, but out of the cultural pressure to be The Good Mom, and Good Moms make slavishly devote themselves to creating elaborate bento boxes.

I understand the sentiment, but feel the need to follow up with a few points:

1) The artful bentos put together in the kind of painstaking detail as those in the video are the exception, not the rule. I've asked many of my female Japanese peers with children if they've ever done this, and only one or two of them have (but even then only on rare occasion).

2) Most elementary schools in Japan have school lunches prepared by nutritionists and served by the children themselves, eliminating the need for home-prepared lunches all together.

3) Stay-at-home moms are still very common in Japan and have the time/energy to give their children the occasional surprise in their bentos.

The cultural pressure to perform certain behaviors can pretty intense here in Japan, but my experience tells me that this kind of bento-making is done more out of the spirit and joy of giving one's child a fun surprise than it is out of the desire to conform.
posted by Kevtaro at 2:33 PM on December 11, 2011


That was quite cool.

One thing I noticed was all the little preschool kids, aged around 4 or 5, using chopsticks. And thinking back to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, where primary school kids weren't considered able to use a knife and fork until grade six or thereabouts.
posted by wilful at 2:44 PM on December 11, 2011


My first thought as the narrator began speaking was, "Who wraps their sandwiches in tinfoil?"

Is that a brit thing?
posted by _paegan_ at 9:17 PM on December 11, 2011


oh so now its cute you motherfuckers? I hope none of you guys are the same people who made fun of me every day at lunch in elementary school calling my octopus shaped sausage "sushi" and saying it smells. I used to cry and yell at my mom to buy me mots and fruit roll ups like the normal kids. I just realized how sad it is that I eventually got my way. Great post. I should call my mom.
posted by elemenopee at 12:10 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Flickr can also be a goldmine for bento inspiration.

My faves include the Canada goose, ladybug and mock lobster.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:43 AM on December 12, 2011


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