Grouchy Bf bento, originally uploaded by Sakurako Kitsa.


Monday through Friday I send Eli off to school without much ceremony. Twice a week I pack a lunch for him. On a good day I’ll get a high-five before parting ways. We have been doing things like this, plus or minus, since last April. It is our routine. As comfy as a clean sheets.

And then suddenly I’m red about the cheeks. All year I had NO idea that lunch was a fine art. The esteemed bento, the O-bento, if  you will. I operate on a loosely interpreted four-food group philosophy regarding meals, lunch included. Rice sprinkled with peas, corn and cheese works fine if you count cheese as a protein. Which I do. Throw in a box of raisins and the boy has a square meal on his hands. Or heat up a frozen meal and pass it off as your own. I’m not afraid to set the bar low. Go forth and judge me.

It’s not that I don’t understand the bento. It’s artistic. It’s healthy. It’s full of variety. It’s charming, patient, thoughtul. Everything you’d want in food AND love, for crying out loud. I’m not even exaggerating. It just requires a level of organization and planning and commitment that shivers me timbers. Life was a bit easier when I imagined all of us throwing sniff-approved leftovers and frozen vegetables into the bento box and marching on.

I might have seen the light though because there are kind folks out there willing to hold my hand as I cross over from the dark side. A big thanks to Jennifer for pointing out these beacons of hope.

Seriously. Get your bento on. Annya already has, that sly fox. For us mortals, there are blogs to guide the way and aggregators to store our treasures.

Lunch in a box
Just Bento

For more bento fun, check out our post about shopping for bento gear here on Okinawa.  Or another detailing one contributor’s experience in a bento making class.  What are you waiting for?  Go get your bento on!


  1. I thought that the bento box you made for Eli on the day of the school field trip was well done. Did you make it after you discovered the websites about bentos? I don’t make much efforts to pack lunch for Yukari. It’s not my thing… It’s hard enough to get ready in the morning! I enjoyed reading your post!

  2. Having no children but a desire to express my artistic side through food, I’ve begun dutifully packing my man off to work each day with a Japanese style bento, much to the amusement of the others at his work 😉
    Gotta admire some of the Japanese mothers I know who get up before dawn to cook and prepare their childrens lunches! I’m not quite that dedicated yet.

  3. i’m with Joelle – i’ve been surfing the bento sites all morning! Haha! I’ve gotten some great ideas from these sites, thanks. And I was also told by Mia’s teacher that she barely eats anything I send, so maybe if I changed it up, or made a cucumber chain or an octo-dog she’d eat more… picky children. Not fun.

  4. I love this post! Bento-ware is one of those things that I love to collect from the 100 yen and DIY stores. Reminds me of when Maddy was in a japanese pre-school off-base and they announced a bento contest. My competitive nature took over, but needless to say, I needed much more practice b/c my (er, I mean, Maddy’s) bento probably took last place! :} Oh, well. Now motivated to re-visit those bento days again. Thanks! And Daniela, please, Ghulash for lunch?! that sounds wonderful! I sent mine to school w/cheese sticks and an apple.

  5. Meredith- Loving your post. Love the furrowed eyebrows on the sandwich. That’s the look I DESERVE from my son’s gracious teachers who gently remind me that I forgot to pack his “o bento” for his school (only TWICE a month). Nice. On a good day, I might smoosh and torture some string cheese and other dairy-ish stuff into little compartments. It’s really an art to put it together, today I’ve resorted to random food in a ziploc. The bar is DRAGGING here!

  6. Wow,
    what a super mom to make lunches like that? Practice making lunches?
    I am in the middle of raising number 3 and I still don’t make lunches like that.
    Today mine gets leftover Gulasch from last night and that is on a good day!
    I feel highly inadequate as a mother now;)

  7. They actually have an American version of the bento box called Laptop Lunches They have some wonderful lunch ideas on the website and there is an entire flickr group dedicated to pictures of laptop lunch ideas. I forced my husband to get one so I could “practice” before my daughter goes into school next year. They are so much fun to use and I love coming up with creative lunch ideas! Oh and I found a fantastic blog dedicated to healthy Laptop lunches that I frequently borrow ideas from Who knew making lunch could be so much fun!