Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why do I bento?

Everyone has their own reasons to bento.  A lot of these reasons will be the same ones over and over, which is great, and some will be unique to the person.  Well, a number of people have asked me about my own personal reasons, so here they are:

I first got into bento after I saw Cooking Cute.  Well, I was into the idea, but I wasn't that into the work, and I lived so close to work at the time, I normally just went home for lunch, no packing necessary.  Separately, I'd found Mr. Bento by Zojirushi on Amazon, and desperately wanted one, despite thinking the whole thing was too big.  I didn't make the mental connection that Mr. Bento lunch jar was actually, well, bento'ing, either, since though it's in the name, I thought more along the lines of "boxes" as bento. 

Months passed, with me occasionally browsing Cooking Cute and drooling over her gorgeous creations.  Then Danielle of Habeas Brulee sealed the last nail in my coffin with this post, sending me over to Lunch in a Box, which showed me that bento can be aesthetically pleasing, delicious, fast, simple without being necessarily cutesy and time consuming.  (Looking at Danielle's post, I realized I never thanked her.  And actually, looking at the date, I ran out as soon as possible (I begged my brother to take me, ASAP, to a Korean supermarket so I could scour the place for bento, the night after I'd read that post, I believe), bought my first bento set, and the rest, as they say is history...  So, a big hearty thank you to Danielle for alerting me to this subculture of bento: not just pretty, but time-efficient

That's just how I got into it though.  Not why.

  1. My wallet is very happy that I don't spend ridiculous amounts on lunch.  Even with our subsidized cafeteria, lunch at $5 a day comes out to be pretty expensive after a while, not to mention how many calories I'd be consuming.
  2. I've lost [happily] about 10 lbs. since I started bento'ing about 3 months ago.  Portion control is so easy when you pack your own lunch into small compartments.
  3. You know, I look forward to lunch every day now, it's much better than bringing a boring turkey sandwich every day because no matter how you spice it up, it's still a turkey sandwich.  With bento, it'd be that turkey sandwich, but with some edamame on the side, and over here some veggies and hummus, and over there a bit of fruit...
  4. It really, truly makes me happy.  I mean, I cook for other people all the time, but usually when it comes to cooking for me, I laze up and just throw together some random stuff.  This is me taking the time to prepare stuff just for my own personal enjoyment.

Of course, there are some side benefits that came with these very selfish reasons.  For one, bento'ing is all about reducing waste, which is good for the environment.  I'm lowering my personal impact and footprint on the environtment, and though I admit I'm not the most environmentally-conscientious person (though in my high school days, I did a good bit of volunteer work including picking up trash, and I detest litterbugs), it's nice to know that I'm doing right by Mother Nature with my bento'ing. 

This ties in with reason #2, but knowing exactly what goes into my bento- even if it is pre-made gyoza or dumplings- is really just flat out good for me.  I can really be careful with what I'm eating- if I know something is a bit extra heavy or fatty, I can always bring less of it or reduce the amount of other foods I eat that day. 

So this is basically why I bento: to make me happy, to help reduce waste, and because I save a ton of money!

Other bloggers' reasons why:
Lunch in a Box
Freakin' Tasty Bento

***Personal anecdote here- yes, I'm going to mention a bit about myself!: Looking at the link for Lunch in a Box's reasons, I am reminded of my time in high school and how I grew to love Lunchables, purchased with my own money, for lunch, but they were quite expensive on my fairly standard allowance, especially bought at bodegas or convenience stores near school.  One day, I brought in a plastic container with crackers, cheese, sandwich meats (none of the gourmet stuff, I just ransacked my mother's fridge) and someone asked me what I was eating/why I'd brought it in.  I felt embarrassed to admit I hadn't the money to always buy Lunchables and kind of just mumbled and shrugged it off.  Hell, I'd thought it was a great idea on my part to try to recreate what they did, for cheaper! 
My father had noticed what I'd done but didn't know about the little run-in my ego had had, and the next morning, when I was leaving for school, handed me a rectangular Pyrex container he'd bought for me.  I peeked inside and he'd made me a wonderful lunch!  Looking back, it was definitely bento-style, though at the time, "bento" to me meant what you buy in Japanese restaurants that gets you the most food possible all in one order.  There was a deviled egg, salad, mini sandwich, all beautifully arranged.  I don't recall how I reacted- it wasn't negatively but it may have been neutral, I WAS a surly teenager- but when I got to school, it'd all shifted in transport and lost the beauty.  But I held my head high while I ate lunch that day.  Someone loved me and had spent all that time and effort into making my lunch.  (Occasionally, he would make me another lunch along the same lines, but the Pyrex container being glass was just too darn heavy and inefficient for me to always take.)
Along those same lines, a month or so ago, my mother sat at the dining table, watching me make my lunch and carefully arranging bits and pieces of food to fit the space I had.  She looked a bit pensive, so I said, "What are you thinking about?"
"Oh... just how if your Dad were here, what he'd say about this crazy thing you're doing..."
I hesitated before taking the leap, and asked, "Well, what would he say?"
"Well, he'd tell you to put this there, and that here, and he'd move and start doing it and eventually he'd just do it all himself and make your lunch for you." 
My initial reaction was, "Oh hell yea then I don't have to wake up early anymore to do it!!!" 
Of course, right after that thought, I just responded, "Yeah..."
At the end of this month, he'll have passed away 7 years now. 
So, I guess since my mother reminded me that once upon a time, someone else bento'd for me, it helps me feel closer to his memory.

As always, HAPPY BENTO!!!  Why do you bento?


  1. This is a really beautiful post, especially the story about your father. That's so incredibly sweet. Thank you.

    Also, where did you pick up your bento? I find it tricky looking for bentos that are small enough, and also sealed well enough that they don't leak. I really like the look of the bag yours is in.

  2. Hi Yvo! Been wondering why you'd disappeared from the boards at Midtown Lunch. I've also been brown bagging a lot myself - haven't taken the leap to bento (yet...)

  3. that's a beautiful story about your dad. i've been lazy and stopped bento-ing.. thanks for the ispiration!

    the reasons i love to bento - affordable, healthier and love the variety.

  4. This is such a great post! I can definatly relate to reason #4, especially.
    Someday I hope to make bentos for my kids - and I hope they'll feel special, too!

  5. My dad cooked for a living. He made us food for breakfast at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night if he woke up and saw that we were still up working. All after a 13 hour workday.

    I love this blog and the Feisty Food one as well. I'm used to getting honest and opinionated (fabulous!) thoughts on food. So, it was unexpected to see the last paragraph about your dad. You see, mine passed away 14 years ago. It brought a tear to my eye.

    Thank you.

  6. I love your Dad. This made me cry.
    My Dad has been gone now 5 years and he would do those things that you wouldn't think that he would either.

    [I was bored one Saturday night and he offered to take me to the Officer's Club to dance - how cute - my Air Force Dad trying to entertain me the only way he thought I would like...not the movies...just...ah, well]

    Thanks for sharing. I think I will remember your Dad everytime I make bento now.


  7. Aww I'm loving this. What a nice story. When I was a kid, my dad worked overseas so we didn't see him that often. However, when he was home, he always made our sandwiches, and every day he would cut the sandwich into different patterns. He'd use a cookie cutter and cut out shapes, or a smiley face, or something. It always makes me smile, and he's still around. Love hearing in-depth about Bento!
    (enigmachck from swapbot)

    PS - your blog is gonna get some linky love soon!

  8. why do I bento? Because my parents said they'd kill me if I kept spending so much money on food :'(