Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans

Although it took a little longer to get to America than other Japanese trends, bento boxes are rising in popularity here in the states, according to Samantha Storey’s New York Times article titled “Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans.”  However, these aren’t the traditional Japanese boxes that rose to popularity during the Edo period in Japan, from 1603 to 1867, and became a staple at train stations around 1885. In recent years bento boxes have become a source of pride among Japanese and American mothers alike, inspiring creative meals made with tools like cookie cutters and scissors to look like adorable animals or cartoon characters.

The trend has spread in recent years thanks to networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, where people can post pictures of their bento creations and share techniques.  Not only are these creative lunch boxes pleasing to the eye but they are functional as well, offering people of all ages a healthy alternative to eating out.  Bento is inspired by a traditional Japanese belief that every meal should contain five different colors, which promotes food diversity and “portion control.”  It’s also a great lunch idea for parents of picky eaters because when food looks fun, it is fun to eat -- this is a principle known as kyaraben, in Japan. And since the meals are small and usually made from scratch they’re easy on the wallet and good news in this troubled economy. 

The surge in popularity of these boxed lunches has also inspired many independent businesses in the United States that offer unique boxes and customized tools like rice molders  to allow for even more creativity, as most bento accessories can only be bought in Japan.  So if you’re tired of fast food lunches or just need a change from the boring brown bag, pull out your cookie cutters and toothpicks and give bento a try.

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