Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bento for Beginners

This was my first attempt at a bento last week for my children, ages 4-1/2 and 7. It was a good opportunity to try adding a bento to their snack since I had a meeting to attend after I was done with work and their activities. On meeting nights, which is once a month, we don't get home until after 8, at which point I focus on getting them both ready for bed.

It contained rice with ghee, some purple and green grapes, two slices of navel orange which were added after the picture was taken, and three slices of tamago, a tasty Japanese style omelet, which I made earlier in the day, thanks to the wonderful tutorial and recipe from Lunch In a Box. Mine was not as pretty as what you will see on her blog, but it tasted good. I packed them into a 300 ml Rubbermaid Take Alongs container, a bit smaller than preschool size bento boxes, my children are not big eaters, so I make small portions for them. As much as I wanted one of those cute decorated bento boxes, the container worked out perfectly. It fit nicely into the but it worked out perfectly and fit nicely into the bottom section of their Arctic Zone lunchboxes.

They took notice of the neat and compact packing, but did not seem to share my enthusiasm over it. They liked the rice with ghee and the tamago and nibbled on the fruit. As cute as the bento was, they would have preferred to have had the rice with ghee and the egg packed hot into a thermal container. Also since most Indian food is best served piping hot, I will have to choose items that are meant to be served at room temperature or slightly chilled for future bentos.

By the way, my other guideline, which I failed to mention in my previous post, is that I try to pack waste-free and economical lunches. The two concepts go hand-in-hand for me. I pack as much as I can into reusable containers that can be readily washed and reused. Likewise, I buy the largest size, or most economical size, of foods and then repack them into convenient, reusable containers.

Part of economizing is packing only quantities that I know my kids, and I, will consume. I'll spare everyone the lecture that my mom gave me on children starving in India ("Well then send it to them by Fed Ex because I don't want it!" is what I used to say to my mom) and comment that it's just better to give them only what they will eat than throw it away. Similarly, buying larger packages of things only makes sense if you actually eat all of it.

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