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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh! Bento!

I love bento.

Let me rephrase that.

I love the idea of bento.

I say that because even though I have been steadfastly collecting bento boxes, bento books, bento recipes and other bento related accessories, I don't make and eat bento as often as I'd like.

Some years ago a bento mania was apparently unleashed.  Moms make darling animal and cartoon character bento for their kids' school lunches.  Loving wives prepare exquisite bento for their spouses.  People tired of the old sandwich and apple brown bag routine or the ever more expensive soup/salad lunch out have turned to bento.  Those looking for imaginative ways to cut calories have discovered bento (there is a popular belief that the size of the bento box indicates the general number of calories it contains). 

Bento web sites abound.  Some of my favorites are Just Bento, Lunch in a Box and the aptly named My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch.

For a while I was bento crazy and committed to bringing a filling, nutritious bento for my workaday lunch.  I even learned to make a tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) using a single egg.  This morsel is my favorite item in virtually every bento I have prepared.

Alas, now I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning let alone exercise for 20 minutes then prepare a bento lunch in addition to showering, dressing and all the other tasks necessary to getting out of the house in the morning.

Perhaps I need to just buck up and recreate those habits.  A perusal of many of the bento sites proves that with planning and advance preparation, the last minute stuff can be taken care of fairly quickly in the morning.  It's just a matter of being prepared and committed.
The other day I made myself a bento lunch.  I did not have a lot on hand but I thought the carrot, celery and leek stir fry would be good over rice.  Actually, I put it over quinoa and Israeli couscous and it was not bad.  I think it would have been better had I stirred a little dressing or teriyaki sauce into the grains.

The vegetables were diced leeks with thinly sliced carrot and celery, cooked in a bit of sesame oil with a dribble of soy sauce and mirin at the end, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  The broccoli was blanched for a minute in boiling water and refreshed in cold water, then drained.  I vigorously shook off all the excess water to be sure my bento did not get soggy.  I stirred a little chili seasoning into a dab of mayonnaise to make a dip for the broccoli.

The one egg tamagoyaki filled in the corner (my favorite) and the best part was, I cooked it in the same pan as the vegetables, after they were done.  I love washing fewer dishes.

This bento was packed in a child's bento box which I purchased at a "Hello Kitty" store in the perimeter of our local Asian Super H Mart.  In case you do not know (I didn't) each of these characters has their own name.  I bought this box because the proprietress would not allow me to leave without making a purchase and insisted she would give me a discount.  I think this one was half off the original price.  It has a kid sized fork and spoon in a recess in the lid.  Cute but not very functional for an adult.  I prefer chopsticks anyway.

The vegetables were tasty.  Maybe next time I'll add some sliced mushrooms.  A few pieces of grilled chicken or grilled tofu would be a great addition to this bento, and maybe some cucumber or cabbage pickles. 

If I decide to forgo an extra 20 minutes of sleep, get up to exercise, make a bento and carry my coffee to work instead of enjoying it in front of a mindless early morning TV show I'll be sure to let you know.  Until then, konnichiwa!

Quotable Quotes; in the category It Sounds Good In Any Language!

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'"

A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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