Thanks to my friend Glenna, who is working her way through the recipes in Effortless Bento, I have a new interest: bento box lunches. Here is what lunch looks like today:
The bento box has two layers, with an ice pack that doubles as a shelf between layers.
The bottom layer has mesclun green topped with broiled chicken, freshly blanched broccoli, Caesar dressing, and cole slaw and potato salad, both leftovers. I blanched the broccoli this morning; the chicken was broiled a couple of days ago and set aside. Tomato and parsley from my garden.
Top layer: berries, sushi I picked up yesterday on a whim, and rice I had cooked two days ago and frozen. I touched it this morning with soy sauce and roasted sesame oil, a combo we really like.
For my 16 yo son who studies with me at home:
Salad with chicken, Caesar dressing, one sushi, blanched broccoli. His bento box is different that Dad’s; it has small containers on the top layer:
Berries, potato salad, flavored rice with nasturtium flower for color and peppery flavor.
Mine lacks the rice because I am low carb. I have olive oil and vinegar in one container. Cole slaw is my white salad. And to fill a space so things wouldn’t slide around, I added pickled ginger. Yummm:
Why bento? Because food had become a real source of stress for me. Can’t have wheat so no fresh baked bread, no cookies, scones, biscuits, cereal; have to closely watch my blood sugar so no sugar, gluten free flour mix, rice, crackers, sweet fruit, starchy vegetables. I walk around the house looking for something to eat, and feel cheated when others are eating delicious things I can’t enjoy.
The antidote to restriction is to explore all that remains. Turns out there is much more pleasure available in the things I can have than in what I can’t. Bento magnifies this by encouraging a variety of foods in one lunch. Not only this, but this art focuses on presentation: our natural creative gifts come into play as we attend to color, texture, composition, line, and sweet and salt, flavors and aromas.
It reminds me of the children’s book Bread and Jam for Frances.Remember how fussy she was at first, and what her meal looked like in the end?
My next steps will be to prep a variety of make-ahead dishes to have in the freezer and the fridge for the coming week and month. As I get used to cooking for only three (five kids are out in the world!) I will plan for leftovers that I can save for lunch. As part of my morning routine I hope to be able to put together three lunches in no more than 20 minutes. And when my garden dies in the frost, I’ll keep certain produce in the refrigerator in order to add color and nutrition.
Right now, everything I read has a Japanese slant on this, and for obvious reasons. Thanks to the Japanese who share their expertise and love for bento. (Our two Japanese Labo children will be tickled to know we have become bento fans.) But my goal is to make this work within an American framework. What will American bentos look like?
More specifically, what will Low Carb High Fat, low glycemic, gluten free, sugar free, Trim Healthy Mama bento boxes look like?