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Practical American Bento: More Than Just a Box

October 14, 2008

  There is no thrill for a bento artist quite like that feeling you get when you receive your very first actual bento.  There is just something wonderful in the way it all fits together.  The sleek lines, the snug fit of the top layer into the bottom, the simple and graceful design…  a true bento box is a thing of beauty all by itself.  You might find that much of your budget for bentos goes towards buying cute little boxes instead of tools.  But for a beginner bento artist, buying a cute little box can sometimes be a little intimidating.  Especially if you’re not sure about this whole “bento” thing.

  The important thing to remember about bento creation is that it’s more than just the box that you put it in.  Putting plain food into a beautiful box does not a bento make.  And you don’t need a beautiful box to make food more fun.  A plain old piece of tupperware will do.  But if you really want a nicer box, there’s a couple of inexpensive options that will get you started.  You can practice your technique with any of these options and see if bento creation is right for you.  And if it isn’t, then you still have some nifty plastic containers which might encourage you to take your lunch to work (or school, or whatever) more often.

Fit & Fresh Lunch on the Go:  These boxes are fairly inexpensive, and can be found at just about any Target store.  They also have a blue version, which naturally means that it has my seal of approval.  The Lunch on the Go container has the additional bonus of being an actual two layer container, which means that it most closely mimics the typical bento format.  Trying to squeeze all of your lunch parts into those two little side dish containers will give you just a taste of some of the challenges that you will find in bento creation.

Lock & Lock Divided Containers:  Lock & Lock containers are great for people who worry about their bentos coming open during transport.  The main drawback to Lock & Lock containers is that there aren’t a whole lot of options for removable tray containers.  However, they do stack together well, so a divided container stacked on an undivided container makes for a fairly rugged bento combo.  Most grocery stores will carry a version of these, if not the exact product.

Rubbermaid Takealongs Divided Rectangle:  I know, I know.  Not the fanciest box you’ll ever own.  But it certainly will be the cheapest.  And since they come in packs of three, you can practice all sorts of techniques all at once.  Or just make three identical bentos and free up your evenings.  These can be found just about anywhere, right next to the other plastic containers.

Other Plastic Containers:  No really.  Just about any plastic container can be turned into a bento.  There are all sorts of inexpensive options for taking along a decent lunch portion.  Throw some baking cups in, along with some cute crackers, and a stack of cheese slices cut into shapes, and you’ll have a lunch worthy of the most expensive bento box.  Without all that hassle with the shipping.  Give it a try.  Just be careful, you might find yourself needing more.

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