Japanese food has gained worldwide acclaim, and you will not be surprised to find restaurants serving Japanese cuisine in whatever country you visit. In the United States, it is no different. Perhaps the influence of Japanese cuisine is even more evident in this nation.
The news is that bento boxes are making huge waves all over the country. While it used to be that one would normally have to go to a Japanese restaurant to get a bento box, people now take great pains to make their own bento boxes and bring them to work to school as pack lunches!
So what are bento boxes exactly? Air and Angels provides a very nice description:
‘O-bento’ is what the Japanese call a packed meal, usually lunch. Bento boxes have internal dividers, and sometimes several stacked layers, so different kinds of food sit in their own little compartments. (This is nice if, like me, you don’t necessarily like to mix flavours!) The whole thing is usually wrapped together with chopsticks in a cloth or special bag, and the goal is to make the whole package as attractive as possible – from considering the colour combinations of the food and presenting and garnishing it as neatly and artfully as you can, to co-ordinating the box, chopsticks and wrapper, and any other items like paper napkins, knife and fork or spoon, drink flask or thermos.
It is easy to see why this is becoming a trend in the US. More than the cuteness factor, it serves a nutritional purpose – you can easily measure portions and control food intake when you have your food packed in a bento box.
Bento boxes do not always have to be cute. You can make them as plain as you want. You can even put non-Japanese food in there. As one obento enthusiast put it, anything that you present in a bento box looks nice. Of course, you have to make sure it’s edible too!