I found the most mod bento box online the other day, and I just had to share the box (CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST BENTO BOX), as well as ten ideas for bento box lunches with my readers. Being newly engaged, I’ve been looking up acts of love, traditions, and rituals throughout the ages in different cultures. The act of making a bento box for your loved one or child, has been a tradition for centuries in the Japanese culture. I have two degrees, one is in Art History and the other is in Cultural Studies. The acts of love through different cultures absolutely instills my belief in love more and more, with each tradition and ritual I learn about. Love transcends through different languages, different foods, different dances, art, and more, but above all there is LOVE. Every other week, starting this week, I will post the Bento Boxes I make for Franz on this blog, complete with recipes and pictures. What act of love for yourself, or a loved one, do you practice? Just because Valentine’s day is over, does not mean you cant start new love traditions now. By putting different rituals in your life it does not just benefit you, it also benefits those around you. So again, my act of love this month is creating bento boxes for Franz and highlighting women in our community, by featuring them on my blog. Learn a bit more about the bento box history below:
” For the Japanese aristocracy bento boxes were rich and detailed. Bentos were decorated with complicated designs depicting tranquil landscapes and iconic figures of grace and poise. These lunchboxes were expensive and sophisticated priced passions of the upper class and were embellished with deep hued lacquer, inlayed with precious metals such as gold and silver and adorned with mother-of pear accents. During the Noh and Kabuki intermissions affluent audience members marked their status by socializing with famous performers while eating bento (Ekuan, 2000, p. 190).
In stark contrast to these elaborate bento lunch feasts were the deliberately straightforward and one could argue utilitarian bentos in the monastic Zen community. Different from the first bento festivities that popularized bento a formal and ritualized bento commemoration occurred during traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The bento meal accompanying contemplative and ritualistic tea ceremonies has been termed kaiseki ryori which literal meaning is “ stone in the stomachband.” This refers to the practice of resting a warm stone on one’s stomach during periods of hunger when no food was available. As a Zen concept it changed to convey a warming meal that was just enough to satiate immediate hunger. According to author Kenji Ekuan, author of The Aesthetics of The Japanese Lunchbox,
As stated in the text, the great perfecter of the tea ceremony Sen-no-Rikyu is credited with adapting the kaiseki banquet style to the tea ceremony during the late 1570s. The present form and style in terms of both content and box shape were reached during the eighteen century. The main difference between lunchboxes for theatre goers and for picnics and the tea ceremony lunchbox style is the gorgeousness and plentifulness of the former as opposed to the austere elegance of the latter” ( 2000, p. 191).
The bentos used in kaiseki are generally rectangular but the preferred moon-shaped bento favored of Sen-no-Rikyu is also used alongside round, fan-shaped, and oblong bento lunchboxes(Ekuan, 2000, p. 192). Since this sacred initiation of bento into Buddhist spirituality the bento has been incorporated into many ceremonies both sacred and secular.
Although the bento became widespread in Japan throughout the course of the Edo Period it was not until the Meiji Period (1868-1912) that the bento became an icon of convenience for all travelers,
The first station lunchbox appeared with the opening of the new railway line that linked Tokyo’s Ueno Station with Utsunomiya in 1885. It was quite a simple affair containing two wrapped rice balls flavored with pikled plum (umeboshi) and covered with grilled sesame seeks, with a couple of slices of radish pickle (takuan), the whole wrapped in a piece of bamboo bark, and sold for five sen, or a few pennies (Ekuan, 2000, p. 193).
Depending on the occasion many or single tiered bentos are used. The first station bento had only a single tier for function and accessibility but in the passed bentos with three stacked layers were the tradition. However by the end of World War I two-tiered bento lunchboxes became more popular then as fashioned changed after World War-II and presumably because of economic strife bentos reduced again to a single-tier arrangement. A more utilitarian aluminum bento lunchbox arose to popularity during the Taisho Period (1912- 1926) during World War I. Many considered it a lavish bento box because of it’s shiny polished surface and the ease of maintenance and cleaning (Ngoc, 2010). The invention of the microwave, large grocery stores, and mass-produced bento boxes created a boom in bento accessibility.
Bento in modern post-war culture has transformed into a whole new creature influenced by pop-culture, international foods, and the growing middle-class to name a few. Today bento lunchboxes can be seen at work, school, come prepackaged at stores and vendors, or at sit-down restaurants. Bento lunchboxes now come in a wide variety of materials spanning different types of plastics, aluminum, and wood. Bento box shapes vary but are usually rectangular and highly portable.”
Find 10 of my favorite Bento Box Lunch Ideas for Inspo Below:
For bento art CLICK HERE
5. Wild Rice Salad and Fruit Bento
8. Turkey spinach and cheese pinwheels Bento