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Peter the eater

Bentos (2009-)

288 posts in this topic

I don't know for sure what the other kids eat, because school doesn't start for a couple of weeks. But it does seem that, in general, tuna is a socially acceptable fish here. However, the aromas of lunch stay with the kids. I remember in my grade school there was a kid who ate a lot of egg salad, and he smelled like egg salad for the rest of the day after lunch. This made him an object of ridicule.

There are about a million things I can pack for lunch. Once everything that needs to be ruled out gets ruled out, there are probably still a hundred thousand choices. So I'm not all that concerned about losing fish.

These are some of the ideas I've accumulated for components of bento-type lunches, thanks to eG Forums topics and discussions with friends and family:

Hard-cooked egg - as mentioned above, I've got some egg molds on order

Yogurt - the selection of individual servings of yogurt at the average American supermarket is staggering

Pasta salads - there are a lot of variants here; today I experimented with making pesto without pine nuts (I substituted toasted pumpkin seeds) and it was well received

Hummus - this is an ingredient with a lot of potential uses, both as a sandwich filling and as a dip with chips or vegetables

Little balls of mozzarella with cherry tomatoes

Sandwiches - even without meat and fish, there are a lot of sandwich options; sunflower-seed butter is a good substitute for peanut butter, and there are a lot of sandwiches that can be built around cheese -- also as you can see from some posts on this topic, the art of cutting and decorating sandwiches is a whole area unto itself

Rice - I'm going to have to learn to make rice balls and other sushi-like things; I'm looking forward to that

Fritatta

Omelet over rice

Cold sesame noodles - working on a recipe with no peanuts

Tofu - there is surely a lot of potential here

Tortellini - this works well cold

Vietnamese-style summer rolls - had these for dinner tonight and they got a good review; have to generate a peanut-free dipping sauce, though

I'm sure that's just the beginning of a list. Of course that list doesn't include all the side stuff that can round out the meal: fruit, cheese and crackers, etc.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Rice - I'm going to have to learn to make rice balls and other sushi-like things; I'm looking forward to that

A note on the rice balls - refrigerated rice balls can get pretty hard and unpalatable. They might survive refrigeration better if you use sushi or seasoned rice. Or, as you can see above, Torakris has packed hers, probably while the rice was still a little warm, by wrapping them in plastic wrap. The moisture seems to help keep the rice from getting too hard.

I made my first bento in four months today - the first day of school! Mine was red curry, rice, and pickles packed into a thermal set.

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As a demonstration of how little I know about rice balls, I'll note that I assumed until now that they were always made out of sushi rice.

Refrigeration also, needless to say, defeats thermal sets and such.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Vietnamese-style summer rolls - had these for dinner tonight and they got a good review; have to generate a peanut-free dipping sauce, though

The wrappers used for those dry out pretty quickly. Unless you make them in the morning, not a good option.

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I'm blessed with a propensity for early rising, so my plan is to do most of this stuff in the morning prior to departure. That being said, I have two summer rolls from yesterday that I refrigerated overnight and they seem to be in pretty good shape at the moment.

Today we did a trial run where I served PJ his lunch in the same containers he'll be taking to school. Pasta salad on one side, cheese and crackers on the other, fruit in a separate container. I took a photo but can't post it until later due to transient technical issues. He seemed to handle it well, even intuitively closing all the containers back up at the conclusion of the meal.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I must admit, I prefer the type of container that has small drop-in plastic containers that function as dividers. That way, you can zap cooked items to reheat when you put the bento together.

What makes bento so stunning is the link with formal food for special entertainment, served on trays. The standard farm fare was always rice balls and pickles, but the rules of formal eating dictate a variety of textures and colors for the modern bento. Fruit is by far the most popular sweet treat in a bento.

I really will try to revive my poor camera and take a photo of some of my favorite bento boxes. The kindy ones have been repurposed and now hold small electronic parts, sewing kit for quick repairs, etc!

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In Chinatown, there are several purveyors of vegetarian foods that are very good cold. One large firm is :

May Wah Healthy Vegetarian Food

213 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013

Tel: 212.334.4428 | Fax: 212.334.4423

Their "tuna" is supposed to be good. Many of these products are vegan as well. Huge selection, including curry etc.

There is another place whose product we get here in Ithaca, and I shall try and get the name if you are interested. They make an excellent "mock duck." It tastes nothing like duck, but is delicious cold in its own right. Layers of beans sheet enclosing shredded bamboo shoot, shiitake, maybe wheat gluten: all braised in a sweet, rich sauce. it comes in an 8oz foil meat-loaf or pound cake style container, about $3-4, and is good for many rolls below.

It is so rich that it could [should actually] become the filling in a kimbap or sushi, cut with vinegared rice, a stick of crunchy cucumber, slivers of avocado, maybe a ginger slice [if the kid is not too young] a tiny bit of the daikon/carrot relish or even some sweet-sour bread & butter pickles. Experiment & see what you think.

Suzie's Seitan, made in Ithaca, is distributed to NYC, by a firm named Regional Access, Trumansburg, NY. Absolutely great stuff, sold in thin cooked slices, with many flavors, including shiitake.

MorningStar Farms has some great vegetarian meat strips that can be made into various stir-fries and fajita-like things that taste good even cold; they soak up flavor.

Phillips (?), a fresh mushroom company [producer, wholesaler], used to have a portobello burger [bellaburger?] that was excellent. Being a foodwriter, you would have sources able to trace what became of it. If you do, please do let me know.

There is a green Korean shredded seaweed item that is offered as banchan. I do not know how to make this but it should be a healthy food to include. Hijiki (stewed) can be introduced in gradual steps.

The Korean deli style of green spinach so common in the late 70s, early 80s [remember Paik's on 71st & Colombus?] that stands being eaten cold so well.

Another way with collard greens I was shown that looks very unappealing but tastes delicious: saute some chopped onion & garlic in a very tiny bit of olive oil, add water, bring to boil, add chopped collards, & stems separately. Salt lightly Cook until soft to your taste. Season water with a bit of brown sugar & vinegar to flavor the greens. Try this!

The Japanese sesame dressing with a hint of ginger served in Japanese-American restaurants, to be eaten with cucumber sticks [kirby], carrot sticks, and ohitashi form of rolled spinach [better: swiss chard, not astringent]. Make tiny cylinders of chard to go with the cukes, and practice eating as a family all the things you will add to the bento, so there will be no surprises.

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Another thing that may differ from standard procedure in Asia is storage. At my son's school, and I'm led to believe this is not unusual here, the lunch bags are taken from the kids in the morning and put in a refrigerator, then brought out at lunchtime. So frozen items may not defrost as well as in an unrefrigerated situation. This may require some different calculations when it comes to using frozen items. It also means anything in the lunch has to be palatable at near-refrigerator temperature.

It depends on the schools... at most public schools here in CA, the only refrigeration a lunch from home sees is if there's an ice pack included in someone's lunch bag/box. At the specific elementary school my middle kids attend, their lunch boxes/bags are kept in the classroom, either in their backpack or a cabinet. My middle school aged child totes his lunch around in his backpack all day.


Cheryl

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The egg and rice molds have arrived.

molds.jpg

I used the egg molds successfully today, the big surprise being that they require smaller eggs than I'm accustomed to using. The eggs labeled "large" in American supermarkets are the ones that fit right.

I could use some instruction on the rice molds, though.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I could use some instruction on the rice molds, though.

I can't see how big the rice molds are, but they should work fairly well just by packing them with warm short-grain rice. If you want, you can mix a little furikake in, or even some black sesame seeds for a visual contrast. If you're using freshly cooked rice in the morning, just pack it in - if you're using left-over rice from dinner, make sure you've heated it through in the microwave, pack it in the mold, then knock it into the bento, using a silicone divider if PJ likes his rice separate from other bits. The rice shouldn't stick too much to the mold.

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Okay I'm going to experiment with that soon.

School starts next Wednesday, but there's an "adjustment period" where the days are shorter. So he doesn't actually start bringing lunch for another couple of weeks.

One of the things I'm planning to do is make doubles of everything so I can taste his lunch at lunchtime. This will give me a better idea of how well the various items hold up when stored/refrigerated.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Okay I'm going to experiment with that soon.

School starts next Wednesday, but there's an "adjustment period" where the days are shorter. So he doesn't actually start bringing lunch for another couple of weeks.

One of the things I'm planning to do is make doubles of everything so I can taste his lunch at lunchtime. This will give me a better idea of how well the various items hold up when stored/refrigerated.

Steven, I assume you plan to give your son a camera so he can take snaps of everyone else's lunch. Otherwise you may have to just GO there for lunch yourself. After seeing this morning's dining section of the NYT I am so impressed--you are so totally in the swim. When my kid was packing lunches (K through high school, actually) I don't remember any creative parents. One of my daughter's schoolmates in elementary school had a mother who was a complete scatterbrain and had to get up really early to get to her own teaching job. Every once in a while my friend Sarah or I would get a frantic call from this woman at 6:30am saying that she was out of bread, and could we please make Zoe a sandwich?

And Mom of Little Foodies, I so remember the days of those blue ice packs in the lunch bag. And how many of them started to leak after a few months...yes, lunches for public and private schools here just get toted around in the backpack with everything else all day.

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Yes, for those who didn't catch it, big article on bentos in today's New York Times dining section:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/dining/09bento.html?ref=dining


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sandwiches - even without meat and fish, there are a lot of sandwich options; sunflower-seed butter is a good substitute for peanut butter, and there are a lot of sandwiches that can be built around cheese -- also as you can see from some posts on this topic, the art of cutting and decorating sandwiches is a whole area unto itself

Rice - I'm going to have to learn to make rice balls and other sushi-like things; I'm looking forward to that

Consider using kinako (roasted soybean powder) instead of peanut butter, as I suggested here.

I AM looking forward to seeing how you will make your rice balls!

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One of the things I'm planning to do is make doubles of everything so I can taste his lunch at lunchtime. This will give me a better idea of how well the various items hold up when stored/refrigerated.

this is something i highly recommend to all first time parents. and to people new to bagging it.

i cant tell you how many soggy sandwiches i endured in middle and grade school. it wasnt really my moms fault of course. she didnt know anything about western sandwiches of course. and no one where i grew up ate from bentos or doshirak.

eating the same thing that you pack for others can be a wonderful learning experience.

definitely the way to go if youre new to this.


Edited by melonpan (log)

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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How do you find the pasta tossed with pesto? I always want to like it, but I just never enjoy cold pasta. Also - if you're going to make rice balls, don't forget to cool the rice down a tiny bit, put some water and a little salt on your hands - the water will keep the rice from sticking and help you mold it, and the salt will make the rice taste better.

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Back in August, after we realized my wife would be commuting Mon-Th to grad school, we grabbed a cheap bento box for $25 at a store in Chicago's Chinatown. Less than two weeks of train and MBTA bustle, the thing broke. In three places.

As a result, I haven't started posting here about our bento experience, but that will change shortly. We just ponied up the cash for a Zojirushi Classic bento box. We've absolutely loved our Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker, which is probably the best kitchen appliance I own, and given the cash we're saving on meals, we'll have it paid off by Thanksgiving.

More soon.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I love the Zo bento boxes too. I have the Mr. Bento that I use when traveling - for hot foods, since I have a fridge in my van.

I did post something here on Sept. 9, about my daughter's blog that is specifically about bento box lunches but it was shifted to another topic (Favorite Food Blogs) for no good reason, as far as I am concerned. I complained about it but never got a response so there it stays.

She has to prepare meals for two high school teens and for herself (a high school teacher) and owns just about every kind of bento box on the market.

Both she and I have gathered a lot of information from various web sites, including this one: http://lunchinabox.net/

She is fortunate in that her kids have very sophisticated tastes and are willing to try almost anything, however she does have to deal with some food allergies but is usually able to do a work-around and she tries to stick to organic foods, whenever possible.

The Mr. Bento will keep food hot (at a safe temp) for at least 5 hours as I have personally done it. Not leaving anything to chance, I tested it with a Thermapen, just to be on the safe side. Specifically, I prepared soft-boiled eggs and they kept perfectly, although the yolks did get just a bit more firm than I like, they were acceptable and I mixed them with hot noodles and spinach.

I left the soup I had prepared in the container, immediately resealing it, and 2 1/2 hours later it was still hot.

I am a diabetic and it is important to have controlled meals at regular intervals, even when traveling.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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This year's sports day bento.

DSCF1890.jpg


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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This year's sports day bento.

DSCF1890.jpg

Kristin, Can you tell us a little about the contents, please.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Top left

grilled salmon onigiri

roasted sweet potato fries sprinkled with chili powder

homemade chorizo sausage

zucchini frittata

Top right

more sausage, onigiri and frittata

steamed broccoli with lemon

grilled chicken (marinated with grated onion, saffron, paprika, garlic and lemon

blueberries

bottom

more of the same :biggrin:


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Top left

grilled salmon onigiri

roasted sweet potato fries sprinkled with chili powder

homemade chorizo sausage

zucchini frittata

Top right

more sausage, onigiri and frittata

steamed broccoli with lemon

grilled chicken (marinated with grated onion, saffron, paprika, garlic and lemon

blueberries

bottom

more of the same :biggrin:

Thank you so much. It all looks very appetizing.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Today is the first official day of school lunch. The first couple of weeks of school, the adjustment schedule was such that the kids went home before lunchtime. Today they bring lunch.

There has been some correspondence from the school about lunches that has caused me to modify the plan in minor ways. First, they discourage providing too many choices. So my fantasies of packing 10 different things have gone out the window. Second, they ask for a brown paper bag (for space efficiency in the refrigerator). I've gone with a red vinyl bag. We'll see if that's accepted or if I get in trouble. Third, the school provides water. So I didn't pack a drink. Also, we're still on the adjustment schedule -- school still ends earlier than it ultimately will -- so I didn't really pack a dessert item. And, as a reminder, lunches need to be kosher, dairy (no meat) and nut-free.

So, for the first attempt, I made the pasta salad with pesto that I experimented with before. Basil is the one plant we have growing out back behind our apartment. I used toasted pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. Also, a hard-boiled egg in a bunny mold. And assorted crisps and such (pretzels, crackers, raising and dried cranberries):

bento3.jpg

Here's a close-up of the bunny egg:

bento4.jpg


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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