After I began this blog, friends and family started proudly announcing that they ordered a bento box and plan to make their own bento. Hell yes, people. That’s what I want to hear.
I’ve also had people tell me they love my food pics and but making bento seems unduly time consuming, and they’re otherwise scared off by Japanese cooking. This breaks my heart because bento can–with some creativity, preparation and practice–be a quick, fun affair. Not to mention bento doesn’t necessarily have to be Japanese.
So let’s imagine you already have your box, but you haven’t stocked up on all the Japanese cooking essentials. I mean, I think Japanese food is the best ever but to ease into bento, just use what’s in your fridge already.
To prove my point I challenged myself to make a delicious, healthy bento from my mom’s and step-dad’s fridge, without knowing the contents of that fridge. A little background on my amazing fam: they eat out a lot and although they’re starting to educate themselves on the benefits of whole organic eating, the fridge is still very “classic American.” This means coffee creamer, rotisserie chicken, cream cheese, pre-made Trader Joe’s food, and other items I’d tend to avoid. My mom has a mean smoothie game so I know there will always be salad greens in the fridge, but everything else is kind of unpredictable. When I made this bento, I had not yet gone grocery shopping and had none of my standbys to rely on.
HERE’S WHAT I CAME UP WITH:
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM:
(1) shredded carrots with three raspberries, some little tomatoes, smoked salmon with capers.
(2) spring greens with a hard-boiled egg, topped with balsamic glaze and a greek spice mix.
(3) a folded up “handmade flour tortilla” from Trader Joe’s, which purports to be only 140 calories. I’m clearly skeptical.
The “origins story” (with pictures) after the jump…
I think understanding my approach will be helpful here. When I put together a bento, I always aim to include (1) a complex carb; (2) a protein or a “solid,” like a root vegetable or bean. Something with heft and chew that will help me feel full; (3) veggies. Always tightly packed veggies of any creed or stripe, flavored to the core.
I found the smoked salmon first and knew that would be the cornerstone of the bento. This would be the protein portion, or the “filling non-carb item.” Was I sad that it was from Costco?! Yes, but it’s the principle that counts in this case! I found the jar of capers on the door, so that seemed a good compliment…
There was a little bowl of hard-boiled eggs, so I peeled one and set it on top of the spring greens. The shredded carrots and tomatoes were next, as well as a few little raspberries. The Greek spice mix and TJ’s balsamic glaze were also good finds and went well on top of the egg.
All and all, it wasn’t bad! Definitely not the standard in bento-making, but a great start.
See?! You too can McGyver that shit and come up with something awesome for your lunch hour. Then, once you get used to the “layout,” it’s time to bust out a Japanese cookbook or blog and focus on whole, home-cooked veggie-strong meals.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to hit up the Asian market in SLO. If anyone has any suggestions about especially good websites for Asian staples, please let me know!
OTHER NOTES: As you can probably tell, I am back in California until September for bar study! Luckily, this is the Central Coast of California so any homecoming equates to returning to the Shire after a long journey, sans dragons. After DC, the verdant CA hills, the rolling vineyards, the INSECT LIFE, all feels a bit unreal. I can’t wait to get in the thick of it for the next few weeks before I once more become a library troll.
I’ve been in a really good mood lately. Although I’m not returning for the actual graduation ceremony, it is starting to hit me that, barring some freak paperwork snafu, I essentially have a JD from a top ten law school. Although I’m still job hunting, I have a fellowship secured for the fall in DC and am just feeling lucky to have had this opportunity; also, on a very primal level, I’m just relieved to never have to deal with law school ever again.
Happy Saturday! Let me know if you ate anything amazing this weekend!