My children absolutely love taking snacks to the park and to the site of our future home, in the past we have packed them around in plastic sacks which leak and let our food get smooshed and gross! So when I discovered bento boxes I knew that we had to have one!
So what is a bento ?
a Japanese-style packed lunch, consisting of such items as rice, vegetables, and sashimi (raw fish with condiments)…or you know, whatever you like 😀
These boxes are very sturdy, well made and easy to use! They have 2 food storage compartments/levels and a divider that allows storage for a fork, knife and spoon—which are provided in your box! ( the smaller box only comes with a spoon and fork, however, it comes with a super lovely high quality water bottle. ) I love that these bentos are earth friendly! By using this bento instead of disposable plastic containers and bags I am saving so much waste and that is something I feel good about! Not to mention saves me money!
There are so very many cool food creations that you can create inside of your bento! You can be sure that this bento is very tightly sealed and your beautiful creations will be safe and delicious for you or your kiddos when it’s meal time! This bento is perfect for on the go, the park, work or school! You can literally take it anywhere and can feel safe knowing that your meal isn’t leaking all over the place or getting smooshed! This particular boxes come in a nice variety of colors which is perfect for children! Please check out my videos for a demonstration of these boxes and see what goodies we stored inside! ( Note, I did pronounce the brand name incorrectly in this video…oops! ) I received this bentos to try out and have provided my honest opinion in return.
Bentos can be elaborately arranged in a style called “kyaraben” (“character bento”). Kyaraben are typically decorated to look like popular characters from Japanese cartoons (anime), comic books (manga), or video games. Another popular bento style is “oekakiben” or “picture bento”. This is decorated to look like people, animals, buildings and monuments, or items such as flowers and plants. Contests are often held where bento arrangers compete for the most aesthetically pleasing arrangements.
There are similar forms of boxed lunches in the Philippines (Baon), Korea (Dosirak), Taiwan (Biandang), and India (Tiffin). Also, Hawaiian culture has adopted localized versions of bento featuring local tastes after over a century of Japanese influence in the islands. ( Source Wikipedia )
The history of the bento: The origin of bento can be traced back to the late Kamakura Period (1185 to 1333), when cooked and dried rice called hoshi-ii (糒 or 干し飯, literally “dried meal”) was developed. Hoshi-ii can be eaten as is or boiled with water to make cooked rice, and is stored in a small bag. In the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568 to 1600), wooden lacquered boxes like today’s were produced and bento would be eaten during a hanami or a tea party.
In the Edo Period (1603 to 1867), bento culture spread and became more refined. Travelers and sightseers would carry a simple koshibentō (腰弁当, “waist bento”), consisting of several onigiri wrapped with bamboo leaves or in a woven bamboo box. One of the most popular styles of bento, called makuno-uchi bentō (“between-act bento”), was first made during this period. People who came to see Noh and Kabuki ate specially prepared bentos between maku (acts). Numerous cookbooks were published detailing how to cook, how to pack, and what to prepare for occasions like Hanami and Hinamatsuri.
In the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), the first ekibentō or ekiben (駅弁当 or 駅弁, “train station bento”) was sold. There are several records that claim where ekiben was first sold, but it is believed that it was sold on 16 July 1885, at the Utsunomiya train station, and contained two onigiri and a serving of takuan wrapped in bamboo leaves. As early schools did not provide lunch, students and teachers carried bentos, as did many employees. “European” style bentos with sandwiches also went on sale during this period.
In the Taishō period (1912 to 1926), the aluminum bento box became a luxury item because of its ease of cleaning and its silver-like appearance. Also, a move to abolish the practice of bento in school became a social issue. Disparities in wealth spread during this period, following an export boom during World War I and subsequent crop failures in the Tohoku region. A bento too often reflected a student’s wealth, and many wondered if this had an unfavorable influence on children both physically, from lack of adequate diet, and psychologically, from a clumsily made bento or the richness of food. After World War II, the practice of bringing bentos to school gradually declined and was replaced by uniform food provided for all students and teachers.
Bentos regained popularity in the 1980s, with the help of the microwave oven and the proliferation of convenience stores. In addition, the expensive wood and metal boxes have been replaced at most bento shops with inexpensive, disposable polystyrene boxes. However, even handmade bentos have made a comeback, and they are once again a common, although not universal, sight at Japanese schools. Bentos are still used by workers as a packed lunch, by families on day trips, for school picnics and sports days etc. The bento, made at home, is wrapped in a furoshiki cloth, which acts as both bag and table mat.
The bento made its way to Taiwan in the first half of the 20th century from Japan, and remains very popular to the present day. The Japanese name was borrowed as Bendong (Taiwanese: piān-tong) or Mandarin Biàndang (便當, “convenience pack”).
Airports also offer an analogous version of the ekiben: a bento filled with local cuisine, to be eaten while waiting for an airplane or during the flight. ( Source Wikipedia )
Today many types and styles of bento boxes are available to purchase in the US and the Effiliv bentos are some of the highest quality I have seen! We love ours and are excited to be a part of the super fun bento culture!
Check out all of our photos below of our first bento experience and the second video review of the larger style bento we tried! 🙂