Andrew’s world in Japan 2019/August

Artist & researcher based in KL since 2009, passionately exploring the creative process & connecting with other creative people.

An Edible Masterpiece
Ode To Lunchboxes

Dinner used to be lunch, but now, well, it’s lunch. We are all well aware, times change, the world changes. Technology, from language and fire to cloth and plastics, alters the world around us, and how we protect and transport our meals has changed too. Growing up in the United States, there was a good handful of years that saw working husbands and students relied on specialized lunchboxes to secure their nutrition. While the use of the western lunchbox faded away, the Japanese equivalent thrives in the bento box.

Please step into the world of packed foods. Are you as excited as I am every time I walk into the bentō-ya to grab the Mona Lisa of midday meals? What the golden ratio is to art, the bento box is to lunch. My childhood lunchbox does not hold a candle to this.

Classic bento is a perfect portioning of deliciousness encased in elegant handcrafted lacquerware or metal. The necessary nutrients to fill your tummy are conveniently together but separate. This is an eye-catching arrangement of rice or noodles, fish and veggies. Divided into sections, bento’s traditional simplicity reaches the poetic levels of a haiku. Their beginnings were exclusively a royal affair. Today mothers and wives are still stressing out to write this perfect food haiku for their loved ones.

Today, it is easy access to a convenient meal from a wide array of stores. Your standard convenience store like Lawson’s or 7Eleven carries hot and cold, traditional and westernized for the busy salaryman, student or traveler on the go. These are made fresh daily and are relatively cheap and easy to consume. As prolific as they are now, it is difficult to believe that following the economic downturn after WWII, bento lost its appeal.

Please join me as we explore a favorite Japanese food culture highlight. I find it amazing how detailed people can be about how they eat.