I’ve never been adept at arts or anything crafty. I’m pretty good at cooking though. Every birthday card I’ve received in recent years have included a line or two of appreciation on my self-taught culinary skills. “Thank you Mom for cooking delicious meals. Yum!” It’s a badge of honor I wear proudly.
Some weeks ago while browsing the net, I chanced upon a cute photo of robots cut out from wheat bread and cheese. These were neatly arranged in a lunch container with hotdogs and grapes. Hmmm …. I could do that! After a few calls, I was able to contact Monet Aquino, one of five enterprising women behind the group Bento Mommas. By week’s end , my friend Marie and I had enrolled in our first bento making class.
So there we were, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, seated on a long table at the very front of the class. We were each handed a bag with the basic tools to be used in the workshop,. To start off, Monet explained that in Japan bento means box while in the Philippines it means “baon”. She furher testified that her group became bento enthusiasts not only because the meals were fun to make but also because their creations proved to be a hit among their little picky eaters.
We eagerly dove into our first task— carving an apple. With our small knives, the instructor told us to make light horizontal and vertical lines on the skin of our fruits. Then she showed us how to carefully lift alternating squares to make a checkered design on the apples. Good that I made big squares! I was done in a jiffy!
Then, it was time to roll some rice logs and decorate them to make farm animals. It was like being in kindergarten class again while we happily worked our rice like clay. After an hour or so, we were done with our Old Mc Donald themed bento boxes.
Whereas, the first project built my confidence as a novice bento (baon) maker, the next one proved to be quite the challenge. Making perfect mounds of rice and covering them with nori (dried seaweed) to make the head, torso, hands and feet of the bear takes time and skill. Designing the face was also quite tricky. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard comments like , “Nakaka-pressure!” and “Mine looks like a deranged Mickey Mouse!” I made several trips to the teacher’s table to make sure I was on the right track. It took another hour or so to finally finish the job.
The idea behind bento making is not only to make creative snacks and lunches but also to serve nutritious food. In preparing the meals, it is best to include items from the Go (bread, rice, pasta), Grow (chicken, fish, meat) and Glow (fruits and vegetables) food groups. The main goal is to make food exciting and enticing in order to get the kids to eat healthy fares.
Making the actual bento does take a lot of time. A weekly plan with individual daily illustrations of the meals would certainly be helpful. You can also prepare some items the day before. Lastly you can attach written notes like “Happy Eating!” or “Surprise Sweetie!” to make the meals even more personal.
I showed my day’s handiwork to my children as soon as I got home. My 12 year old son looked at it suspiciously (sigh) while my 4 year old said excitedly, “Can I bring it to school, Mom? I want to show my classmates!” By their expressions alone, I can tell that it will be my daughter who I will be preparing themed meals for. I’m now officially a Bento Momma!
For more information and ideas on bento making , you can check out the Facebook page of Bento mommas and their IG and Twitter accounts @thebentomommas.
Follow me on Twitter, IG and Facebook. This story also in http://www.mb.com.ph/bento-meals-spell-f-u-n/