Bento teasing?

sad_onigiri.pngYou’ve assembled a colorful, nutritious and cute bento box. You can’t wait for lunch time. You open it up and… you attract a crowd of classmates or coworkers, curious about your lunch.

Has this happened to you? It certainly has to me. At first it did bother me, especially if I packed a bentos or an onigiri picnic basket for a train trip. It’s amazing how strong soy sauce and nori seem to smell in an enclosed train compartment! Swiss people are generally polite and reserved, so rarely do they out and out stare - though on a couple of occasions I’ve had an old lady enthusiastically point at my bento, asking this or that. But, these days I don’t mind it at all. Well maybe a little bit, but not much. And people who know me, or The Guy when he takes bentos on the road, are used to our unique lunch boxes, and perhaps even a bit envious! (The sandwiches sold in the train are expensive and pretty sad…)

But what if it’s your kid’s bento lunch getting all that attention? I don’t have kids of my own, and my niece and nephew live in Japan where their bentos attract no undue attention of course. But I’ve been reading on some blogs by some Japanese moms living in other countries, about their kids’s cute, carefully assembled bentos attracting too much, sometimes unwelcome, attention. Some kids even ask their moms to stop making Japanese style lunches, and stick to plain, non-attention grabbing sandwiches and such. One little boy was teased by a schoolmate who said his onigiri looked like poo (because it was covered with nori, presumably). Another little girl was bullied by older kids. Kids can be cruel, for sure.

I also remember reading some time ago on a blog (I wish I’d kept the link, but I can’t find it anymore) about a girl in her late teens, who had a Japanese mother who would make her beautiful bento lunches every day when she was in elementary school somewhere in the U.S. In her case it wasn’t her classmates who made her feel conspicuous, but her teacher. Every day, the teacher would insist on drawing attention to her bento, pointing out how beautiful it was, how exotic, and so on. The girl in question remembers hating that unwanted attention. I was a rather shy kid growing up myself, and I know that I drew attention anyway (I was the only Asian at the school I attended for several years in England for instance) so the last thing I would have wanted was that kind of attention placed on me. I remember one time when we had a school picnic. My mother made me some onigiri with tarako, my favorite filling then, and some chicken karaage. But when it was lunchtime, I was so shy about eating my onigiri in front of the other kids that I pretended that I’d forgotten part of my lunch, and just ate the karaage. (Fried chicken after all is fried chicken.) By the time I got home, the poor onigiri were smooshed flat. I threw them away quietly, burying them at the bottom of the kitchen garbage can. (If my mom is reading this, now she knows…)

I hope that kids these days have been exposed a lot more to ‘exotic’ food and are more accepting, though the stories from those Japanese mothers say otherwise. Or are their stories the exceptions?

How do you feel about this, especially if you have kids? Do your kids like bring exotic (as in, not the plain sandwich-and-bag-of-chips/crisps lunch) lunches? Have they been teased - and if so, how did you, and your kids, deal with it? It doesn’t have to be just Japanese-style bentos either - what if you pack a Mr. Bento full of fragrant curry or soup, and so on?

(See also: Embarassed by bento lunches? discussion on the flickr bento boxes group.)

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Bento and Kids

When I was in high school a Japanese girl in my school used to trade her bento lunch for my ‘American’ lunches. She was tired of Japanese food and I loved it! This was almost 20 years ago in New York and no one ever teased about it. In fact, most of my friends were curious and even jealous. But then, in NYC, everyone is probably a bit more worldly….

Now in London, tentatively making my own bentos, I do tend to get attention from people at work, but again, it’s usually jealousy which makes me feel pretty good about my lunch, which I usually feel pretty good about already! I’ve managed to inspire two other people to try them out so I think that’s pretty cool.

Dunno about more worldly in NYC

Maybe it’s the Jersey people! just kidding - but I work in Manhattan (commute from Queens), and there are people at work who are just fascinated and stare to the point of rudeness at my lunches. I mean, it’s one thing if they say “Oh, cute box/lunch” and keep eating. Even if they were like “What’s in it?” that’s fine. But when they just won’t stop staring and some people have thought it appropriate to sit there and talk about my lunch the entire time (people I don’t know)… well, I get uncomfortable. I also don’t like people staring at what I’m eating in general, because I sometimes eat (even before bento) stuff that’s off the beaten path. I guess I’m food-shy.

Re: Bento and Kids

i go to a college in london and its pretty mixed, a few kids (the ones who are educated) normally ignore the fact that i have bento, one or two even praise me for my handy work cause im only 18 and can cook. a large group though poke fun in a rather retarded way, namely native Britons (trying not to discriminate though this is only anecdotal) i was once asked "what the hell is that, thats well weird" (i just sat and stared) an asian friend of mine replied for me "they're yellow peppers... you get them in super markets... seriously, what the hell?"

Re: Bento and Kids

I love the response about the yellow peppers :D

I know people can be rude and ignorant...just ignore them and enjoy your bentos! They are probably just jealous anyway :)

Re: Bento and Kids

Trying not to discrimate? I think you did, not all BritISH people are uneducated and rude btw.

I often get comments at work

I often get comments at work about the lunches I pack - usually along the lines of, ‘wow, that smells good!’ or ‘ooh, what does Marla have for lunch today?’. I had one co-worker comment that she always was curious about what I had to eat since I always brought such interesting and different things each day.

I did, however, hear a call into a radio program I listen to from a mother asking for advice about a bento-related situation with her daughter. She was in the habit of packing a bento lunch for her daughter - and according to the mother, the daughter was especially fond packing her lunch in an extremely attractive or cute way. A little boy at her daughter’s class would often single out the daughter and her lunchbox during lunch, throwing it, tossing it, etc. The mother said she had asked her daughter to stop making her bento look so nice so she wouldnt’ be singled out! (The talk-show host actually ended up telling the mother to have her daughter stand up to the bully instead).

I’m a college student, so

I’m a college student, so I don’t have kids of my own yet. Speaking for myself, my obento are the envy of my friends! I even get requests to make obento for them. I can imagine it could be hard for little kids though. As you say maki kids can be cruel ;_; (that crying onigiri is so adorabe by the way….!)

Attention paid to bentos

Part of the fun of making bentos for my husband (a professor at the college) is the stories of the attention he gets! Apparently people come over to look when they see he’s brought a lunch (I don’t always have time to make them, depending on my own work schedule ). Some of his colleagues are rather envious that he’s getting such “artsy” lunches (O.K., sometimes I go a little overboard), his students, especially the Japanese ladies, apparently, think they’re cute (kawaii!) . It also seems that the fact I’m taking the time to make them for him has stamped him as “happily-married”, which I think he appreciates :o).

My 2nd-grade aged daughter has a little Pikachu-face bento box that I send when the hot lunch doesn’t interest her. I like to copy the placement of his eyes and red cheeks with items such as olives and cherry-tomatoes, which she thinks is really funny when she takes off the lid, and shows off to all of her friends. A number of her friends are a bit more adventurous eaters and a couple times she’s ended up hungry because they all want a taste (the eel sushi I’ve sent a couple of times is apparently a huge hit, so I always pack a couple extra little ones for her to trade). My girl’s pretty outgoing, so I think that she presents her unusual lunch as a positive thing, and her friends follow her lead.

On the other hand, I looked a long time for a bento box that my boy would be comfortable bringing to school. It wasn’t so much the food as the box itself that gave him pause. Most of those available are either girly-cute or boring in the eyes of a 5th-grade boy. I wonder why there aren’t more boy-oriented boxes available. Does anyone know of any boy-friendly boxes that aren’t Pokemon (my guy, happily, has finally passed the Pokemon stage!).

Kathy

I completely understand!

I completely understand! Though I didn’t have bento in grade school, my mom often packed me chinese food. Back then people didn’t really know what fried rice was, or bao zi (meat buns) or dumplings were. One of my friends back in elementary school who went to a different school had bao zi one day and his friends asked him to sit farther away from them because they said it smelled! I think kids can be such ignorant balls of snot. There’s always this need to insult or make fun of someone else to make themselves feel better, and while this is perhaps something that all kids go through to mask their own insecurities, you’re right that mothers really need to teach children more about different cultures and acceptance. I loved my mom’s cooking and I’d rather have that than their sad (and not to mention quite unhealthy) white bread bologna sandwiches any day. When i’m a mother I will be sure to culture my child too.

bento boxes for males -- to Kathy

Kathy, I have been looking for a bento box for my boyfriend recently too. I think these two from Jbox are perfect for males. There’s a dark blue 2 teired one: http://jbox.com/IMAGE/5prue, and a wooden one with kanji on it: http://jbox.com/IMAGE/ij4l2. My favorite is the wooden one. Perhaps your son would find these more packable as well :).

bento boxes for boys

Hi Kathy, You can also just use a “Lock and Lock” box or other plain food storage box. Not stand-out as a bento box but still quite usuable. I use the Lock and Lock brand as well as specialized bento boxes for my lunches, depending on what I am going to eat.

Growing up in Seattle area,

Growing up in Seattle area, we have a huge Asian population and we loved finding new things at our Safeway and trying to see if we could use them. Of course, not having any recipes, it normally turned out pretty funny. But it was still a really fun thing. Sometimes “odd” things would make it into our lunches, like pocky sticks or hum bao or something- looking back, they are laughably unexotic, but my friends always thought it was neat to find out what they were. Of course, I never had a LOT of friends, so there weren’t too many people to tease :) I think it got just about as much attention as a hostess product did- we didn’t see many of those, either! :o)

my son has his bento at play

my son has his bento at play group (preschool type place- age 3-4) and he loves it but i think once he’s at school ill stop making them so cute- firstly because in school there arent just little children there are children as old as 7 there, and secondly i dont think i could make his cute bento 5 days a week- it’d exhaust me! I’ll pack him a healthy lunch presented well (with all the things ive learnt making bentos) but i dont think there will be ‘dora the explorer’ sushi or quail egg chicks everyday!

I am a teacher in Berkeley,

I am a teacher in Berkeley, CA, and thankfully around here, kids with bentos are the envy of the lunchtime crowd. But I wanted to recommend this excellent childrens’ book, Yoko, by Rosemary Wells, which deals thoughtfully with this exact issue. Thanks for your lovely blog!

http://www.amazon.com/Yoko-Rosemary-Wells/dp/0786803959/ref=pdbbssr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208288171&sr=8-1

I’ve been making bento

I’ve been making bento Lunches for my 3 year old for a few months now. He only has lunch at pre-school once a week, so I can take the time to prepare it and make it look cute (usually, unless i forget what day of the week it is… which has happened more than once.)

He’s sat next to me having his bedtime story read to him, and between stories I asked him about having Bento’s at school.

Apparantly he likes showing his teacher his lunch, and responded negativly when asked about whether other kids pick on him because they’re different.

I live in a very boring area regarding food, I was only able to start buying nori as part of our regular shopping a ferw months ago, so they’re still rather new for him. He goes to a tiny village school, so I don’t know how it’ll be when he is older due to not having anyone as comparison!

Hopefully he’ll keep being happy with them, but if he asks me to stop I probably will (if the reasons why cannot be rectified!)

Back in the day when my

Back in the day when my mother packed me a lunch (she stopped when I started high school) I felt embarrassed when my mom packed me something Chinese. I wanted to be like the other kids who brought pb&j to school for lunch. I didn’t want to be like the other Chinese kids who brought their thermoses of rice. The only thing I was ok with was the shrimp maki my mom makes. Now when I look back on the way I thought, I realized that I was being really silly. But when you’re a kid, you think differently, you care about what the other kids thought of you. Some adults still care enough about what others think about them to change themselves.

I had Thermoses of fried rice too!

But there were no other Chinese kids in my class, so I didn’t realize that was a very Asian thing. I also brought spaghetti in my Thermos sometimes. I like sandwiches too… My mom made me “carpet” sandwiches sometimes - dried pork “sung” - the other kids asked me if I was eating carpet. I didn’t hate it that much, I actually laughed and told them yes for all I know it was carpet because our carpet at home was the same color but it tasted good so I was going to eat it anyway (still my attitude about food actually, if it tastes good, I’ll eat it).
I admit it does annoy me as an adult to have people staring at my food, but I deal with it as calmly as possible (although once a child came over and poked my lunch, I almost lost it, I had to remind myself he’s a child and try to ignore the fact that that means he might not have washed his hands recently). And I won’t let it change my eating habits :)

It did happened to my son.

Hi Maki-san How are you? I have 5 children. 4 of them go to primary school together. One of my sons took bento to school few months ago. He is just 5 years old. I made a PINGU bento for him. He was so happy to take it. But one of the older girls in school teased him at lunch time. She said to him that Pingu looks like POOOOOOO! She has never seen nori . She came from the same country with my husband from morocco. My mother in law was also surprised when she saw I was eating nori. I do understand that lot of country has a culture they don’t like to try foods from different countries. But that girl shouldn’t tease the little boy./;o;\

yasminehafssa-san's blog

thank you for commenting yasminehafssa san :) (kokoha eigo de..) yasminehafssa-san’s blog post about her son and Pingu was one of the Japanese blog posts that triggered this article actually. Teasing is really bad indeed :( I hope you and your son can deal with it in a good way!

No More Bentos, Mom

My US first-grader was thrilled when I started making him bento lunches. No mega-cuteness, but cool containers and interesting foods (rice, noodles, finger foods). It took about 2 weeks before he told me that there was too much teasing about his food and wanted to go back to a regular lunch. Sigh. He still loves a specially prepared bento for weekends or park visits.

my hubby hid his bento

when my husband first immigrated to wisconsin, and attended elementary school, he felt out of place learning a new language, customs, habits, etc… upon realizing his bento’s different from other children’s lunchbox, he would eat the onigiris his mom lovingly made in the bathroom stalls :)

children typically hasn’t discovered their self-identity, thus, simply want to blend in with groups. it’s funny how the same kids usually turn into young adults who strive to be different, whether it’s being ahead in fashion, knowledge, trend, etc…

When I was young

in the late 50s early 60s NO one had bento lunches in my school and yes we’d get teased for having anything different. I remember one time packing rice balls for lunch and salmon roe (my favortie even then) and sadly throwing them away before lunch because I realized that it would not fly. I hated being teased.

When my daughter was in gymnastics, the girls on her team were uniformly from the suburbs and really didn’t know much about food beyond pizza or mac n cheese in a box. She made sure that she didn’t bring anything too different. But she couldn’t help herself because we have eclectice taste in our family. So although she didn’t bring onigiri she’d bring ham and brie sandwhiches. :o)

Now in college in the mid west she proudly makes rice balls and brings them to fencing to share. She has her supply of asian foods in her dorm for when the cafeteria just isn’t going to do.

I think that kids still get teased but people are generally more globally conscious and sophisticated. I think the teasing is just power and politics of the playground not really about food at all.

Maki, I love your blogs Hungry and Bento! They are so informative and interesting. Thanks so much for writing!

For a long time I was the

For a long time I was the only Asian kid in my class. There was maybe one or two other Asians in my school but we were always in different classes. Anyway, I remember being in grade school, in the early grades (1-2) and my parents would always pack me leftovers, which consisted of rice and some kind of meat and vegetable component. It was definitely not a typical Western-style sandwich with veggies and dip. For a long time this bothered me, not because I was outed by the other kids in my class, but because I wanted to be like everyone else with their peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Eventually I made a friend who was so fascinated by my “exotic” lunches that we traded lunches a few times a week. She’d give me her sandwich and I’d give her my Asian leftovers. It probably wasn’t until high school when I was given sandwiches for lunch at school and I think that’s only because with two older teenage brothers, there weren’t always leftovers to be had. Oh and I had my first peanut butter and jam sandwich when I was 16!

So…having said that, I can definitely identify with children who didn’t receive the norm for lunch but I don’t think it ever truly bothered me—not enough to tell my parents to give me sandwiches anyway. And I’ve found that my parents’ decision to feed me the food they did (food that everyone else thought was exotic), expanded my palette and I now lots of food from all kinds of cultures that others my age don’t typically enjoy.

American lunches, but ....

in grade school, I got teased for having HOME-MADE COOKIES, as my mother did not believe in store-bought convenience food. They’d all be like, “I have Oreos but you just have homeMADE cookies! Your mom won’t BUY you cookies!”

(Oh, teh noes! Home-made chocolate chip M&M cookies could never stand up to Oreos!)

Which is to say kids are kinda stupid like that. :)

My bento (in central Illinois, not a big Asian population down here) doesn’t actually draw that much attention because a lot of the other professors bring tupperware lunches; they just think my “tupperware” is cooler and sometimes want to know where I got my neat accessories. (My husband, who gets to take my Bento on Tuesdays, gets a little teasing at his office, but it’s mostly jealous and good-natured teasing.) I have several friends whose kids take laptop lunchboxes to school, and the magic words are “no waste” — 5-year-olds know the importance of not making too much garbage! My friends’ kids just brag, “Well MY lunch doesn’t have any garbage in it. YOU have plastic baggies and those are bad!”

As for food, when I bring something Japanese (usually from a recipe I got from here!), both my colleagues and my students want to know what it is and how to make it! People are just more sophisticated and international about food these days; I know grade schoolers who eat things (coughsushicough) I’m too chicken to try!

“People are just more

“People are just more sophisticated and international about food these days; I know grade schoolers who eat things (coughsushicough) I’m too chicken to try!”

Totally reminded me of my 12 year old nephew. He LOVES sashimi & sushi while I just can’t stand the thought of eating uncooked meat.

My daughter loves them

My 10 year old daughter loves her bento-style lunches. Granted I do not go all out ala Kyaben, but I do use actual Japanese kids bento boxes and laptop lunch boxes. Let’s just say, she eats much better then her classmates. And I am happy because I get to reuse our leftovers too in an economical way. Even my husband takes bento style dinners to work sometimes. The only comments we have heard are wow that is cool and where do you get lunch boxes like that. My daughter does not feel singled out in a bad way, even though the kids do notice her colorful lunches. She used to be a very picky eater and bentos have helped immensely in transforming her attitude towards food. The food is presented in a beautiful portion controlled manner, so in our house we love them. I have always admired the Japanese for putting so much emphasis on aesthetics, furthermore they are very healthy as a people in general which in my opinion has a lot to do with lifestyle and diet. When I look at childhood obesity rates here in the US I think a lot of kids would benefit from lunches prepared bento style. Preparing bentos forces me to focus on the food I am preparing and I personally find it very relaxing and take pride in the fact I am feeding my family better food.

I do my best

I often find myself the only Asian minority at many of the schools I’ve taught at, so I always try and interject some cultural diversity into any lessons or “teachable moments” in class. I’ve found that the children are generally curious and accepting of new foods and have on occasion shared a tidbit or two with a curious student. Once, I even threw a cultural “feast” when it aligned with a particular story we were studying…the durian I brought in was a huge surprise to the kids, many of which have never even tasted a fresh pineapple before.

If I ever feel uncomfortable, it’s usually because of my co-workers. Most are polite, though I feel their stares in the lounge area where we go to eat our meals. Some openly point, inquire, and then wrinkle their noses at the mere mention of something as innoculous as seaweed. I am kind enough not to point out that seaweed, in its many forms, is found in many of the more common food items they eat everyday. For the most part I simply ignore, do a little show and tell whenever someone politely asks and try to look and act as comfortable as possible. There are a few students at the school who are Hispanic, Indian, and from Pacific island countries, and I try my best to encourage them by example to be comfortable displaying and sharing their culture with their classmates. I only wish someone had done the same when I was a child. Things are definitely easier in that one respect now than they were growing up in the 80’s. My mother wouldn’t dare let me take kimchee to school with me for fear the smell would offend the other students.

Reverse snobbery

I work for a Japanese company in the United States with mostly female Japanese employees. Bento style lunches are the norm for them. Most of them are great people, but sometimes, if I buy or bring a lunch that is Mexican, Korean, or fast food, I will get comments on how huge the lunch is or snide like “Wa, sore wa Amerika-jin, no lanchi da na”(giggle)=Wow, that’s an American’s lunch. (giggle).

I reply in kind “Matta, kare desu ka, XXX-san?”=Oh, you’re having curry again, XXX-san?

Hopefully not ...

Hm, this is something I hadn’t thought of before, yet I could see this happening to my kids when they’re a little older (not that the bentos I make them are works of art or anything close). My hope is that the school we choose ends up being the kind of place where their lunches are envied - I want them to be the kids that other kids want to trade with. :)

But am I being foolishly optimistic? I think the best I can say right now is that as my kids get older, I will remember to be sensitive to their feelings and aware of how mean other kids can be. If they want a “normal” lunch, that’s fine. My boys are 3 and 1 right now, so kindergarten isn’t for another two years. At their preschool, their lunches are anomalous but not attention-getting and in fact, my oldest just asked me if he can forego all school lunches and bring lunch from home every day!

This is exactly how I felt

This is exactly how I felt in my early teens. Except that I’m from Singapore and “exotic” food in schools there is quiche. I’m ethnically Chinese but have been lucky enough to be exposed to all kinds of food from a young age. I remember getting asked plenty of questions about my lunch, even if it was just a simple sandwich. My classmates had never seen hummus, mozzerella or pesto before.

I remember a boy looking in disgust at my balsamic dressing once, asking me what that “black stuff” on my salad was. People would literally crowd around me as I ate. I was, and still am painfully shy so this made me feel very uncomfortabe. But I always thought it was my problem. I was just to timid and introverted. After all, for the most part, my classmates were just curious. Even when they were put off by the foriegness of my lunches, they were polite about it.

Thanks for writing about this.

Thank you for all of your

Thank you for all of your very thoughtful comments! I’m glad I talked about this. I guess the most important thing is the bento owner’s attitude towards the attention their bento attracts, whether the owner is an adult or a child. Of course, the ideal situation is where bentos become so ubiquitous that no one thinks they are so unusual :)

I guess I’m pretty lucky

I guess I’m pretty lucky because I work in a very diverse office - one of the cool things about living in Sydney - so most of my coworkers are bringing Indian or Filipino or Chinese food (or what have you) for lunch. If I bring bento, people are still more interested in my American accent than anything else!

Not exactly a Bento story....

When I was in High School, we had an International Food day and we were supposed to bring an international food to class to share with our classmates. I asked my Mom to make one of my favorites—sushi!! She makes it with cooked vegetables which I like, no raw fish which I don’t like. But everyone in my class declared the sushi was disgusting without even trying it. They all said they didn’t care if there was no raw fish, sushi was by definition disgusting. I ate the whole plate myself, but I felt sad for all the other students who weren’t even willing to try something different. I never told my Mom that I had to eat the whole plate of sushi by myself.

Thankfully, my daughter is

Thankfully, my daughter is one of those children who soaks up attention like that. She’s been bringing bento to school on and off for quite a few years. Now that she’s in high school, she gathers a small crowd around her when the bento comes out, so I’ve learned to pack a little more than I know she herself will eat, because she loves encouraging people to try something different.

She still can’t get over the fact that there are kids in their teens who haven’t tried something beyond typical meat and potatoes fare and I think she considers it almost her duty to expand their horizons!

Cute Onigiri

Hi Maki,

When I was in Junior I attended a North American public school where I was the minority even more because I am not full Asian. My mother would pack a mixture of Chinese and Japanese Lunches for my brother and I. The smells would attract unwanted attention as well as the presentation. Eventually I noticed she stopped making lunch for my brother but continued to make lunch for me once or twice a week.

Even at that age I loved to eat, so I did not care much for the undesirable attention. Now I look forward to starting my own family -living in Uruguay where I am really a minority- but I’ll have to watch what I prepare for them.

Reading the comments on this particular post was rather nice. Thanks.

Ciao, O

I’m in college in the UK

I’m in college in the UK and I sometimes make bento to take with me on field trips - I’m glad to say that all the comments I’ve received have been positive, to the point where I got asked whether I could teach my classmates how to make sushi! I’ve also introduced some of my dorm-mates to miso, soba, green tea and onigiri, and they’ve generally been well received - I was surprised to find that many of them had never tried these before [and had their misgivings until they’d had a taste], because I was brought up to have an adventurous outlook regarding food, and thus am quite happy to experiment. It’s a pity that lots of people never try foods from different cultures because of fear - they’re missing out on so much!

I get attention every day at

I get attention every day at work since I started packing Bento. Everyone wants to see what I have and how I packed it (and sometimes even what box I used, especially if it’s a new box). Sometimes this gets a little annoying, but I generally don’t mind because I get tons of compliments, even though my lunches aren’t always cute or attractive. “It’s just lunch!” I tell them. One of my co-workers keeps threatening me to give me money to make lunch for HER!

I remember when I was working as a teacher’s aide in a 2nd grade classroom, there were some Cambodian kids in the class, and they would bring “ethnic” foods (don’t know how else to call it) every day for lunch. They weren’t really elaborate bento, but sometimes it drew attention if the smells were strong. The teacher didn’t really draw much attention to it, but she did remark that people around the world eat all kinds of food for lunch, and the next month, we had a “food around the world” unit. And the mother of the kids even came in and made lunch for everyone, and all the kids helped. Most surprisingly, NO ONE turned the food down. Which is really unusual for 2nd graders, let me tell you. ;)

I think that if more kids are introduced to international food, and shown the common bases for most dishes (like, everyone in the world uses rice at some time), there’ll be less chance of the teasing.

Personally, if I saw someone with a bento at school, I would have been like, “wow, your mom is awesome to make such a pretty lunch!” as I ate my peanut butter sandwich. My mom was pretty unimaginative. :) I’m hoping that my kids will enjoy it when I pack them bento.

in Portugal most kids eat in

in Portugal most kids eat in caffeteria, including asian kids, but those who do bring lunches are usually considered lucky because they have foods they like, in school there’s just one dish each day unless the parents say ‘he can’t eat this, he’s sick, he is vegetarian, etc’. and the prettier and better smelling lunches had the most attention, wich we loved cuz we could get to trade lunch with anyone we’d like.

now in university my schedulle is a biii-aaatch and I can only eat in the caffeteria 2 days, so I absolutely have to bring home made lunches. most people just say ‘so cute, she brought a lunch!’ and some people I don’t even know came to me and asked if they could try a bit of my lunch

my lunches are just plain and simple, but everyone that eats a sandwich for lunch starts wondering if they shouldn’t start eating better food, so my lunches do serve a little purpose (:

loved to read your stories everyone, it will help me someday when my little brother grows and when I eventually have kids of my own ^^

bento fun

I make bentos occasionally for breakfast and lunch to bring with me to work. Here I get lots of compliments and people seem impressed that i put time and thought into my lunches. When my fiancee takes his with him he gets teased sometimes over the bento boxes themselves but good natured. The others are jealous of him and say how lucky he is to have a woman that makes such nice things for him. (makes me very happy)

I also made some for my family when they came to visit giving each their own box as a gift. Now my mother and my two sisters use theirs all the time. My youngest sister takes them to highschool and all her friends comment how cute her lunches are (she makes her own bentos). My mom finds them handy for late night acting jobs where she’ll be hungry in between, and my other sister works at a big amusement park so saves money by not eating the junk food from the stalls. Hopefully since I’m planning to home-school my children in their younger years they will have more confidence in themselves by time they get old enough and are at public schools, and will be proud of their lunches instead of embarrassed.

DD's Kindergarten Bento

When I started packing bento earlier this year as a way to make lunch more fun and healthyful, I also purchased one (pink, of course) for my DD. She loves hers and loves the attention she gets. Of course, she has had days when she wants her “Princess” lunch box instead.

She has never been one for sandwiches, though. I’m no expert, but I don’t think many 5 year olds in our area ask for red bell pepper strips, kalamata olives, and broccoli in their lunch. The food has been bento-like, just not the transport.

She still tries to wear me down at the grocery to buy her a “LunchAble.” UGH! I’m holding a firm NO on that one!

12-year-old loves it

My daughter loves her bento. But she is very comfortable with lots of attention and likes that this distinguishes her from the other kids . She has gotten teased and she blows it off. Most of the other kids (and teachers) are fascinated and want to see her lunch every day. She goes to an International Baccalaureate school, although there is not a big racial mix of kids, unfortunately. But they do seem to be somewhat open minded.

My fourth grade daughter

My fourth grade daughter loves her bento! Her friends are always wondering what she’ll have for lunch and I have to pack extra because they’re always wanting to try what she has. One little boy thought her hoisin sauce and her onigiri looked gross and teased her quite badly. She just rolled her eyes at him and explained that hoisin rocked and so did the furikake she had in her onigiri and he needed to put a sock in it. Yup. She’s definitely mine!

I’m very proud of the fact that she has such an “international” palate! I didn’t try anything that wasn’t American,Dutch, English or Scottish until I got to college and then I decided I needed to try as much as possible. I’m glad we’ve taught her the same thing.

I used to take bento to work

I used to take bento to work (uh, before I quit!) and pretty much everyone in the building knew I brought my lunch and always had all these “weird” foods. They were all sort of interested/amazed at the things I had, or the time I put into it. On one food day, I actually packed up a jyubako box full of inari-zushi and edamame, and everybody loved it. I think it’s just fun to share things, and I’ve never really been embarrassed by having something different.

Proud of it

I often make a bento for me in the morning to take it to work or school… of course everyone stares at me when i eat my onigiri, it isn’t realy comon here in swizerland. but i think the best reaction you can make is to be just proud of it like i am. cause often the people are just curious and don’t know how to react and start teasing. I love my betos and yesterday, I made your fabulous carrot rice… all my friends wantet to try… i felt realy proud about that and i felt realy happy And my coleague at work is absolutely onigiri and Nikuman addictet, i always take some for her when i make them. I would never want to live without my bentos again!

I havent got a real bentobox yet, but i think there wont be that much time till my dad has to go to buisnesstrip to japan again, he’s there at minimum 3 tines a year… and next time he promised my to buy me 2or 3 cute ones… o^.^o cant wait

kimchee ...

Someone mentioned upthread her mom not wanting to pack kimchee b/c of the smell … in the 80s I went to grade school in a town where between 1/4 and 1/3 of my classmates were Asian (primarily Korean), because a couple of the Korean banks owned houses in the town for the folks they sent over on multi-year assignments, and that drove development of Korean grocery stores, which led permanent immigrants to settle there, etc.

Anyhoo, I LOVED kimchee! At first I was like “dude, that smells funny” but once I tried it, I was like “Want half my home-made giant cinnamon role for a bite of your kimchee?” I still go out of my way to get home-made kimchee (and when I’ve tried, mine is just never as good as my friends’ moms used to make).

The other side effect of this was that I could use chopsticks by the time I was 10, which I thought was a sort-of normal life-skill that everybody eventually learns (my friends would have me over for dinner and hiss, “Don’t be embarrassing and ask for a fork!”) … only to discover later that now I’m 30 and I STILL have peers who are just astounded I can use chopsticks.

In retrospect I realize the reason my friends were eager for me to use chopsticks and eat Korean food without complaint was that a lot of the moms in particular, who were mostly at-home parents with little English, were very anxious about the new American influences on their children. (And we were in the midwest, not somewhere like San Fransisco with a large Asian community. There was a Korean community, but it was small, and new, and mostly connected through Korean-language churches.) Since they had little English and didn’t work outside the home, they themselves didn’t know much about these influences, which surely was even MORE anxiety-inducing. Having a “white” friend come over, take shoes off at the door, and eat Korean food with good chopstick skills was a way my friends would reassure their moms that we pizza-and-burger folks weren’t TOTALLY foreign creatures and it was probably okay if they did “American” things with us.

similiar experience

Your comment about expecting everyone to know how to use chopsticks reminded me of my childhood. My father was in the army and was often posted to southeast asia. I was using chopsticks from day one. And eating exotic foods like kimchee all my life. I didn’t find out till high school that what I called home cooking, everyone else called “What’s that?!” LOL

My mother was from Illinois, but to please my father (also from Illinois) she learned to cook many asian dishes and even created her own. Her duck is to die for! But we also ate traditional dishes from her side of the family and my father’s side of the family. In other words, German, Italian, Mexican and Polish food as well as good old meat and potatos. For me egg rolls were just another side dish that went equally well with noodles and sauce or rib eye steak. And Kimchee was on the table more often than not.

I don’t like all “exotic” foods (No raw fish or steak tartar for me), but I try to live by my mother’s words to me at the dinner table: “Don’t you tell me you won’t eat what I have slaved in the kitchen all day to cook for you until you’ve at least tried it!!”LOL

Even now when I shop in my local Japanese grocery stores, I always pick up something I don’t recognize. Either a new drink I’ve never tried or a bottle of sauce I don’t know what to do with, or a bento with things in it I don’t recognize.. The ingredients I take home and experiment with. I’ve discovered lots of great new foods this way.

I’ve never understood why more people aren’t willing to try new things. As someone else has mentioned almost everyone eats the same things, just prepared in different ways.

That stinks =(

I know! I’ve heard of kids teasing other kids bentos =( So sad! Can’t they just respect what your kid’s gonna eat? Gawd. Especially if it’s carefully prepared with cuteness and love.

sad, but it does happen

My oldest is a 7 year old boy and we’re lucky enough to be living in an area with a fair number of international students. We’re not Asian and I don’t do the cute stuff, but my kids do take bento into school daily. My oldest has had some ribbing about it, but he likes the food so much better that he just sort of shrugs it off. A quote from him: “Some of the other kids laugh at my lunch sometimes, but that’s really stupid of them. I’m eating good healthy food and I’m ready for the rest of the day. What they’re eating isn’t good for them anyway.” My youngest (4 years old) has a couple other kids in his class with the laptop lunch boxes and a couple more that I suspect bento on the days they don’t buy, and I think that helps.

When my mom was in grade

When my mom was in grade school (in Alabama and Oklahoma… her dad was in the Army) her family was kind of poor so her Japanese mother would pack onigiri and such for lunch. My mom would tell me that she would be absolutely horrified to find that in her lunch and would just not eat on those days rather than pull out “rice balls”. She wished she could just have a bologna or PB&J sandwich like all the other kids! Needless to say, my mom never packed me any sort of Japanese food in my lunch (which was disappointing for me when we lived in Hawaii for a few years, where bento is very popular and actually envied by anyone who was not lucky enough to have one during a field trip).

As I’ve gotten older I’ve started craving Japanese food more and more, and frequently pack myself bento to take to work. I have to be careful what containers I use and what food I pack though - my coworkers are definitely not amused when I bring in curry or my kim chee fried rice and heat it up in the microwave!

I’m a freshman in high

I’m a freshman in high school and while I don’t mind all the attention my bento gets, I wish people would stop stealing my food. It’s like, yes, I really how pretty my food looks, now can I please eat it?

Then again, when I tell people how early I wake up in the morning in order to pack my bento, they tend to shy away.

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