What to teach others about bento

erisgrrrl
Bento-ing from: Bloomington › Indiana › USA
Joined: 28 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 27 weeks ago.

Hi there!
I've been asked to give a workshop on bento at a local kids' store. The attendees would parents looking to start bento for their children (or possibly themselves I'm sure!). My problem is that I've never done such a thing before and would have no idea what to tell people! So... do you have suggestions on what to teach/talk about? I planned to show how to make apple bunnies and hot dog critters (octo dogs, crab dogs) as well as some other cute cuts of veggies, fruits and cheeses. I wanted to talk about how much easier it is to add in a lot of variety since you can put in tiny amounts and that you can more easily see how much your kid is eating (or not eating) and make adjustments since they can't just toss that sandwich bag full of grapes and that foil wrapped 1/2 sammie in the trash.

Anyway, what are your suggestions for showing new-to-bento parents of kids "the way of the bento" ;-)

Thanks so much!

=h

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Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 13 weeks ago.
Re: What to teach others about bento

As I don’t know what parents in Indiana give their children at lunch times it’s very hard for me to come up with suggestions.

Also, the concept of “bento” seems to be different to different people. Cute bunnies and wiener octopus/octopi(?) don’t feature in the bento I prepare.

Perhaps what you need to do is think hard about what message you are trying to get across. What concept would you be teaching about? What kind of changes would your audience need to make in order to produce a bento – will they need to adapt what they are doing or completely change their habits?

A TV food presenter in the UK came up with some suggestions about making healthy interesting lunches and his ideas were broken down into five components
http://www.channel4.com/4food/on-tv/river-cottage/extras/river-cottage-e...
Carbs + protein + fruit&veg + ‘sprinkles’ + dressing

He prepared several examples of each of these 5 components and laid them out on a table. He then gave some people working in an office a food container each and invited them to pick foods from each of the groups and make their own lunch with it.

In this way it was easy to show how much variety there can be with a limited number of base choices. Many of these can be stored in the fridge and one would only need to make one or two of the choices from scratch each day.

I’m suggesting this tactic as it’s the simplest way I’ve ever seen of a bento style lunch concept being explained. Once this concept has been conveyed THEN it might be more appropriate to focus on ‘prettifying’ the lunch. Since (potentially) so little cooking and preparation is involved then mums and dads might have time to carve apples and pears into cute animals – as a mother, I personally find the charaben side to bento rather intimidating. Also missing from the five suggestions is the one about X amount of colours in a bento lunch, however, I personally think it works as a guide and shouldn’t be followed too rigorously. My strongest suggestion is not to alienate your audience.

Good luck! Please let us know how it goes and what you decided to convey.

erisgrrrl
Bento-ing from: Bloomington › Indiana › USA
Joined: 28 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 27 weeks ago.
Re: What to teach others about bento

Thanks for responding Loretta!

I'll check out the link you posted b/c that seems like a pretty good idea.

I was kind of basing my ideas of what to show on the responses I've gotten from other parents who've seen my sons lunches and from the comments on my Facebook that I've gotten from the woman who invited me to do the workshop. And since hot dog animals and apple bunnies are easy and pretty much always elicit comments of "Oh I wish I could do that" I thought it'd be a good little bit to throw in!

I know I want to talk about, again, the little bits of this and that as well as COLOR so that produce is a big feature....

Thanks again!!

Lori
Re: What to teach others about bento

The thing I try to tell folks who ask me about the bentos I pack is that although the concept of bento is Japanese-, the food in the box doesn't have to be. Bento is really just a well packaged, nutritious lunch- or at least meal away from home. It isn't all fish and rice, which is what most folks seem to think at first. I regularly pack lunches for husband and kids, and I have to admit- I don't have time to be carving cute bunnies for five lunches, and doing it at 6am while trying to sip my first cup of coffee would probably endanger my fingers. That said, I did invest in a set of veggie cutters that will produce different cut shapes, and a couple of egg forms that squish boiled eggs into a heart or square. But I didn't have them for a long time, and we got by with standard cut veggie sticks and oval eggs. My sons don't much appreciate floral cut carrots anyway. Maki has a load of great recipes for things that can easily be made ahead of time and stashed in the freezer, which makes the morning packup go a lot faster as well. It's mostly a matter of learning to think outside the sandwich bread, or at least to think of different kinds of it, and adapting to your child's tastes. So when I'm talking to other moms about the lunches, I always stress that bento is the box and a means of getting a nutritious meal, not a set of concrete rules about what goes in it. Once they realize that, the rest seems to start flowing.

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 33 weeks ago.
Re: What to teach others about bento

You have an excellent opportunity here to teach people what a nutritious lunch consists of, you would be astounded at how many people actually don't know what foods are necessary for a balanced diet. If I were you I would show them one or two recipes for making things like vegetables tasty and acceptable to fussy kids. Perhaps if you were to show them how to make the octopuses you could mention the amount of fat that is in wieners and that these should therefore be used sparingly, and show some lower fat alternatives like home made chicken nuggets or similar. You could show them the relative amounts of carb/protein/vegetable that should go into a box. You could set food out on a plate as for a proper meal, then pack it into a box, so people can see how much fits in - or vice versa.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

erisgrrrl
Bento-ing from: Bloomington › Indiana › USA
Joined: 28 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 27 weeks ago.
Re: What to teach others about bento

I really like the idea of showing how much can fit in a box! It would probably be geared more toward adult meals than kids - I think the average age we'd be packing for is probably only around 4yrs - but it's good to note! And, I agree with the hotdog/sausage thing as well... they're a decoration not a main course! I'll have to check out Maki's post on the proportions. I usually just have my son choose 1 starch, 1 protein, 2 veggies and a fruit and we try to do meat-free at least a few times a week.

Thanks so much for the input! :D

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