News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I haven’t talked a lot about my book since I started working on it last September, but here’s lots of news about it. The final edits were finished up last week, and the files went to the printers…yesterday! I’ve only seen the PDFs, but it really looks fantastic. And, it’s already available for pre-order on all the Amazons! The purchase links are near the end of this post.

This is the cover by the way - I think it looks great (as well it should…the number of reshoots we had to do on that photo…oy vay…)

JUST-BENTO_bookcover.jpg

The Just Bento Cookbook - the basic facts

  • The title is now official: it’s The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go. (Incidentally, it has a different title in Japanese, which only appears in the back of the book and on the “obi” or little paper band that is required of books in Japan. The Japanese title is ジャスト・ベントー:世界に届ける、毎日のお弁当, which means “Just Bento: Everyday bentos delivered to the world”. Okay that sounds a bit weird in English, but it does make sense in Japanese!)
  • It is softcover with a dust jacket, just like a Japanese bento cookbook. If you like the look and feel of Japanese cookbooks, you’ll love the look and feel of The Just Bento Cookbook for sure! We decided early on (as I mentioned in my post back in September) to keep it softcover, so that it would be affordable and easy to use.
  • There are 128 pages, and there is an Index and a Glossary of Japanese food ingredients. Lots of gorgeous full-color photos, especially of each complete bento, shot by the talented photographer Ms. Makiko Doi, plus many supplementary b&w photos. (The same first name is just a coincidence! I did not do my own photography by the way because I totally screwed it up in the early going…but in any case I’m quite happy with the photos in the book.)
  • 85-90% of the recipes are brand new, never featured on Just Bento, Just Hungry or anywhere else. The rest are some basic “foundation” recipes and how-tos, plus a few favorites. (You can’t have a bento book without things like how to cook rice, tamagoyaki, and onigiri, you know!) Some old favorites have been revised and refined too.
  • 60% of the recipes are for Japanese-style bentos; the rest are for what we decided to call Not So Japanese bentos. You could call them lunchboxes, but I just like to think of them as “international” food put together with a bento aesthetic and philosophy.
  • Each complete bento has a timeline, just like the complete bentos on this site. All the bentos are designed to be put together in under 20 minutes in the morning (some do require some prepping the night before or making some things in advance and stashing them in the freezer and so on…hey, just like the bentos on the site!)
  • Tons of tips! The book is crammed with tips. Maybe too many tips, I don’t know!
  • (Edited to add) The measurements are in both U.S. and metric. In other words, I’ve used cups (using the U.S. cup measurement of approximately 240ml) and ounces as well as grams and milliliters. So wherever you are, you should be able to measure things properly!

Getting into some details

Mixing Japanese and Not Japanese bentos

By having a mix of Japanese and Not So Japanese recipes and bento boxes, I hope that the book will appeal both to Japanese food fans as well as people who aren’t that fond of Japanese food per se, but are interested in putting together tasty and attractive bento boxes or lunch boxes or however you want to refer to them.

The Japanese section sticks to using ingredients that are widely available, or can be easily ordered online. As you probably know if you’ve been following this site, it’s always been my philosophy to stay away from hard-to-find Japanese ingredients as much as possible. In the book, I was even more strict with myself; none of the main bento recipes use vegetables that can’t be easily bought at a typical American or Western supermarket (though some of the variation or ‘extra’ recipes do), and the only Japanese flavorings and condiments I have used are the basics - soy sauce, miso, sake, mirin, rice vinegar and sesame oil, plus dashi. All of these can be mail-ordered from Amazon Groceries in the U.S., Japan Centre in the UK, and many other places - and these days, most supermarkets have them too (except maybe for dashi ingredients or dashi powder…but dashi is so critical to Japanese cooking I couldn’t leave it out!)

Besides condiments and flavorings, the only Japanese ingredients I used were the basic seaweeds (wakame, konbu, and nori), frozen edamame, umeboshi, tofu and abura-age (fried tofu skins) - and of course, Japanese style rice. I think you can find most of these at many supermarkets these days too, except perhaps for umeboshi…but only a couple of recipes call for umeboshi so you can avoid those easily. In particular, I avoided using the convenient ready-made foods that are standbys in Japanese bentos, but are not widely available outside of Japan - things such as all the fish-paste products (kamaboko, chikuwa, fish-paste sausage), not to mention Japanese-style cuts of meat (very thinly cut or finely chopped (not minced) pork and beef). In any case, the Japanese bento recipes do taste “authentically Japanese” but should not be hard to put together for most people around the world.

I’m particuarly proud of the Not So Japanese section - it was quite a challenge to come up with a variety of bento box combinations that worked, that didn’t rely on the old standards!

For omnivores

After a lot of discussions and back-and-fro’ing with my editor, we decided to make the book primarily for omnivores, to appeal to the widest audience possible, so most of the bentos do have some sort of fish or meat in them. However, there are tons of individual vegetarian recipes, and a couple of all-vegetarian bentos. (Maybe a vegetarian bento book as a followup…who knows? I can’t even think about starting another book at the moment though…^_^;)

It’s not that cute

This is not a charaben/cute bento book; it’s a practical, “everyday lunch” bento book, just as the title says. There are many easy-to-do decoration ideas scattered throughout the book, and I guess at least one bento is decidedly cute, but it’s almost impossible to do highly decorative bentos in under 20 minutes, especially in the morning when you are rushed anyway. I did try to make the bentos attractive to the eye though, since the way our food looks is important!

(For a cute-bento book in English, look for the just published Yum Yum Bento Box, co-authored by Pikko of Adventures in Bentomaking and Maki Ogawa of Cute Obento, as well as Hawaii’s Bento Box Cookbook: 2nd Course by Susan Yuen. I haven’t seen either of these books myself yet, but they are by very talented charaben artists so I’m sure they’re good! Kawaii Bento Boxes, a translated-from-Japanese book that I do have a copy of, is also very good for charaben.)

Availability

I’ve moved this section to the top of the cookbook info section.

Book tour?

Some U.S. book promotional activities are tentatively scheduled for January. So far the only definite city is New York, but it’s early days yet so we shall see where the publishers send me. If you want me to show up at your town, why not mention it here! I don’t have final say in the schedule of course…but who knows? ^_^

(Here, I have a shameful confession to make. I had a chance to appear on a certain TV show…but they needed an audition tape ASAP. I didn’t/couldn’t provide one, for technical, time, my-eyes-are-puffy-with-allergies, and just scared-of-being-on-camera reasons, so I’m probably not going to be on that TV show. I suck at publicity, really. I really admire people who are good at it. I’ll probably never get to be a guest judge on The Iron Chef either. Sniff.)

So…that’s it for the moment! I am both excited and very calm about the book - it was a lot of very hard work indeed, but I sure hope that it will be worth it in the end!

(Due to a large number of inquiries I’ve decided to stop taking any more requests for review copies for the moment, at least until the book is actually out. The requests received so far have been forwarded to the publisher. Thanks so much for your interest!)

Update: Take a sneak peek inside the book, and see the Table of Contents.

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Exciting!

My pre-order is placed! I can't wait to see it.
And imho, there is no such thing as "too many tips." :)

Congratulations!

Congratulations on the release of your cook-book! I can only guess, but I am sure that if all the recipes in there are as tasty and as nicely detailed as your ones here on the website, we'll all be in for a treat. I'm sure it has been a long road towards getting it made and published, but the final results promise to be absolutely wonderful. I can't wait til it hits the shelves. ^_^

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

that is so exciting! can't wait!

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Congratulations!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Seriously looking forward to buying a copy of your book! I'll be packing 2 bentos for kiddos this fall and by the time the book is released - I'll really need it!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congratulations, Maki, it must be a great relief to see all this hard work paid off!

I have ordered my copy, I cannot wait on read you on paper!! I love your recipes and your tips. The fact that you use readily available stock items is wonderful too!

All the best for this great adventure in publishing!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congrats! Just pre-ordered a copy from Amazon Canada.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I'm so excited! The cover looks great, and I'm sure the contents are too! Can't wait to get my copy.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

HORRAY! I have been soooooo excited about this! I started reading your website in January (so not as loyal and long-term as some of your fans, but I didn't discover it until then!), but I have been enjoying it very much! I don't have the resources to start my own bentos yet, but I have been keeping your site in mind and tucking away your recipes for the moment when I can! I'm so so so excited about your book!

I appreciate all of the effort you put into providing us with recipes that average westerners can actually make, since it's very difficult to get ingredients like that around here! I live in Maine, US, and we don't have a whole lot of diversity or options when it comes to authentic foreign food or ingredients, so you can't imagine how helpful it is to see your recipes with readily-available ingredients!

Although I've never posted a comment before, I just wanted to express my thank you and excitement for the book! I will be pre-ordering it very soon!!! Thank you again!

(P.S. If you come anywhere near Maine, I'd love to go to your book signing!)

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congratulations on your new cookbook--so looking forward to it! Love your fresh and clear-eyed approach to making and enjoying seasonal dishes...and bentos! Many thanks for all the culinary insight and creativity you've shared :)

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Just checked - the publishing date seems to be January 2011. Sigh.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

It's also available on BookDepository with free international shipping: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9784770031242/The-Just-Bento-Cookbo...

It looks gorgeous, too.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

How exciting. The cover is gorgeous! I just placed my pre-order. (^V^)/Congratulations!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I'm so excited that your book is out! You don't need no TV show, girl.... ;) I'm sure your books will fly off their virtual shelves.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Come to Boston! We'd love to see you up here.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

おめでとございます!

I cannot wait to get a copy of your book. Finally my laptop will be safe from kitchen splatter!

I'm living in Tokyo as an exchange student right now and your websites have been keeping me fed for months now. I share a kitchen with a number of foreign students and I learned yesterday that alot of us rely on this site to get by.

When you come to the US I'll be back in D.C. It would be wonderful if you come down to the district (I'd bring cookies!). If not, well, I've always wanted to go to New York...

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Congratulations, I'm looking forward to seeing and testing all the new recipes. Best wishes for this and also for your new home, I hope you'll love living there.

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congratulations!!! i'm looking forward to getting a copy for myself!

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How fantastic! I've enjoyed your site ever since I found it and bet the cookbook will be a great resource.

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Congrats!! I've been printing some of your recipes so I'll definitely get a copy of this book!

YAY!

I just pre-ordered this, and am so excited! I love your timelines :)

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can't wait to get mine! will you autograph it for me Maki? ^_^
also, i wish you'd come to washington dc! we have a japan-america society and a japanese cultural group here that i'm sure would love to host you for a signing/info session!
it'd be convenient if you were going to another town around nyc, like philly or something <3

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Pre-ordered! This is awesome, Maki! Congratulations, and I can't wait for it to come out! If you do a book tour, I'd love for you to stop by Boulder, Colorado, or Denver or anywhere in Colorado really. I'll be there, if you do! If you come to Boulder, I could treat you to some nice places, too!

お目出度うご座います!
Kyandasu

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congrats! I can't wait to buy your book. If you're doing a U.S. book tour please consider Canada as well! I'd love to be able to see you in Toronto.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congrats! I can't wait to buy your book. If you're doing a U.S. book tour please consider Canada as well! I'd love to be able to see you in Toronto.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congratulations! I eagerly waited for this announcement, so I just did pre-orderd one copy for me. Can't wait for the release ^___^. So thank you for your hard work. I love your websites and I am convinced, that your book won't disappoint us. Maybe you should arrange some fan-meetings during your travels? Would be nice, if we could get the chance to meet you in person and get an autograph in our copies of your book ;-)

Greetings from Germany.

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Congratulations on the completion and (imminent) release of the book! I hope it brings you continued prosperity and opportunity (though mostly off-camera ones; only those with which you're comfortable). :)

Come to San Francisco! We'd love to have you here!

Best wishes!

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Fantastic news. I am preordering it now. I was just wondering why not collect all recipes from just bento onto a book and you had already thought about it.
Any idea when you would be likely to come to London UK?
Thanks
Daniela

Congratulations!

Question: Are there different editions for different countries? What I mean is, will the amazon.co.uk copy use British measurements while the amazon.com copy uses American measurements? Because I want to pre-order to show support for your excellent website, but I only want to buy a copy with American measurements.

Re: Congratulations!

Hi Nora, the measurements are in both U.S. (cups and ounces and so on) and metric, so no worries! (Just like the recipes here in fact!) I've updated the post to mention this.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

thank you for your article I will share it with pleasure on twitter I recommeded this book to all my vsisiteur on my site

The 10 Best Cookbooks for Your Kitchen
http://favorite-bookonline.blogspot.com/

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Will this be available on the kindle or nook in the near future ? Looking forward to it whether or not its on paper or electronic . love this sight .

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

As far as I know there are no plans for a Kindle etc. version - I'm not sure if it would work as a Kindle book, since there are lots of photos and diagrams, and from I've seen so far heavily illustrated books don't work too well on a Kindle.

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How about for the iPad? The idea of viewing your recipes and pix make me giddy!

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I am so excited for you!
Will definately be placing my pre-order on friday as soon as my salaray hits my bank account :)
I cant wait to have this book in my hands.

Thankyou for all your hard work Maki.

Becki

Recipes?

Hi there, I have been reading and using your recipes for quite some time in my bento boxes. But, I don't really have a credit card =_= (I'm 14) So, I can't really get the cookbook (D: I'm sorry, I really want to support you!)
So I was just wondering if the recipes on the website will still be available? Thanks!

Re: Recipes?

Yes, of course the website will continue running as before! Not to worry :)

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Oh my gosh, I can't believe how lovely the cover is, and how quickly this book has been developed. After following your blog for so many years, and the amount that is has helped my cook Japanese food, and feel close to Japan (I really want to live there some day) I feel so happy for you! I really cannot wait to own this cookbook! Congratulations! You have put so much work in to your blogs and you should feel so proud that you're releasing a cookbook, so so amazing!

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Come to San Francisco! Somehow MAKE the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper review it and MAKE Kinokunyia Bookstore feature you and contact me!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

If a U.S. Book tour does happen,Ii hope your publishers will include a stop (or two) in the San Francisco Bay Area -- maybe at the Book Passage in the Ferry Plaza or the Kinokuniya in Japantown? Just a couple of suggestions. Look forward to the book release!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I am extremely excited about this! Congrats so much for your first book!!! :)

Do you know if the Japan Centre in London will be carrying this book and when? I think it would be very appropriate. Plus, the may have the book before amazon. I do huge orders with them every couple of months, so I could just add your book along with the Akita Komachi and umeboshi and other stuff.

If you come to London (to the Japan Centre or around there), do let us know! I don't live anywhere near London but it would definately be worth the trip to see you and get you to sign the bento book.

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I think it's quite likely that Japan Centre will carry it, but if you want to be sure they know there's a demand, let them know (wink wink)

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wohoo the cover page is very pretty!! hope it comes to kinokuniya here in singapore :)

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Congratulations! You are on my wish-list to be pre-ordered on pay day.

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Greetings from Austria and Congratulations! I can't wait to preorder your book :D

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Definitely gonna pre order your book. =)
Please come to Munich!!!
Congrats on your new house by the way. The views look lovely :)

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HOOORAY!!!
I agree with all the other invites to San Francisco!

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This is going strait to my birthday list.^^

You should totally get a show on food network!!! There is NO japanese show on there! (There isnt even an asian one either!)

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wow~ omedatou gozaimasu! *\(^_^)/*
I will def place my preorder once I get my paycheck~!! it will be money well spent~~

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Congrats! So amount paid to author is the same huh? Then I have a recommendation for others looking to buy the book: bookdepository.co.uk, which have it for $18.59AUD/£10.49/$15.13USD, with free shipping worldwide. It's selling for a lot cheaper than other online retailers, particularly for Australia; the $50AUD asking price at Fishpond feels ridiculously expensive in comparison! I guess that as a UK site, this would qualify as a good source for UK residents as well.
Depending where you live, you might even get it earlier than your "local" online retailer, since the book is coming out in UK in November.

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