Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family’s Bento)  is slice of life manga (comic) series by Nozomi Yanahara. It’s still being serialized in Comic Flapper  magazine, but the first parts of the series have already been issued in paperback form too. (In case you didn’t know, that’s the way Japanese manga series are published - they’re serialized in a magazine first, then if they are deemed to have enough readers, they’re compiled and re-issued in paperback format.)
The Takasugi family is a rather unusual one. It consists of Harumi, a 30-something single guy and post-doctorate in geology who, at the start of the series, still can’t find a permanent job in his field and is getting by by doing arubaito  or part time and temp jobs; and his orphaned 12 year old first cousin Kururi. Kururi’s mother Miya, Harumi’s aunt, was killed in an accident, naming Harumi as her daughter’s guardian in her will. He had never even met Kururi before, or even known of her existence due to a family rift in the past, making it quite an awkward situation for them both.
What helps them to overcome their difficulties and become a true family is bentos. Harumi takes up cooking for the first time so that he can make bentos for Kururi, making plenty of mistakes along the way. Kururi is a rather odd 12 year old, quiet and stubborn and antisocial, obsessed with sales and bargains at the local supermarkets and pinching pennies. But they both remember the bentos that Miya (Kururi’s mother and Harumi’s aunt) used to make for them, and how delicious it was. They also discover new bento flavors together, flavors that are of their new family. It’s not a manga about eating or cooking in the vein of Oishinbo  - it’s really about how food, and specifically bentos, can bring people together. Bentos are the catalyst to Harumi and Kururi becoming a true family. (There’s also an ongoing joke about a classmate of Kururi’s, a boy, whose stepmother(?) keeps making cute charaben for him. He keeps getting teased about them every time he opens his box at lunchtime; what’s worse, apparently they look cute but don’t taste good! Kururi shares some of her plain but delicious bento with him once, and…)
I love these kinds of stories. It’s not the flashy kind of manga that gets translated to English, but if you can read Japanese or can find any fansubs around, take a look!
Keeping with the theme of Takasugi-san chi no Obento, my question to you today is: have bentos, or packed lunches, brought you closer to someone? Or how about the opposite - has a bento, packed lunch, picnic, etc. been the catalyst for a relationship ending or being otherwise affected?