Quick tip: Cubed bento rice
In a recent Japanese magazine article (more about the magazine below), there was a tip to put crisscross lines on top of the rice packed into a bento box, to not only make the rice look a bit prettier, but to make it easier to pick up with chopsticks.
The article didn't say how to form the lines, so I tried a couple of implements including chopsticks and a silicone spatula. In the end I found that a moistened table knife (with a rounded tip) works the best. Also, for maximum effect I 'cut' the rice to the bottom of the box, to form little cubes. This makes it a lot easier to pick up each section of rice. We field-tested it in the last couple of bentos, and it gets our stamp of approval.
You can use the rice-grid as a guide to decorating the top of the rice as I've done here--I just sprinkled every other square with a bit of furikake.
So if you or the person you're making bentos for has some trouble picking up rice neatly with chopsticks, try this out! It will only work with Japanese style or sticky rice however - other types of rice, or fried rice, won't retain the cubes.
Tsucione and Daichi o mamoru kai
The magazine I saw this tip in is called Tsucione, and it's issued by a cooperative called _Daichi o mamoru kai_ (Association To Protect The Earth) which connects small scale organic farmers and fishermen to consumers, mainly by home delivery of what they produce. It's a bit like a CSA (you have to become a member to take advantage of the home delivery and so on), but with much more variety--you get to choose from what a variety of producers produce, instead of just one farm or so. Daichi o mamoru kai also engages in various activities to support organic/sustainable farming and fishing, and small scale producers. If you live in Japan you may want to give them a look (though their site is only in Japanese unfortunately).
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