May-June bento product highlights: "Bento Guy" bento boxes and accessories
With Father's Day coming up, I thought I'd take a look at some guy-friendly bento boxes and related items available from the bento retail world. While there is nothing to prevent a guy from using a pink bunny bento box with cherry and flower-themed chopsticks if he so chooses, most men may prefer their bentos to be a bit more understated.
Modern and gender-neutral bento box
This Concorde XL Bento Box set, available from CasaBento, fits the bill perfectly. It's large, with a capacity of 900 ml, yet slim enough to fit comfortably inside a backpack or large-ish briefcase. It comes with a bento band and a bag too. The one pictured here is Sky Blue, and it's also available in navy, grey, red and apple green. (Bonus: it's on sale right now!)
Anti-bacterial bento box
If the man in your life is the type that might leave his bento box sitting around for many hours before getting to it, the AG+ Men's Ion Antibacterial Bento Box with Built-in Chopsticks from J-List may be worth considering. It's coated with silver ions, which are supposed to have anti-microbial qualities. You should still follow some basic bento safety procedures, but a little insurance against spoilage can't hurt. This is also a large bento box, with a 900 ml capacity. A pair of chopsticks that fit into the lid comes with this box. The resident Guy at Chez Just Bento favors a box very similar to this one.
Manly lunch jars
Capacious, rugged lunch jars are associated with hungry construction workers in Japan, who bring them along to building sites if they can't get to a konbini (see A Japanese Life of Bento). Lunch jars are great for people with very hearty appetites, or those who want their food to be kept hot or cold. The Zojirushi Mr. Bento is the best known lunch jar (link for non-US people), but Zojirushi's main rival in the world of thermal/insulated bento containers in Japan, Thermos, has been introducing more lunch jars in the U.S. in recent years. The Thermos Nissan "All-In-One" Stainless Steel Lunch Tote has 4 compartments, a stainless steel spoon that fits inside an attached carrying case, a detachable strap and a huge 48 ounce (1400 ml) capacity. It keeps food hot for up to 12 hours and cold for up to 24 hours.
USB powered bento box warmer/cooler
When I see this USB powered warmer/cooler case from Bento&co, I can't help thinking that it would be a perfect gift for Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory - if he was into bentos. It's an insulated soft case that keeps a heat-proof bento box warm or cool for several hours, rather like a mini refrigerator. Put a piping hot or chilled box in the case, carry it to work or school, plug the case into the USB port of your computer. It even has a very long cable, so that you can tuck the case away out of sight of prying or lunch-stealing hands.
A guy-friendly bento recipe book in English
Easy Japanese Cooking: Bento Love by Kentaro Kobayashi, is basically a translation of his Japanese book ドーンと元気弁当—食べざかり、伸びざかりに - which translates very roughly as "Big bentos that fill you with energy - for big appetites and growing bodies". It's filled with filling, hearty bento recipes, mostly Japanese with some Western-inspired ones sprinkled in, for hearty appetites. Most are easy to make with limited access to Japanese ingredients, beyond the staples like soy sauce and miso and so on.
What are the "bento men" of Japan using?
I have talked before about the Japanese phenomenon of "bento danshi" or "bento men" - men who makes their own bento lunches and bring them to work or school. There are plenty of bento blogs authored by men, and online communities for them too. Most of these bento-making guys seem to stick to one or two plain bento boxes, usually of a traditional type that they might have used when they were growing up.This blogger for example, whose blog has the subheader "The Bento Life of a Single Guy In His 30s" uses 1 or 2 plain plastic containers or a single-level wooden bento box.
This well known 'bento danshi' blogger has a blog with the slightly confusing title of "The Bentos of a Married Partner-less Man" (既婚配偶者なしの弁当）- which, it turns out, just means he's separated from his wife. He has wonderful bento-arranging skills, and uses three or four plain bento boxes, including a wooden one which looks a lot like the Kyo Bento Box. Mr. Married Partner-less (aka Yasuhiro Endo) has a very nice book out (in Japanese only) called 毎朝パパッとできる!野菜たっぷりお弁当レシピ (Bento recipes with lots of vegetables that you can make quickly every morning!).
I only know of one English-language bento blog that fits the 'bento guy' category, A Man's Bento, which hasn't been updated in a while. If you know of any others let me know!