Apparently we were a little late to the party last month when we predicted that Bento was a coming trend. We get it now: Bento is already a popular way to pack your lunch (or any meal), get your kids to eat, have some fun and express yourself, and help save the planet with a little less waste.
One of the most popular and comprehensive bento websites is Lunch in a Box, where you'll find photos, top-tips and recipes, an online store for bento gear and an amazing list of bento links. We stopped by recently to visit Lunch in a Box's Biggie for a mini-kitchen tour.
Biggie has written extensively about her kitchen and bento supplies on her blog. Before we came, she did a little rearranging and straightening up, mostly, she says, to protect her husband who has had to cope with avalanches of plastic bento supplies when he opens the kitchen cabinets.
What's your cooking style?
Eclectic, across the board, not by the book. If I'm making something for the first time, I compare several recipes from different sources. On the weekends there's more time to fuss. Weekdays I keep it short. My bento time limit is 10-15 minutes, unless it's a special occasion.
What's always in your pantry?
Rice, coconut milk, fish sauce, makrut lime leaves, and curry paste. All the ingredients for a good Thai curry.
What inspires your kitchen?
Efficiency. I would have remodeled if beauty were more important but I'd rather be cooking, not redecorating.
Favorite tool or element:
Sharp knives. I get them professionally sharpened once a year at Razor Sharp Cutlery. I like them because they actually ask me what I use my knives for and then put the appropriate edge on it. The edge is different when you use the knife for cutting vegetables as opposed to a chicken carcass. In between I hone them as needed.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Taste your food as you're cooking.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Organizing and containing all the stuff and not having it fall on my husband when he opens the cabinet door. Dealing with all the little things.
Refurbished KitchenAid. I got it when my husband was misdiagnosed with celiac disease (which was how I got into bento) and I wanted to make gluten-free bread regularly.
Dream tool or splurge:
My ovens are really old and inefficient so I use my convection toaster oven a lot instead. New ovens would be great.
What are you cooking this week?
There's no preschool right now, so it's a bento-free week. I really don't plan much ahead — maybe Indian. We eat Thai curry at least once a week. I'm very inspired by cookbook author Kasma Loha-Unchit's website. My favorite fish sauce is Golden Boy.
Desert island cookbook?
The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated. I've bought copies for my entire family so when I visit them and I want to cook something, there it is.
Favorite meal cooked here:
Crab cakes (from New Best Recipe) with fresh lump crabmeat and chipotle/lime cream, salad with champagne vinaigrette, sourdough bread and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. This was the ultimate meal. I was in a funk for days afterwards because I thought it would never get better than that.
Originally published July 24, 2008.