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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tiny Little Boxes

Perhaps it's because I went to private school as a child and never got to pack a lunch, but I've always had some lunchbox envy.  I wished I had a vintage metal carry-all for my pb&j, chips, and oreos, and that my friends and I could trade delicious treats. I wouldn't even have minded an embarrassing post-it or two from Mom, wishing me a nice day at school. Instead we had hot lunches and assigned tables -- over-cooked pasta, sickly-colored green beans, and a teacher telling us we had to try at least a bite of everything! 

Then I switched schools in 7th grade and got to pack a lunch -- but I still didn't have a cool box, just one of those insulated purple satchels, and the olive tapenade and mozzarella sandwiches my mother packed always left lots of gross gunk in my braces. Middle school traumas aside, the discovery of the bento box changed my life. 

We would often head to Penn Quarter after school, where a beautiful lacquered box filled with chicken, sticky rice, sweet potatoes and cucumber ginger salad provided a delicious late afternoon snack. The bento box was exactly what I had been looking for -- a stylish Japanese-style lunch box that made me feel sophisticated and worldly. 

The term "bento" originated from the Southern Song Dynasty slang term 便當 (biàndāng), meaning "convenient" or "convenience." The traditional box can be traced back to  the late Kamakura Period (1185 to 1333) and consisted of a meat or fish, rice, and one or more pickled vegetables. Japanese mothers would send their children to school and their husbands to work with perfectly compartmentalized and balanced meals. 

When Linda Orr and Michelle Brown opened the first Teaism in 1996, they decided to revive the Japanese tradition of the bento box. Whether Salmon, Chicken, Handroll, or Veggie, bentos remain some of our most popular dishes, providing the perfect opportunity to sample a little bit of this and a little bit of that. 

Pictured above: the most sought-after of Teaism's bento boxes, featuring Teriyaki salmon, edamame, cucumber ginger salad, and brown rice with furikake flakes. 

1 comment:

  1. I collect lunch boxes too and built a price guide with images and descriptions for all vintage metal lunchboxes here hope it is of some help.