If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember my anticipation as I counted down the days to Valentine’s this past February. I bought my husband a pile of gifts and could hardly stand the tension with them sitting wrapped on the table for what seemed like forever.
Do you know that feeling of finding the perfect gift for someone you adore? One they aren’t expecting? One they couldn’t guess even if they tried for weeks? It’s thrilling and excruciating at the same time. I begged J to open them early. He refused, of course, but his reaction was worth the wait.
Perhaps not many husbands would ooh and aah over a new lunchbox, but J did. He loves taking his lunch to work. It’s healthier than buying a lunch, it saves us a ton of money, and I also think that it’s a way he feels loved and cared for. So he was tickled pink to discover that I bought him an Americanized bento box called the Laptop Lunch.
I’m not sure why he felt compelled to deface his lunchbox with all of those stickers, but — alas! — he did, and sometimes we need to allow our husbands such childish expressions. Sigh. (I suppose it’s no secret now where he went to school and where he works.
Have you heard of bento? According to Biggie, the author of the wildly popular bento blog, Lunch in a Box,
A Bento lunch is a compact, balanced, visually appealing meal packed in a box. Historically, it’s a Japanese box lunch, similar in concept to the Indian tiffin, the Korean dosirak, or the Filipino baon lunch. In Japanese, “bento” or “obento” refers to the packed meal, and “bento-bako” refers to the bento box itself. See the Wikipedia entry on bento for more details.
The Laptop Lunch contains multiple compartments that keep all of your food separated and even houses utensils. I call it Americanized for a few reasons. First, it’s bigger than most Japanese bento boxes. Second, it’s made in America and contains no BPA, lead, or the other scary things that are coming out of China these days. Finally, it doesn’t have a Japanese look, though, frankly, I’m a little relieved about that. The largest authentic Japanese bento box I found online sported the slogan “Pleasure Supply” on top. Yes, really. I’m not going to go there, but suffice it to say I thought we might be asking for trouble if J actually toted something like that to work.
Here’s the inside of the Laptop Lunch box:
Unfortunately, this one of the less visually appealing lunches I’ve packed for him, but I happened to have the camera handy this time. As you can see, I was able to pack some leftover braised lamb and natural chicken sausage, bell peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes. The fork and knife are tucked into the slot on the right-hand side. Because the man burns through so many calories, he also had a little baggie of nuts to go with this meal.
Why I Love the Bento Concept:
- Bento boxes reduce waste. No more zippie bags or disposable tupperware!
- It encourages healthy choices. The food we make at home is far healthier than almost anything you can buy at a lunch spot.
- Bento boxes simplify what you carry. Because I avoided zippie bags, J used to juggle a slew of little glass Pyrex containers on his way to and from work. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Pyrex, but bento allows me to put it all in one box without all the foods touching each other.
- No breakage. Again, better than the Pyrex.
- It saves money. Although the boxes are a moderate investment up front (e.g., approximately $23 for the Laptop Lunch), the ability to pack a good, healthy lunch quickly and efficiently every day adds up to major savings over time.
- I love the idea of making lunch visually appealing. I think all of our senses are important in our experience of food. If you want to go the extra mile in this department, there are lots and lots of guides and gadgets out there for making everything from themed lunch boxes to fashioning crabs and octopus out of sausages or piglets out of rice (to see more examples of elaborate bentos, go to Google Images and search for “bento”). That’s not how I want to spen my time, but I can certainly appreciate those who pour their creativity into their children’s lunches. I prefer the appeal of different colored fruits and veggies.
- Compact. J puts his lunch in the fridge when he gets to work, and taking up less space is definitely desirable. This is all on top of making it easier for him to tote to and from the office.
- I find it motivating. I want to pack lunches for J now. It’s just plain fun!
Pros of the Laptop Lunch:
- Made in the USA
- As safe as plastic can get
- High quality construction (the plastic is thick and sturdy)
- Fun to look at, though I do wonder that J never batted an eyelash over the bright purple exterior! All the fun colors could be a big plus for enticing children to eat healthy lunches. (By the way, other colors are available at http://www.laptoplunches.com)
- The size is perfect for older children, women, and men with smaller appetites. This does depend on what you put in the box, of course. We try to go heavy on the veggies, and they take up a lot of room without providing many calories. The picture I showed above has a lot fewer vegetables than we try to eat at each meal, which bothers me. If your family goes mostly meatless or likes a lot of starches, this size box might be just right even for dad. That’s just not how it works in our home.
Cons of the Laptop Lunch:
- All the tiny compartments can be super annoying to clean all the time. I highly recommend buying a second set of “innards.” I caught a sale and was able to do this. It helps a lot!
- Too small for really big appetites. J stands 6’5″ tall, has a naturally high metabolism, and works out on top of it all. He burns through a lot of calories. Plus, we like to eat our biggest meals at lunch time, so the Laptop Lunch doesn’t really suit his needs. He always has to take lots of snacks with him when he uses this box.
Overall, I highly recommend Laptop Lunch boxes. They are safe, well-constructed, and well-designed. My only real complaint is the availability of only one size. I’d love a larger one for my husband, but this size probably works beautifully for most people.
I have since bought something that suits J’s needs even better, so I’ll share about that next time.
Definitely check out the Lunch in a Box blog if you want to learn more about all of this. I find it all quite fascinating, though I’m happy to enjoy bento at far less sophisticated (and time-consuming!) level.