The bento – a scrumptious expression of love

Nice description of the cultural meaning of a bento meal in a Japanese family.

A run of bad bento days forces a mother-child confrontation. The standard child complaint will be that so-and-so’s bento was so much more sexier than theirs, such as the coveted omuletsu (omelet) adorned with the kid’s name, written out in ketchup. Why is it that my bento is always so boring and . . . brown? The mother will then retaliate by pointing out that though she was obligated to make the bento, she will be damned if she has to wash out the box as well: having to wash the soiled box drains her of the creative energies needed to make a good bento. Indeed, the unwritten Japanese societal rule is that whoever eats the bento must wash out the box afterward.

That said, the bento remains one of the things Japanese love best about their country. And often, it constitutes one of the strongest links between families and lovers. A woman I know makes obento every weekend to bring to her boyfriend, no matter how tired or pressed for time. “Obento sae tsukureba kimochi wa tsutawaru (As long as I make the obento, he will understand how I feel about him).” Lucky guy.


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