On display through the wonderful internets are hundreds upon thousands of photographs of everyday lunches. No soggy PB&J’s here, though. One forum, the Mr. Bento Porn Flickr group, posts their collective creative efforts to make mid-day meals visually appealing, healthful, delicious and, yes, a little easier on the wallet. Their cousin site, Diet Bento, includes impressively low calorie counts for those whose 2008 resolutions (for now at least) include trimming down a little of their own belly fat.
Portable meals have been with us for as long as farmers have trudged off to their fields and soldiers have marched on in war. The Japanese took it a little further, of course. Where other countries preferred banana leaves or woven baskets, Japanese al fresco diners preferred compartmentalized boxes. By the 17th century, bento meals became elaborately arranged celebrations of the full moon and cherry blossoms, a leisurely way to enjoy intermission with friends at the theatre or, like the older form of sushi, essential food for travelers in an age before planes and bullet trains.
Chef Sanjay Thumma is my current favorite time suck.
It’s refreshing to watch someone demonstrate mouth-watering dishes with uninhibited joy, a matter-of-fact globalism and minimal make-up. It helps that I love so many cuisines in India, but what immediately appealed to me is his stance as a teacher. It’s a very different experience to learn about traditional foods from someone who assumes, from the beginning, that his audience is not comprised of outsiders. Like a student whose teacher sets high expectations, viewers and home cooks rise to the challenge.