Saturday, June 5, 2010

Obento for a Picky Eater - Week 1

For the last two weeks of my little sister's preschool class, the students are required to bring a home lunch. She's been enrolled in the school lunch program for most of the year because my parents can't be bothered to pack her a lunch every day, most of which she won't eat anyway. I have no clue what they serve for school lunch, except for one day when she informed me that they'd had pizza for lunch.

I was excited when my mother told me that I would have to make my sister lunch for two weeks, because it would mean I got to use all the adorable bento gear that I've bought. I was hoping that the cuteness factor would get my sister to actually eat the lunch (have I mentioned she's a picky eater?). Plus, secretly, I was hoping that the mega-cute lunches would inspire some envy among her classmates and help with my sister's 3-year-old self-esteem...let me explain...

A week or so ago, she came home from preschool and told our mom and me that she had to have something called a "silly band". Neither of us knew what she was talking about. We offered her a pink elastic hairband, which she rejected, saying it wasn't the right one. We asked her to explain, and she replied "it's not shaped like an animal!". Instantly I knew what she was talking about. Those colored silicone bands molded into the shape of an animal. They'd first started appearing in our local supermarket a couple years ago. We asked her why she wanted one, to which she whined "everyone has them but me!". I tried asking her why she cared that everyone had them, and she could only mumble "Because...everyone else has one..."

Shit. The peer pressure bug had bitten. It's not so much that I'm completely opposed to random trends (am I turning into a hipster?), so much as I'm opposed to the really stupid ones (green movement = good trend, uggs = stupid trend. In my humble opinion). "Silly Bandz", while far from the worst trend ever, symbolized to me the start of her awareness of what "everyone else was doing", and possibly of a journey that might lead to cookie-cutter clone-dom, a journey I was determined to stop. My worst nightmare is my baby sister growing up to be a stereotypical, spoiled, trend-slave princess who wouldn't be happy with herself unless she had the latest "in" thing. I refused to let that happen.

I knew my parents could not be counted on to raise her to be an independent, free-thinking individual. Indeed, I discovered, my mother had considered buying a packet of "Silly Bandz" when she chanced upon them in our local CVS, to be turned off only by the price.

So...hence the reason for the bentos. My reasoning is that she'll probably like it, even though it's not like everyone else's, and hopefully it will help her be okay with not having the same things as everyone else. It's only a small part, but...I figured every little bit counts.

And onto the bentos. Monday was Memorial Day, so there was no school and thusly no bento that day, but starting Tuesday I got up at 5:30 to start preparing.

bento1 by you.
Contents: Three onigiri (rice balls) filled with scrambled eggs and topped with ham cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, one octopus hot dog, three tulips made out of watermelon and cucumber, one mini silicone cup filled with diced avocado dipped in lemon juice, and some broccoli florets to fill up the space. Not pictured is a little container of buttermilk herb dressing to dip the broccoli into.
Verdict: She ate the hot dog, the avocado, the tulips, one and a half of the rice balls (although she did pick off all the hearts) and one piece of broccoli. I asked her what she liked about the lunch, and she said the watermelon, the ham, and the octopus. Of course.


bento2 by you.
Contents: Half a ham and cheese sandwich cut into four triangles, two flowers made from egg sheet, three sliced cucumber halves, two pieces of heart-shaped watermelon, two broccoli florets, and one apple bunny.
Verdict: She ate two of the sandwiches (and picked the ham and cheese out of the remaining), the egg flowers, the watermelon, and the apple bunny.

bento3 by you.
Contents: Three carrot yaki onigiri, one mini silicone cup of potato salad and one of cubed peaches, one storebought frozen meatball, some cucumber sticks, and a mini jello cup.
Verdict: She ate one yaki onigiri and most of another, the meatball, a one of the cucumber sticks, all but two of the peaches, and the jello (duh). The potato salad appeared untouched ;_;

bento4 by you.
Contents: Seven grilled-cheese hearts (a little more than half a sandwich), one mini silicone cup of cocoa-dusted almonds and another with chicken cubes with tomato sauce, a little container with extra tomato sauce for dipping, carrot sticks, broccoli florets, watermelon balls, grapefruit segments, and two mini apple bunnies.
Verdict: She ate all the grilled cheeses and the almonds, half of the watermelon balls, one apple bunny, and a couple of pieces of grapefruit. She didn't eat any of the veggies or chicken at all! The almonds and grilled cheese must have filled her up.

Conclusion for the week: Not bad. I know I probably pack her too much food (she's 3 and a half and doesn't have a very big appetite) but I want her to have some choices. For a toddler who usually had to be coaxed into eating every bite and shuns new food, this was pretty good. One more week of preschool lunches, and then a break before summer camp starts.


  1. I must say I love your bento boxes. I've been wanting to make my own for years now, but I'm also a picky eater, lazy and I don't have the time or resources. Can you recommend some good bento books for beginners? :3

    I love what you've done though. I wish my lunches looked so amazingly cute and declious~

  2. Hi Marisa~

    Hmm, well I haven't read any bento books myself so I don't feel comfortable recommending any, but I read a lot of bento blogs that I draw inspiration from and find generally helpful:

    The first two have a lot of "cute" bento and are good for inspiration, and the second two have a lot of recipes and tips on packing/cutting down on bento-making time. I hope you give bento a try, it's a bit of work but (in my opinion, anyway) worth it because it makes me really happy when lunchtime comes around.