DPaul and I have both always admired the way the Japanese take charming selections of food in a portable bento box for lunches. It appeals to many of our tastes: Grazing of small amounts of diverse things; contrast of flavors, textures and colors; overall cuteness. So DPaul finally broke down and ordered a Zojirushi Mr. Bento lunchbox. Now the fun begins.
Much like Shmoo's lunchbox, this creature demands very controlled amounts of food composed neatly and efficiently. It's all just so Japanese. The main container, which is thermal, contains four stackable smaller containers -- 15.2, 10.1, 9.5, and 6.8 ounces. The lowest is designed for soups, and the others are more free-form.
By all reports, the trick with this lunchbox is to go either all hot or all cold. If you have hot soup in the bottom and chilled salad in the top, the salad will warm up by the time you have lunch, and the soup will lose some heat. Luckily all the containers are nukable, so you could just take everything cold or lukewarm.
But this is not how we are accustomed to thinking about lunch. For the first time, we will have to be thinking about cooking a multitude of things expressly for the composition of a multifaceted and satisfying lunch. The lunchbox is like a puzzle, and my first impression is that a certain equation should be followed for optimal results:
Top layer: Pickles, fruit or dessert
Second layer: Salad or steamed veggies for side
Third layer (largest container): Staple with meats/veggies, e.g., curry over rice, paella or even pasta salad.
Bottom layer: Soups, possibly some kind of sauce.
The Mr. Bento comes with a convenient carrying tote as well as an adorable set of chopsticks in a little container that slips into a discreet little sleeve inside the tote. We begin experimenting with it tomorrow. Stay tuned for future updates.