The Zojirushi equation

MrbentoDPaul 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.

  • What a fascinating concept… you must let us know how it works for you. It may be the fresh-food time of year, but I’m thinking Spanish tapas served Japanese-style — gazpacho in the bottom container, then a nice green salad with sliced deli meats and cheeses for garnish, some assorted olives, and a melange of fresh raspberries and grapes. yum!

  • Yes, yes — that’s the spirit. On the one hand I see this as an equation of Japanese elements. On the other it’s made for tapas, you’re right! I just finished watching that irritating Rick Bayless and have begun fantasizing about a Mexican tower. So much potential …

  • While this is a nice design, and the thermal insulation is a great feature, these have been around for a long time in India in the form of tiffins. You can get them very cheap at asian kitchen supply and hardware stores.

  • Tiffins were in fact the thing that got DPaul started — after watching Anthony Bourdain in Mumbai. But ultimately it was the thermal insulation that made the Mr Bento more appealing.

  • Daily Tiffin

    No, this is not a blog about a frequently feuding couple. Tiffins are compartmentalized lunch boxes commonly used in India for delivery. Meeta, over in Germany, uses a plastic version to pack perfect little lunches for her young son. It’s…

  • Wow! Great info. I wish, I could have such a writing skills.

  • ruthie

    Hsve you seen Lots of great food ideas, including pickle-y stuff.
    I love bento because I’m a grazer, and it gives me great variety. Plus! It’s a great way to use up little bits of this and that in the fridge that are too minimal to save but too tasty to just throw away. 😉