Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bento Box Lessons of Love

295Today I did not

drink water


or eat food

until after 3:30 pm.Untitled-5

Instead I spent the entire day running around like a mad woman. I loaded up bags of supplies and tools for my culinary class. I wrote up hand outs and directions for simple things such as  “How to boil eggs” and drew maps of the classroom where everything would go. I mentally prepared myself for the chaos that would be 7th period with 32 students. Untitled-1

32 students. For 70 minutes.

Not to scare anyone out of the teaching profession (AAAAAAAHHHHHH! It’s a flaming zombie! Run away before you’re eaten alive!), but being in charge of 32 teenagers is like trying to wipe up a gallon of milk with a tissue. It’s like the test in the eye doctor’s office where you’re clicking the clicker for those random flashes of light in every peripheral spot. It’s like trying to play the piano while the baby is screaming.

Add some chef’s knives, gas stoves, and raw food to the mix.

Untitled-9Now it’s like teaching culinary.

Over the last few lessons I’ve been teaching my students about the visual appeal of food. I thought, how better to do that than with bento boxes? In addition we learned about portion control, balance, variety, and garnish. Since most of our periods are 40 minutes long, it’s difficult to get in much, but I did pack a lot of information in to 3 days. We even made bento box blueprints. Untitled-4

Untitled-2Today we put our plans into action. Every student made his or her own bento. I ran from station to station to thwart safety hazards (“Does it smell like gas in here?”) and answer questions like, “Can I just cook the rest of my SPAM for later?”

32 students need a lot of attention. Almost as much as my 4-year-old.

Untitled-1We even had a photography station and got a shot of each bento box for later grading. I stepped in for a few pictures as the entire concept of photographing food was definitely new to them (not that I’m any sort of expert). Some couldn’t be rescued, color and focus wise, because of the lighting in that room and the settings they chose because I was too busy to help them with each picture (probably this could be fixed more with photoshop but is beyond my capability). Some students are definitely naturals at design. Think we have a few future food bloggers?

They’ve had such small exposure to food, really. But there are such cute details in even the simplest bentos here.


The kids were so impressed with their pictures on that little LCD screen. They couldn’t believe they had made something beautiful. I heard one student say, “Now I remember why I like this class.” Untitled-3

Glad I could remind him.

And glad they could remind me. Untitled-8



Unknown said...

awesome sentiments-- my favorite teacher was always my culinary teacher so hopefully they will remember you like I remember mine

Quay Po Cooks said...

Those bentos are so colorly and lovely. I am sure all the kids love you!

Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

Aw, that is a fantastic activity and they have done great jobs! I should try doing that one day with the boys - make your own bento box for lunch - sounds like great fun!

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

YES! This is amazing. You are amazing Mariko, this is really cool.

Sippity Sup said...

That's a lot of boxes. I bet the "kids" had a blast. GREG

Anonymous said...

Wish my daughter, one of the Two Teenagers, could take your class. What a great idea and great execution.


Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy said...

What colorful lunch boxes.I wish I would be able to make learning fun for my kids some day..very yummy idea to keep the kids busy.Thanks for dropping by too.

Cakewhiz said...

Those are sooooooo cute! I am sure those kids had the best time ever!

Christine Wu said...

Ohhh cute! I'm overdosed with cute bento pictures. I wish you were my teacher in home-ec back in junior high..

~Lisa~ said...

Mariko, you daughter must love you. WHat awesome bentos. I'd like two bentos please (=

Anonymous said...

What is spam? I've heard of it, I've seen it, but I've never eaten it? Is that a little blue oinky egg in there?

FootPrints said...

aawww your such a good teacher!! i wish we learned that in school, i only remember how to microwave a baked potato. yay public school.

Karen said...

Wow!! This is incredible(and edible):D

marla said...

Mariko, you must be an amazing teacher!! These bentos are wonderful. Such a gift you are teaching these kids. I bet they will use this knowledge throughout their lives! xo

Kristen said...

Um, I wish you were my teacher back in the day! the only thing I remember "cooking" was a pan of rice crispy treats.... sad.
Those boxes are awesome and how fun to make bentos?!
The pics are great too. Your students must love you!

Mariko said...

FootPrints: Hey. Don't knock the baked potato. I was going to do that next week. ;)

Kristen: I'm pretty sure these kids would be learning something if I had them cook a pan of rice crispy treats. That's what level we're on, really.

French girl: yeah, she covered her egg in dye. I tried not to picture eating it. SPAM is like hot dogs. With more fat and salt. Deliciously shaped like a square can. You should definitely fry some up.

Lisa: Amaya loves bentos more than anything else. We'll save some for you next time.

Christine: But I can't sew worth a darn!

Cynthia: Wish she was, too. We'll have to have a cooking club.

Nippon Nin said...

What a fun you had! I'm sure students had a great experience too. I hope your students will be a wonderful cook at home or in professional enviroment.

Susan said...

Wonderful blog and great bento boxes! Saw your article in the Staradvertiser. Congratulations! :)

Meg Luby said...

so charming, both in story and images. thanks for sharing!!

Randism said...

wow; i'm amazed at the amount of energy you must have to do all that you do! your children are so lucky to have a super mom like you! read about you in the staradvertiser and surprised to learn that you're just on the other side of the island! keep up the GREAT work!

Melinda said...

brave, man. good on ya.

Shelby said...

Hi Mariko,

Those bento boxes are lovely! Looks like such a fun teaching activity. Being that you are a culinary teacher, your kids must be learning so much from you! Involving your children in the kitchen is a great way to have fun with them while reinforcing valuable skills at the same time. That’s why I work for the Healthy Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit group which just launched brand new campaign called The Kids Cook Monday, which encourages families to begin each week cooking and eating together as a family.

We’re looking for blogs to help us spread the word by writing weekly posts, usually chronicling their family dinner stories and recipes. If you’re interested in participating, please email me at


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