Different people have different concerns in mind when packing snacks or meals, especially with regards to content and presentation. Some people are more concerned about health or dietary restrictions, others are more concerned about taste. Some people love cute or “character”decorations, others go for a more simple look.
My personal preferences usually falls somewhere along the lines of cute, but simple. I like bold shapes and strong lines, bright, natural coloration, and a good blend of tastes. Taste is a premium for me. I love noodles and dumplings, and like filled Chinese bao and sandwiches filled with cream-cheese mixtures or salads (egg, tuna, chicken). Tortilla roll-ups that are less bread-y are also fun. I’m less a fan of rice (which is weird, I know, since I grew up eating it every single day), but depending on what I have for lunch that day, it can be fun, too. Actually, to be honest, hot meals (like melt sandwiches, pasta, rice with fixings) are some of my favorites, but when I don’t have a microwave available, I’m not a fan of eating them cold, so I stick to foods that are meant to be eaten at room temperature. I like edible decorations, but only if they taste good to me or help enhance the dish that they’re garnishing. For example (if I had it available), I might do simple nori face decorations on rice, but I wouldn’t put it on bread or cheese (I don’t like the way they taste together). There are also certain bento “staple” foods that, after trying them a few times, I’ve decided aren’t much worth my repeating, since I’ve never really liked them to begin with — plain hard boiled eggs, for example (I just can’t get over the eggy taste). As cute as I think my egg molds are, I only forsee using them for bento that involve dressed salads or deviled eggs. I’ve made tea eggs a few times, too, but I’ve mostly ended up either smothering them in soy sauce or giving them to my boyfriend to eat (he loves them). There will always, however, be room in my lunches for fresh fruit and cut raw vegetables (like cucumbers and carrots – I’ll eat broccoli with dinner, but I don’t much like it cold). Another thing – aside from desserts, I really don’t like artificial coloration. I’ve seen some lunches made with food-colored rice, but as a picky purist, I like my rice as it is (or else naturally colored). I’m therefore always excited by brightly colored foods like orange sweet potatoes, kiwi, tomatoes, and grapefruit. This week, the dining hall had blood oranges, and I just about did a dance right there…
Snack Bento Contents: 2 wedges of a HK style “pineapple” bun (plastic wrapped to prevent veggie and fruit juices from getting them soggy), cucumber wheels, blood orange segments
I tried to showcase the pop of the orange flesh’s color by supreming it, but I ended up just making a giant mess of bright pink juice…I had to use a spoon to eat it. I still have another orange sitting in my fridge, waiting for Tuesday. This time I think I’ll go for neatness (another of my peculiarities is that I hate it when the flavors of foods that aren’t meant to be mixed run together) over visual presentation.