When playing with your food’s a good thing

bento7It was June 2013, and my youngest, Xander, was excited about starting preschool. I was excited for him, too. Then I got the memo: The school cafeteria was closed for the summer.

What to do now? Sandwiches? Boring. Lunchables? Pricey, and not all that healthy. Then I remembered a co-worker who made cute bentos for her kids, full of healthy items cut into fun shapes. I thought to myself, if she can do it, I can do it, too. And so began my bento-making journey for Xander.

When I first started making these special lunches for my son, I was horrible at it. My musubi fell apart. I didn’t have the correct molds to form fruits, veggies, eggs and rice into shapes. But thanks to some guidance from my co-worker, I slowly started accumulating the tools I needed to put together a nutritious and cute home lunch for my son.

How to get started

If you plan on trying your hand at creating food art for your child, start with the right tools. You can find cutouts and molds at several stores, including Marukai and Celebrations in the Mapunapuna area.

Next, don’t worry about making a few mistakes. And make sure you’re having fun (as you’re creating a little fun for your child, too.).

bento1Soon after starting, I started experimenting and getting creative. I cut letters out of SPAM and cucumbers to make little maki sushi. Marukai had an adorable panda rice mold and I cut out nori for the ears and eyes. I boiled eggs and put them in a mold to shape them into either a car, bear, bunny, or fish and used a little shoyu to define the shapes better.

Making them your own

As I started gaining confidence, more ideas started popping up. For instance, I made a “bird’s nest” lunch with soba noodles swirled into the shape of a nest and soaked with soba sauce the night before. In the middle, I placed boiled quail eggs dyed with a little food coloring.

My coworker continued to inspire me. With her own take on the “bird’s nest,” she boiled an egg, carved out a little peep hole, used black sesame seeds for the eyes and a little carrot triangle for the mouth. Then she sat the egg on a bed of somen and sliced fish cake.

bento5With a mold I bought from Don Quijote, I cut a carrot up to make a plane, a bear and cherry blossoms. I even make SPAM musubi for the soccer team in bear, elephant, and star shapes.

Creating fun, healthful lunches was something my son and I shared — and I had a blast doing it.

This year, when the school cafeteria closed again for the summer, out came the cutouts and molds.

ginamugGina Sakai is a part time neonatal intensive care unit nurse and mother of a toddler and a high school senior. She loves to travel and enjoys trying new food. She has a passion for car seat safety and is a certified child passenger safety technician instructor. In her free time she loves to plan parties and make favors.

One comment

  • My kids always liked when I created meals in various kid-friendly shapes and forms. I remember making pancakes using fruit and whipped cream to make a face. These are great ideas and sure to get kids to eat!


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