News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I haven’t talked a lot about my book since I started working on it last September, but here’s lots of news about it. The final edits were finished up last week, and the files went to the printers…yesterday! I’ve only seen the PDFs, but it really looks fantastic. And, it’s already available for pre-order on all the Amazons! The purchase links are near the end of this post.

This is the cover by the way - I think it looks great (as well it should…the number of reshoots we had to do on that photo…oy vay…)

JUST-BENTO_bookcover.jpg

The Just Bento Cookbook - the basic facts

  • The title is now official: it’s The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go. (Incidentally, it has a different title in Japanese, which only appears in the back of the book and on the “obi” or little paper band that is required of books in Japan. The Japanese title is ジャスト・ベントー:世界に届ける、毎日のお弁当, which means “Just Bento: Everyday bentos delivered to the world”. Okay that sounds a bit weird in English, but it does make sense in Japanese!)
  • It is softcover with a dust jacket, just like a Japanese bento cookbook. If you like the look and feel of Japanese cookbooks, you’ll love the look and feel of The Just Bento Cookbook for sure! We decided early on (as I mentioned in my post back in September) to keep it softcover, so that it would be affordable and easy to use.
  • There are 128 pages, and there is an Index and a Glossary of Japanese food ingredients. Lots of gorgeous full-color photos, especially of each complete bento, shot by the talented photographer Ms. Makiko Doi, plus many supplementary b&w photos. (The same first name is just a coincidence! I did not do my own photography by the way because I totally screwed it up in the early going…but in any case I’m quite happy with the photos in the book.)
  • 85-90% of the recipes are brand new, never featured on Just Bento, Just Hungry or anywhere else. The rest are some basic “foundation” recipes and how-tos, plus a few favorites. (You can’t have a bento book without things like how to cook rice, tamagoyaki, and onigiri, you know!) Some old favorites have been revised and refined too.
  • 60% of the recipes are for Japanese-style bentos; the rest are for what we decided to call Not So Japanese bentos. You could call them lunchboxes, but I just like to think of them as “international” food put together with a bento aesthetic and philosophy.
  • Each complete bento has a timeline, just like the complete bentos on this site. All the bentos are designed to be put together in under 20 minutes in the morning (some do require some prepping the night before or making some things in advance and stashing them in the freezer and so on…hey, just like the bentos on the site!)
  • Tons of tips! The book is crammed with tips. Maybe too many tips, I don’t know!
  • (Edited to add) The measurements are in both U.S. and metric. In other words, I’ve used cups (using the U.S. cup measurement of approximately 240ml) and ounces as well as grams and milliliters. So wherever you are, you should be able to measure things properly!

Getting into some details

Mixing Japanese and Not Japanese bentos

By having a mix of Japanese and Not So Japanese recipes and bento boxes, I hope that the book will appeal both to Japanese food fans as well as people who aren’t that fond of Japanese food per se, but are interested in putting together tasty and attractive bento boxes or lunch boxes or however you want to refer to them.

The Japanese section sticks to using ingredients that are widely available, or can be easily ordered online. As you probably know if you’ve been following this site, it’s always been my philosophy to stay away from hard-to-find Japanese ingredients as much as possible. In the book, I was even more strict with myself; none of the main bento recipes use vegetables that can’t be easily bought at a typical American or Western supermarket (though some of the variation or ‘extra’ recipes do), and the only Japanese flavorings and condiments I have used are the basics - soy sauce, miso, sake, mirin, rice vinegar and sesame oil, plus dashi. All of these can be mail-ordered from Amazon Groceries in the U.S., Japan Centre in the UK, and many other places - and these days, most supermarkets have them too (except maybe for dashi ingredients or dashi powder…but dashi is so critical to Japanese cooking I couldn’t leave it out!)

Besides condiments and flavorings, the only Japanese ingredients I used were the basic seaweeds (wakame, konbu, and nori), frozen edamame, umeboshi, tofu and abura-age (fried tofu skins) - and of course, Japanese style rice. I think you can find most of these at many supermarkets these days too, except perhaps for umeboshi…but only a couple of recipes call for umeboshi so you can avoid those easily. In particular, I avoided using the convenient ready-made foods that are standbys in Japanese bentos, but are not widely available outside of Japan - things such as all the fish-paste products (kamaboko, chikuwa, fish-paste sausage), not to mention Japanese-style cuts of meat (very thinly cut or finely chopped (not minced) pork and beef). In any case, the Japanese bento recipes do taste “authentically Japanese” but should not be hard to put together for most people around the world.

I’m particuarly proud of the Not So Japanese section - it was quite a challenge to come up with a variety of bento box combinations that worked, that didn’t rely on the old standards!

For omnivores

After a lot of discussions and back-and-fro’ing with my editor, we decided to make the book primarily for omnivores, to appeal to the widest audience possible, so most of the bentos do have some sort of fish or meat in them. However, there are tons of individual vegetarian recipes, and a couple of all-vegetarian bentos. (Maybe a vegetarian bento book as a followup…who knows? I can’t even think about starting another book at the moment though…^_^;)

It’s not that cute

This is not a charaben/cute bento book; it’s a practical, “everyday lunch” bento book, just as the title says. There are many easy-to-do decoration ideas scattered throughout the book, and I guess at least one bento is decidedly cute, but it’s almost impossible to do highly decorative bentos in under 20 minutes, especially in the morning when you are rushed anyway. I did try to make the bentos attractive to the eye though, since the way our food looks is important!

(For a cute-bento book in English, look for the just published Yum Yum Bento Box, co-authored by Pikko of Adventures in Bentomaking and Maki Ogawa of Cute Obento, as well as Hawaii’s Bento Box Cookbook: 2nd Course by Susan Yuen. I haven’t seen either of these books myself yet, but they are by very talented charaben artists so I’m sure they’re good! Kawaii Bento Boxes, a translated-from-Japanese book that I do have a copy of, is also very good for charaben.)

Availability

I’ve moved this section to the top of the cookbook info section.

Book tour?

Some U.S. book promotional activities are tentatively scheduled for January. So far the only definite city is New York, but it’s early days yet so we shall see where the publishers send me. If you want me to show up at your town, why not mention it here! I don’t have final say in the schedule of course…but who knows? ^_^

(Here, I have a shameful confession to make. I had a chance to appear on a certain TV show…but they needed an audition tape ASAP. I didn’t/couldn’t provide one, for technical, time, my-eyes-are-puffy-with-allergies, and just scared-of-being-on-camera reasons, so I’m probably not going to be on that TV show. I suck at publicity, really. I really admire people who are good at it. I’ll probably never get to be a guest judge on The Iron Chef either. Sniff.)

So…that’s it for the moment! I am both excited and very calm about the book - it was a lot of very hard work indeed, but I sure hope that it will be worth it in the end!

(Due to a large number of inquiries I’ve decided to stop taking any more requests for review copies for the moment, at least until the book is actually out. The requests received so far have been forwarded to the publisher. Thanks so much for your interest!)

Update: Take a sneak peek inside the book, and see the Table of Contents.

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Well, I guess I should mention that I get a small affiliate commission when people buy via those Amazon links too ^_^;

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

This is great, I'm really looking forward to the cookbook. I hope that you do a book tour in Lyon (since you live so close now!), because I'd love to see you. Congratulations on the book! it looks gorgeous.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

This is great. I've already gone to amazon and put it on my wishlist. I make bentos for me and I have no children so this is the perfect book for me. (I do, however use some decidedly non-adult bento boxes. My current favorites are Gaspard and Lisa. I love Gaspard and Lisa.)

While I certainly like an attractive lunch, a lot of the decorating just isn't my style. Although I understand our Governor does like to do his breakfasts that way. (Schwarzenegger.)

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

If you do end up doing a U.S. book tour, a stop in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area would be lovely. I know a lot of college students around here (myself included) that make bento lunches on a daily basis.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

so awesome!! SOLD!!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Maki, I'm so proud of you, and I can't wait to get the book. I told Jesse about it and he said "Now, that's a blogger book deal I can get behind!" Me, too. I'm so excited!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Hi

Where can I order the book if you live in Belgium?
I'dd LOVE to buy it!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Don't forget to hit the capital of Europe on your promo tour.
Brussels will give you a hearty welcome!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

If you are not yet tired of all the praise, I offer yet another congratulations. I've been reading Just H&B for a good few years, and it's really quite an achievement what you've managed so far, not only in my kitchen, but judging by comments from other readers, kitchens across the globe. That's no overstatement - 感動しました。

I look forward to seeing the final product and trying out some of the new recipes - the cover looks great!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I've joined the ranks and placed my pre-order with Amazon. Maybe I'll get it by O-shogatsu? Early January works for me... but truthfully, I would love it now! :)

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Yay! I will definitely get this book once it comes out! (or order online!)

Congratulations!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Ooo! I like the cover, how nice! Just a subtle nod to your logo, very cool. And looks miles better than any bento I've eaten. Are cucumbers easier to eat with chopsticks when they're thin like that? Those little guys are slippery.

Omedetou!

Congratulations on the cookbook! Definitely been looking forward to this!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Hurray! And though you stress that it will be all new material: I would buy it even if it was a good compilation of already published just bento and just hungry recipies. (I know you have that print out function, but I like to keep it A4 and then I have to crop and so on... )

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I hope your US tour will include Portland Oregon. Bento is very big here...lots of Bento lunch vans. I wouldn't call it necessarily authentic, but the concept has been embraced big time. We also have 2 excellent Japanese grocery stores - Uwajamiya and Anzen that carry just about everything for me to try my hand at washoku. Powell's Books would be a great venue.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Congratulations on the book. I cannot wait to get a copy.

I am an American who started using your site to help me learn to cook Japanese food when I got engaged to a Japanese guy. It turns out that I married your cousin! Small world! Right after the wedding we went to visit your dad. It was great to see him after everything he has been through.

Thank you for all of your hard work. It has really helped me out.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Hi Blair, if you come back to see this, please get in touch with me at maki at makikoitoh dot com :)

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. I'm so excited! Just in time for me to enter college! It's so pretty, it's cheap (compared to the heafty prices worthless cookbooks nowadays are charging), it's softcover, and best of all, it's trustworthy. I've been a big fan of your blog and I know your book will be just as helpful and creative. :)

Have you thought of donating a small percentage of your profits to charity?

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

congratulations. exciting!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Wow! I can't wait too! I already placed my pre-order at BookDepository! They say it will be release in November.
Congrat!!!!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

i absolutely adore your site; it's been a huge help since i started taking on all the family cooking for my mom AND started making myself lunches on the side to keep myself alive [sometimes it's really hard to find time to eat when you have a really irregular class schedule to work around]. i'm ecstatic about your book, and i bet my family will be even more so once i get it and start putting it to use!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

congrats ! i will be buying this when its released !:D and i am so excited because i became a vegetarian not too long ago and i am brimming with excitement with this book...and i can easily get meat replacements here so i can prepare vegetarian meat/fish with no problem(:

also i support the idea of vegetarian cookbook !

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I think its about time we see some bento books in English. There seems to be alot of Westerners interested in Bento making yet I have only seen a few of them in English. Excited to see it.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Yay! Good for you, Maki! can't wait!!!!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Maki, even if the Marketing department decided that an omni approach is the way to go to reach the widest audience, the vegetarian/vegan market could still end up to be huge, so please advise them 'don't count it out' - even just a few paragraphs in the introduction welcoming substitutions for the animal components could bring in more buyers.

From my understanding, when you're talking bento, you're usually not talking huge-slab-o'-cow as the mainstay of the box, right? You're usually talking multiple tastes, multiple foods, multiple options. And there are plant-based options available for almost every animal-based option out there.

Even though I don't use any of the animal-based options, I'm looking forward to publication, and will do a preorder- lunches (and waistlines) in the U.S. need all the help they can get, so good luck on the book launch!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I'm going to preorder the book! I'm so excited about it. Thanks, Maki. Your site has been really useful to me.

Please try to come to San Francisco if you get a chance. ^-^ We'd love to have you here!

~Anna~

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Hi,
I've been reading your sites for a while and will be sure to place an order for your book once I have some spare cash.
I just thought I'd let you know that there is a reseller in New Zealand too, it's Fishpond like in Australia and a direct link for the New Zealand page is http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/Cooking,_Food_Drink/International/Asian/...
Another option, though it looks like The Book Depository will be slightly cheaper if people don't mind waiting on the shipping.

Thanks,
Brinn

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Is Miami a possibility for the tour? :) I would love to meet you

the just gorgeous cookbook ...

Just... finished my reading.

Everything about it is lovely, in that inimitable Maki-way. There is such a brand of caring for the reader shown in the rich yet restrained detail everywhere it's needed and nowhere it's not, that quiet yet warm-to-the-core thoroughness in each essential thing without excess... and the occasionally thought-provoking observation or shared chuckle -- pure Maki and what a great first book (more please, but of course have a little rest! Much more fun to have book in hand than to go through the fire of creating one!).

The entire style of it is so inviting and reassuring, and packed with goodies. A wealth of excellent tips indeed, and as clotilde pointed out in the first comment above, there are never too many of that sort!

Even the paper... silky, light yet strong, and shows not a mark from all the drooling I did over the recipes. If you put your nose to it, it's japanese curry and beige linen. ;-)

I'm ordering all the rest of them through Amazon, and encouraging friends to do the same. You should have every last penny we can find for you, you deserve it. Bad books are not worth having, and good books are worthy beyond price.

Thank you Maki, so happy for you... it's going to be a great first success.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Come to Brussels, please!
Your book sounds like a huge success already! Congrats!
I have to order it, NOW. lol

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Couldn't see if this issue was addressed... but... is this book actually in English? I wanted to make sure because I purchased a Bento related book before and assumed it was in English. Unfortunately couldn't use it because I cannot understand written Japanese. Thank you! I looooves muh Bento!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Well yes, like this site the book is all in English!

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Dear Makiko, I have just purchased your book from Kinokuniya Malaysia! I was so happy to see your book on display here. Your book was Kinokuniya's "Gem of the Month" pick.
I can't wait to try out your recipes and definitely looking forward to having them for lunch.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Thank you for buying the book chkee! Great to know it's available in Malaysia already! Gem of the Month is an honor ^_^

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

I just bought the book at Singapore Kinokuniya, last book on the shelf. Hehe!
Not all the pages in colour, some of the steps picture is in grayscale.

Re: News about The Just Bento Cookbook

Hi,

I happened to stumble upon the book while searching for Japanese recipe books on amazon and I asked myself "isn't that from the same website - justbento???" (I visit the site frequently for recipes ^^). Then it hit me and I was in awe. Sadly it hasn't been released yet in Canada :( so I'll probably preorder or get it right away from one of the Euro site :P

Congratulations on your hard work! Can't wait to have it in my hands haha!

Lack of availability? New printing or distribution planned?

Had the book on back order for a few weeks at Amazon and today received an email ;
"Due to a lack of availability from our suppliers, we will not
be able to obtain the following item(s) from your order:

Makiko Itoh, Makiko Doi "The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday
Lunches To Go"
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/4770031246

We've cancelled the item(s) and apologize for the inconvenience."

Barnes & Noble is also out of stock, no expected availability.
Border’s is no longer around.
Link to Bento&co is no longer good.

Hope everything is OK.

Re: Lack of availability? New printing or distribution ...

Hi - please see the update here. (I noticed that Amazon.com does still have it available from 3rd party sellers if you are in a big hurry...but the reprint version should be available within the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience!)

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