Yesterday I finally received a copy of The Just Bento Cookbook, fresh off the presses. I’ve seen the proofs or galleys, but the Real Thing exceeded my expectations. It really looks fantastic - not just the great photographs by the other Makiko-san, but the layout, the print quality, - everything.
As with better quality Japanese bento cookbooks, the Just Bento Cookbook is soft cover with a dust jacket. Here is the front cover:
The Japan version has a paper belt or “obi” around it, which has some blurbs and information in Japanese. I believe that the version sold in the U.S. and elsewhere won’t have this obi (though it’s possible that copies carried at Japanese bookstores may).
Here are some peeks inside the book. Each of the main recipes have a little picture of the corresponding item in the featured bento, so you know exactly what is what.
Of course, any bento that requires some prep work beyond just packing things up in the morning have a timeline. Would you expect anything else from a Just Bento book? ^_^
I tried to vary the bentos for the seasons. Here’s a Summer Vegetable Casserole bento, from the not-so-Japanese bento section….
…and here’s another one from the same section, a Soup and Muffin bento with poached apples, packed into a thermal lunch jar for the colder months.
A couple more shots! A mini-hamburger bento with cut-outs. I kept the decoration ideas very simple.
A “chakin zushi” (egg-wrapped sushi) bento with stewed lotus root and hijiki seaweed. I believe this is the most Japanese bento I have in the book, in terms of ingredients. Lotus root (renkon) is about as exotic as I got with the vegetables, but you can easily substitute another vegetable dish for it if you wanted to. And dried seaweed can be easily mail-ordered if it’s not at your local Japanese or Asian grocery.
The Table of Contents is organized into 3 sections by type. This makes it easy to go straight to the bento recipes themselves, or find a particular tip or how-to. (There should be a “Look Inside” on Amazon before the book goes on sale there by the way.)
There are 25 total bentos; 15 Japanese, and 10 Not-so-Japanese. That may not seem like a lot…until you consider that each bento has tons of variation recipes. So you can mix and match to come up with dozens of combinations that work!
I’m quite proud of the Not-so-Japanese bentos. I tried to come up combinations that have a ‘bento aesthetic’ - colorful, varied and appetizing meals packed into a compact box, that taste good hours after they are made. I hope I’ve succeeded!
I am really my own worst critic, but looking through the book several months after completing it, I have to say that I am really very happy with the results. As I wrote previously , this is a practical, everyday bento lunch book, for people who want to bring, or make for their loved ones, tasty, healthy and varied lunches to work or school, on a regular basis. As I keep saying - I hope I’ve succeeded!
Check this list  for when and from where the book will be available.
This is what I wrote as the first sentence in the Acknowledgements:
First and foremost, I could not have even contemplated writing this book without the tremendous support and encouragement of the JustBento.com readers. Thank you!
And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.