Quick tip: Easy cute bento components with stickers
As I've stated here many times, I love looking at charaben/kyaraben (cute bento) masterpieces, but I can't see myself devoting that much time and effort. I'm also a bit nervous about handling food that goes into a bento box too much - and the less experienced one is, the more fiddling around is needed.
I ran across this method of adding color and cuteness to bentos while perusing Amazon Japan (as I do regularly). It's so easy and obvious that i was a slap-my-head "why didn't I think of that!" kind of moment. The book in question is called ラップdeおむすびおべんとう (rappu de omusubi obento: Obento omusubi (onigiri) with plastic wrap), and it basically introduces the concept of making onigiri wrapped in plastic wrap (Saran wrap), and using stickers to decorate them on the outside. I haven't actually bought the book yet, but the idea itself is such an obvious and easy way to decorate any bento or lunch box component.
I often read on Japanese charaben/kyaraben blogs that the main reason why they take so much time to create cute bento is to encourage their kids to eat. Well, what can be more fun than opening up your lunch and finding a brownie with googly eyes on it, or a smily-face sandwich? And even a steamed carrot may be more appetizing with a smiley face on it.
In the photo above, I've put sticker faces on a small sandwich, a brown rice onigiri, a carrot and a brownie. It took me about 5 minutes to do all four. Anything that you might wrap in plastic wrap can be decorated with stickers. The easiest way to make your own stickers is to use printer-label sheets, draw or print on your designs, and cut them out (a paper punch is handy for circles). Or maybe your kids can make their own, for you to stick on their lunches. You don't even have to do faces - if your kids are anything like my niece and nephew, stickers probably breed around them, reproducing themselves like bunnies. Take a few of your kid's favorites and stick them on!
Some tips and caveats:
- The plastic wrap on the surface you want to decorate should be as smooth as possible. Press them on securely so that they won't come off and possibly get lost in any surrounding food.
- Make sure that the stickers are on the outside of the plastic, and on the top surface, not touching any food directly.
- Take extra care that your bento is totally cooled down before packing it with stickerized components, otherwise the ink may run and other unpleasant things.
(Note: The lighting in the photo makes it look as though the beasties are looking towards an eerie light from a UFO or something that is drawing them in. I was going to try to fix it but I left it as is...)