Sunday, February 27, 2011

The MASSIVE 3 posts in one post.

So, to make up for my laziness over the past 3 days, I'm going to give you 3 posts in one! Again, I have yet to start in on lunches, because meat fare Sunday is today. The post will consist of a bit of personal history on my introduction to Bento. some background on bento (my research was done on "cooking") and the history of Meat Fare Sunday (research from ) 

My Introduction to Bento

I have enjoyed Anime since I was little, and my liking for japanese culture has only grown since my years of watching "Sailor Moon" in the living room. Beginning with the Tokyo Mew Mew series in middle school, I got into Manga, and decided to delve deeper into the wonderful cultural experience that is Japan. I began to research the food and culture of Japan, and even began to attend Naka-Kon! This year I went as Misty (from the popular show "Pokemon") 
(me, with a guy who is cosplaying Ash)
I became an avid Cosplayer (someone who dresses up as the characters from his or her favorite anime or manga) last year I cosplayed Alice, from the manga version of "Alice in Wonderland" and for halloween last year I was Zakuro Fujiwara, the wolfgirl of the Tokyo Mew Mew series. I also love wearing my Neko ears and tail ^_^ (Neko = cat). 

I have only recently gotten interested in more than the regular food side of the Japanese food culture, leading me to see a few pictures of cute bento lunches and get curious... once I realized that they were just cute and healthy box lunches that were much better (and SO MUCH more kawaii) then brown bagging it, I was in! At which point I realized that Lent was coming up, and that I could start my blog. And rather than just helping myself to have fun and overcome fasting difficulties, I could help other people too! 

The History of Bento

Early Bento:

Bento, or packed lunches, can be traced back as far as the fifth century, when Japanese leaving their homes to till their fields, hunt, fish, or even wage war carried food with them to eat on the go.  These portable meals typically contained staples, such as white rice, rice mixed with millet, or potatoes. 

During the Kamakura Period (1185 to 1333), hoshi-ii (literally, "dried meal") was developed.  Hoshi-iiconsisted of cooked and dried rice, carried in a small bag, that was eaten as is or after being rehydrated with hot or cold water.  Wooden lacquered bento boxes were produced during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568 to 1600); meals would be served in such boxes at tea parties and during hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties). 

During the peaceful and prosperous Edo Period (1603-1868), bento became more refined and widespread.  Japanese packed lavish assortments of food into fancy, tiered, lacquer boxes to take on outdoor excursions or to the theater.  Travelers and tourists would carry koshibento ("waist bento"), consisting of onigiri wrapped in bamboo leaves or in a bamboo box.  The popular makunouchi bento ("between-scene bento"), consisting of small onigiri sprinked with sesame seeds and a rich assortment of side dishes, was developed during this time for theater patrons to eat between maku ("scenes").  From this period onwards, bento began to evolve into a sophisticated art form.  Special occasion bento are used in celebrations in the home, at Buddhist memorial services, for entertaining guests, and for tea ceremonies.  

In the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Japan's railway system was born, and the first ekiben ("station bento") were sold.  The very first ekiben, consisting of takuan and rice balls with umeboshi filling that were wrapped in bamboo leaves, reportedly was sold on July 16, 1885 at the Utsunomiya Station in Tochigi Prefecture.  Thousands of different types of ekiben are sold at train stations throughout Japan today.  A European-style bento, consisting of sandwiches, also was developed during this period.

The aluminum bento box made its first appearance during the Taisho Period (1912 to 1926) and was considered a luxury item due to its silver-like finish and its ease of cleaning.  The disparity in wealth among Japanese spread during this period due to an export boom during World War I and subsquent crop failures in the Tohuku region.  Bento carried to school by children became a reflection of a student's wealth.  A movement thus developed to abolish bento in school and, after World War II, the practice of bringing bento to school gradually declined and was replaced by uniform food provided for all students and faculty.
The 1980s – with the introduction of microwave ovens, convenience stores, and more affordable bento boxes – saw a resurgence of bento. 

Bento Today:

Bento again are a common sight at schools and at work.  With more working mothers, however, ready-made bento are increasingly sold at convenience stores, supermarkets, department stores, and restaurants.  In addition to the still popular makunouchi bento, many types of box lunches are sold, including Chinese- and Western-style bento. 

Modern bento boxes are made of many materials, including plastic, aluminum, and the traditional wood. Generally, boxes are rectangular, oval, or circular in shape.  Some bento are designed to keep food hot, such as Zojirushi's Mr. Bento.  Designer bento boxes, and boxes decorated with popular characters such Hello Kitty, also are popular.  Bento boxes often come with matching chopsticks, silverware, and carrying pouches called kinchaku or large cloths called furoshiki used to wrap everything up.  There are styles designed for women, business men, boys, and girls – a little something for everyone!

Meat Fare Sunday:

It is a strong conviction and belief of the Church that Christ will come a second time into the world, not to save the world, but in "glory" to judge the world. In as much as God knew in advance the destiny of each man, why did He not prevent the non-believers and wrong-doers from being born and being condemned everlastingly, someone might ask. The fate of people is wrought on this earth, because after death, there is no opportunity for repentance in order to better one's state. Man's finite mind cannot comprehend God's love for his salvation and judgment for his condemnation. Yet, here is the center of the belief that there is a Supreme Judge for those who committed iniquities and wrong-doings without punishment or discovery while on earth. Approaching Lent and Easter, the Christian is admonished to correct his faults by fasting, praying and almsgiving, as recorded in the Gospel passage of the day. The Last Judgment will be made according to the good works of each person as a result of his faith in and worship of God. These good works are directed to the "least", those in need, as Christ Himself says, "as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me", (v. 45). This Sunday is the last day before Lent that the believer eats meat.

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