Boxed in


POSTED: Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sure, you can throw a handful of olives in your kid's lunch box, but dress those olives up with wings, eyes, beaks and feet, and you've got blackbirds, which will certainly up the wow factor at mealtime, and just might increase the possibility that all that lunch will be eaten.






        Book signings with Susan Yuen:


» Saturday: 2 p.m., Borders Ward Centre


» Sunday: 2 p.m., Borders Waikele


» Oct. 11: 2 p.m., Borders Pearlridge


» Oct. 12: 1 p.m., Borders Windward Mall


» Oct. 25: 1 p.m., Barnes and Noble Kahala


» Nov. 22: 2 p.m., Borders Ward Centre



Imagination, some cute containers and a few clever tools are all it takes. And some time. For inspiration, first-time author Susan Yuen offers “;Hawaii's Bento Box Cookbook,”; now available in bookstores.

The book is Yuen's take on the bento culture that homemakers in Japan have taken to the level of art. She offers step-by-step assembly instructions as well as recipes for some local lunch-box favorites.

Some are quite simple (it's amazing what can be done with bologna); others, such as the little people on her book cover, involve spraying food coloring on thin slices of fishcake and are only for the truly motivated.

Yuen's interest in bentos took root two years ago when she started sending daughter Paige (now 6) to preschool. “;A few moms were from Japan and they would make the most wonderful lunches.”;

She started doing research online, but found very little how-to information available in English. So she began photographing the bentos she made for Paige, eventually taking them to Mutual Publishing, which saw the value in compiling her collection as a book.

Pre-Paige, Yuen was a sous chef at Palomino Euro-Bistro and Kincaid's Fish, Chop & Steakhouse and did some catering. She's now a full-time mom to Paige and 2-year-old Sean. She says she still makes Paige a designer bento every day, which takes 10 minutes to an hour.

To get started yourself, Yuen suggests hunting for cute containers at Marukai 99-Cent Stores, Sanrio outlets or Shirokiya. Ebay also has a bento section offering molds, tools and other accessories. Click on “;stores,”; then search for “;bento.”;