In this cold economy, one item is hot--lunchboxes for grownups, at least according to one publication. With restaurant meals and delivered deli just too expensive, these devices allow cost-cutting employees to brown bag it, but still feel trendy--and eco-conscious.
Now, don't go through your parents' attic looking for that stamped metal Mouseketeer lunchbox or that plastic one with the Monkees.
The latest lunchbox craze, according to Womansday.com, is hard-sided, compartmentalized versions that keep various elements of homemade lunches and snacks separate. Some also feature removable ice packs that keep perishable foods cool, while others are insulated to keep things hot and prevent those irritating waits at the lunchroom microwave. Some even have screw-top sections for liquids such as dressings.
The trendiest models are the stackable and colorful boxes inspired by the “Bento boxes” in Japan , where the stacks keep rice, fish or meat, and pickled vegetables separate. But what makes Bento boxes so famous is the creativity, flair, and time that the Japanese use to make the lunches esthetically appealing. While some employees just run out to the corner store and get a cardboard Bento, others bring lunch from home in elaborate lacquered boxes. Some boxes are conceived by the same designers who produce housings for Japanese electronics products.
Food is placed in the boxes with the care and artistry reminiscent of tea ceremonies--to please the eye as well as the palate. There are even Bento box contests where lunch makers create dishes that look like animals, flowers, or cartoon characters.
Busy Americans may just throw leftovers into their lunchbox compartments, but they are still being “green.” These dishwasher-safe boxes save on energy to produce, and refuse from, brown bags, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil.
Note: Boston.com has some suggestions and recipes for lunchbox packers here.