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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Bento 弁当

Lunch duty was one of the first rituals they had put in place when they started living together eight months ago.

Amaya’s lunches were a piece of art. Packed in mason jars of three different sizes, full of colour and textures and flavours - looking almost too good to eat. There was a mid-sized jar with salad - quinoa and chicken and arugula and walnuts and cherry tomatoes. Or oatmeal with honey and almonds. Or home-baked plantain or tapioca chips with a sweet-spicy dip packed separately. Then a large squat jar, usually with something European or Lebanese or Mexican, which they did their best to eat together if they could. And finally dessert. Yogurt and fruit parfaits for the most part. But every now and then, when Ama had the time and was in the mood, it was red velvet-in-a-jar or tiramisu or mason jar brownies.

Tabeer’s lunches were utilitarian. And uniform. Two raisin and oat cookies. That he bought from the artisanal bakery every Sunday for the explicit purpose of adding to their lunchboxes. A sandwich - multigrain bread, tuna or chicken or egg. Sauteed peppers and mushrooms. Spinach instead of salad. Julienned carrots and cucumbers on the side. Pita pockets if he was feeling adventurous. Grilled cheese if he was stressed. Wrapped precisely in baking paper and then aluminum foil. Soups in winter. Cups of yogurt or pudding in summer.

Yuki’s go-to was grilled meat with sticky rice or noodles. He always made sure to marinate the meat overnight. And woke up early to stick it in the oven or sizzle it over the fire before anyone needed the kitchen for breakfast. Whenever it was his turn to cook lunch, the smell of spices filled the house all day. They had discussed the lack of vegetables. Well, Mayu had discussed while Tabi pouted. So Yuki got creative. A fancy vegetable slicer to turn pumpkin, turnips and zucchini in to noodles. Beetroots and spinach and red cabbage with the rice. Yuki’s lunches were a riot of colour. He always packed two separate portions for each of them. In thermally insulated stainless steel tiffins.

Mayu sat under a tree by the bookshop.

Yuki at a crowded table in the break-room.

Tabi sat on a bench outside the business tower.

They opened their lunches.

Mason jar. Sandwich. Tiffin.

It didn’t matter which it was or how it tasted.

All that mattered is that they ate well.

The word bento refers to a Japanese-style packed lunch. It usually has vegetables, rice and sashimi. So Yuki's version probably comes closest to it.

The last line of the story is inspired by the poem Our Beautiful Life When It’s Filled with Shrieks by Christopher Citro. Follow the link, read it. It reminds you of what is really important in life.

Image Credits: Lunch Box Picnic by jun yang from Pixabay

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