Why does my daughter take a bento to preschool for lunch? Bentos, Japanese style boxed lunches, are meant to be visually appealing and designed to provide a well-balanced meal. Packing a bento for your child is a great way to add a bit of fun to a packed lunch and also a great tool for getting a picky eater to eat their lunch while at school. Although my 4-year-old isn’t a picky eater, I found that she was coming home from preschool with a lunch that had hardly been touched. The first time I helped in her class I discovered that the reason behind her uneaten lunch was that she was just too busy having fun to eat. I decided to tap into the Japanese mom mentality of carefully packing a bento-style lunch to see if this would have any effect on her lunch habits. The first day I sent her to preschool with a bento, the box came home empty. This trend has continued, though there are still days where she doesn’t eat everything. Another result of my switch to bento lunches is that other kids have started noticing what she’s eating and asking their moms to make them the same thing. I’ve had multiple moms ask me about various things in my daughter’s lunchbox.
Harumi Kurihara writes, in her book Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking, “I feel that making a bento is something rather special, it is almost like a little love letter that is opened when someone is away from home. It reminds you of home, of the person who made it for you. It is more than just food!” I’ve decided to start sharing small ideas on how you can pack your own little love letter for your kids to take with them to school. Today’s idea is for a fun and different way to eat hot dogs. Enter, The Octodog—a hot dog that looks like an octopus. This little guy is so easy to make, and is likely to put a smile on anyone’s face, including yours!
Octodogs (Octopus Hot Dogs)
Makes 2 octodogs
1 hot dog
1. Cut the hot dog in half.
2. Work with one half: Lay the hot dog half on a cutting surface. Starting 1 inch from the uncut end of the hot dog, slice the hot dog vertically in half, towards the cut end (leaving the uncut/rounded end of the hot dog uncut).
3. Roll the hot dog 1/4 turn. Starting in the same place as the previous cut, slice the hot dog in half vertically again. This cut will make 4 vertical “arms”, all connected at the top. Slice each of these arms in half vertically. After doing this your octodog should have a total of 8 arms. Repeat with the other hot dog half.
4. To cook: Place the octodogs in a medium-size saucepan, and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. When the octodog arms start to curl up a bit, remove the saucepan from the heat and drain. Add the octodogs to a bento!