martedì 21 ottobre 2008

Face Food - Christopher D Salyers

"Face Food - The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes" 80 pages by Christopher D Salyers is as cute in size and presentation as the bentos are themselves.

This is the first book I found that deals with the actual philosphy and modern use of making lunch boxes. The book is a testimonial of many Moms (and one Dad) who prepare their kids some kind of lunch at least twice a week. It shows their work (and artwork) but more importantly it asks the real questions of why they make these fab lunches for their children.

I read for the first time the term "charaben" which refers to using manga or other characters in creating the bentos. There is no real explaination of technique but lots of images that give you a fantastic idea of the dedication and creativity behind the bentos. One mom even said her kid had become critical of her bentos when she makes some slight mistakes in the character representation. Another Mom described making the charaben for her kid as " A communication tool between my child and I and between my child and his classmates." It's not just an expression of love but also an attempt to improve the status of the child in school. There is actually competition between children for who would have the best o-bento. And strangely enough, according to the author, the moms are not competative. They actually have get togethers where they exchange methods and secrets on creating and executing the best charaben possible.

The author has his own blog spot as well ( which I suggest you check out as he is constantly on the look out for face food as well as reviews of his book. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I do have a few points on where the author could have improved it. For example, the format is great (quite small) and the actual material of the cover gives a feeling of an old household recipe book. But the pages are printed on some kind of paper which does not render justice to the intricate photos they present. It seems like recycled paper but I was unable to find anywhere which mentions if it is. (ok, I admit, if it were recycled then I guess it's ok that the images are grainy...) The typeset works fairly well (altho at times difficult to read) yet it gives the impression of reading someone's diary entries or their kitchen journal where they document their bentos. The ingredients lists for each bento are not accurate as far as I can guess. But that may be due to the fact that each Mom who filled out some kind of form had to summarise overall ingredients or the translation fell short.

Anyway, without a doubt, for a person who is just getting into charaben and bentos it's definately a book to check out. After reading this one you can probably convince yourself that making a bento is not just fun but possible.

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