Monday, July 19, 2010

Food Free Bento

Look Ma, No Food! This bento contains red licorice, a slice of fried Spam rolled up with cream cheese, mac 'n cheese, cheese puffs, ho-hos, Slim Jims, and barbeque Corn Nuts. There's also a can of Red Bull (YUCK), a crushed out cigarette, and a flattened PBR beer can.

I have jokingly been referring to this bento as a "Trailer Trash Bento," since it contains "foods" that are commonly found at convenience stores and gas stations. In fact, I bought the Red Vines, Red Bull, Corn Nuts, and Slim Jim at the AM/PM Minimart Gas Station near my home. But as I put this together, the joke seemed a lot less funny. For many people in our country, access to fresh produce and healthy food is limited. These places are known as Food Deserts.

If you live in a Food Desert, your access to food is probably a gas station, convenience store, or mom and pop store with canned goods and shelf stable products, with very little fresh food. And those "foods" probably cost a lot more at the convenience store too. First Lady Michelle Obama has been talking about childhood obesity and promoting her Let's Move! program. She refers to food deserts, and hopes to get rid of them over the next 7 years. Access to grocery stores and farmers markets gives families the option of healthy food choices.

I take for granted the fact that I live next to a grocery store, and within walking distance of a year round farmers market. Sonoma County is so full of healthy, amazing food products, that there really is no excuse not to include fresh produce in our diets.

I did not eat the food in this bento, besides a few bites of mac n' cheese, and unfortunately my husband grabbed the Slim Jims and I couldn't stop him from snarfing them down. Blech! Instead, I headed over to my friend's place for a fun potluck party and I brought some actual food. Here you see fresh corn salad, Fra'mani rosemary ham, Valley Ford Cheese Co. cheese, and blueberries.

Recipe for Fresh Corn Salad
3 ears corn, shucked
1 small tomato, or 5 cherry tomatoes, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
8 fresh basil leaves, minced
1 pinch sugar
salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Stand ears of corn up in a bowl, and slice the kernels off the cob in a downward motion into the bowl with a sharp knife. Discard cobs. Add tomato, garlic, basil, sugar, salt, and olive oil to the corn kernels. Stir to combine. Makes enough for 6 servings as a side dish. And yes, the corn is raw in this salad. Sooooo yummy!


  1. This is awesome! So informative and important message about eating healthy! You need some sponsors! :)

  2. Thanks Sarah! I love what Michelle Obama is doing to support healthy communities.

  3. I agree with Sarah...You do need sponsors!! I'm thinking the Farmer's Market needs to get on-board!!

  4. Aw thanks Natalia! You know how much I heart the Farmers Market. It was a joy to be able to make so many great recipes with their ingredients when I did commercials for them.

  5. Insightful and excellent post, Sonoma Bento. I must admit, the food desert bento has a certain grim, petrochemical humor--something about the neon orange exploding corn puffs next to the not found in nature ho-ho's. But you raise such important points here!
    I love how your site celebrates local and beautiful ways of eating, and your part of CA has been so visionary in this regard--The Edible Schoolyard comes to mind.
    I hope that bento helps more kids and moms and people in general see that seasonal food can be fun, creative, practical, and life-enhancing...thanks for sharing your perspective here!

  6. Oh, and great recipe, looking forward to trying!

  7. I find it incredibly sad that people don't have access to fruit and veg but can freely buy junk food!

  8. Bentobird, thank you so much! This bento was actually quite alarming to make, and I nearly lost it when I smelled the Spam frying. Yuck!

    I get such a thrill when I see busloads of kids heading to the farmers market for a field trip. Knowing where our food comes from, and realizing that there is a season for the foods we love is an important lesson.

  9. Arkonite, I hear you! We need real FOOD in our food, not empty calories.

  10. yet somehow you manage to make yucky food look good! lol

  11. Now I get it. I was wondering how most folks in my neck of the woods could get creative with a bento. We live in a food desert. My husband is the local convenience store owner. He carries items that folks request in his little store and has some good items in addition to junk. The sad truth though, is that most folks here will buy a Dr. Pepper and box of nerds for their toddler. Our public school here serves glazed doughnuts for breakfast sometimes. Obesity, diabetes and cancer are rampant in this town and the many people here have no interest in healthy food. The idea of eating healthier is just as absurd to them as eating crap is to us. My inlaws have been brutal about us not letting our child eat junk, and they work for the medical industry, and most of them are on a long list of presciption drugs by age 30. Today's bento would fit right in. I'm not trying to be a downer, but if you wonder why we in a health crisis, just spend a day at work with mmy husband.

  12. Kelly! Thanks so much, I wanted to apply the aesthetics of bento to junk food. Glad you like it. :)

  13. Mrs. Ed, thank you so much for your comments! I really encourage you to check out the First Lady's website There are resources for parents, kids, community leaders, mayors, and more. Click on the Join tab to see places in TX where communities like yours are meeting to figure out how to get healthy options more readily available.

  14. very good post! I didn't know there where such food-deserts in America! I can't imagine to live without fresh food! This is really a problem for these people and their kids. Maybe they can try to plant some vegetables themself?

    I hope this problem can be fixed soon.
    Your corn salad looks very yumma - I hope I can try this soon! :D

  15. Vielen Dank Token! It really is a big problem here. There are literally millions of kids in the United States who do not have access to grocery stores. Even the smallest village in Germany has a market with fresh food, or a nearby town with fresh food. Plus public transportation is so much more developed in Europe, making it easier to get to grocery stores. Hopefully we can spread the word and make a difference for our communities here!