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Picture of a bento box

From instant ramen to bento box

No matter where we come from, we all need to eat. However, we don’t all do it the same way. Some of us cook, some of us order take out, and some of us have a family to take care of us and cook meals for us. I went from eating instant ramen and boxed salads to making my own packed lunches every day. Here is how it happened.

The rocky beginnings

I remember back in May 2021, I was editing Victor‘s episode. It was memorable at the time because he said he doesn’t like Nutella and never eats ready meals bought from the store. He always cooks from scratch.

This sat with me because, at the time, I was unable to cook. Due to stress and related problems, I couldn’t stand next to the stove and wait for the water to boil for pasta. I just couldn’t. I resorted to eating take-out almost every day. And when I was saving money, I bought Caesar salad from Netto. For some reason, that was the only food I could stomach.

That month was hard for me. Both financially (restaurant food IS expensive) and mentally. The fact that I wasn’t able to cook weighed on me. And all I could think about was how Victor said he can always cook because he enjoys it.

In May, the most complicated meal I was willing to cook was instant ramen. I added some extra spice into the water, so that counted as cooking, right? At least, I hoped it did.

Then things took a turn

In June, I visited my friend Melanie in Copenhagen. After a long day of sightseeing and biking, we were famished. I was getting fussy like a child, trying to convince her to order takeaway. But Melanie convinced me otherwise, claiming to have most of the ingredients for curry. I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I was a picky eater, and I didn’t want to spend hours cooking when I was already hungry.

I asked, “How long will this take?”

Ever so patient with me, Melanie replied, “Just until the rice cooks. We’ll be ready in 20 mins.”

And we were. We made a perfect curry in under 20 mins. And when I tasted the ready curry, I could cry. It was the first time I’ve tasted a homecooked meal since the beginning of May. It was spicy, sweet and savoury. By some miracle, Melanie and I have the same spice tolerance. I told Melanie that it was such a big thing for me. And the experience reminded me that cooking can be more than just a chore.

 

Getting my "hands" wet

sushi bento blogpost
Sofie's first spicy tuna sushi

After arriving back in Odense in the evening, the first thing I did was do groceries. And I didn’t buy any ready-meals. I recreated the same curry, and I loved it.

That was the start of my “no take-outs unless necessary” journey. I tried to cook newer and newer recipes. I was learning a lot from online recipes, trying to put my own spin on things. So when I went back to visit Melanie again, I proposed making pad thai for her. It turned out perfectly, and I came to realise how nice it is to cook something warm and share it with friends.

The only take out I was willing to pay for was sushi. But when I noticed that sushi rice was at a discount in a nearby grocery store, I made a big decision. I went and raided an Asian store and finally invested in a rice cooker. It was game-changing. I made my first sushi, and it was better than I expected.

spirited away_bento blogpost
Spirited Away (2001) - the two characters eating onigiri

Online resources helped a lot, as well as Youtube videos. From sushi, I went on making onigiri. It’s been my dream to make the sticky rice balls ever since I first watched Spirited Away.

Browsing onigiri and other Japanese food recipes, I soon discovered the art of bento boxes. 

 

Inspiration strikes

Browsing onigiri and other Japanese food recipes, I soon discovered the art of bento boxes.

Bento box by Instagram user ayanon.mam_bento_blogpost
Bento box by Instagram user ayanon.mam
Bento box by Instagram user tarohe.tanishi_bento_blogpost
Bento box by Instagram user tarohe.tanishi

I fell in love immediately. These traditional Japanese lunch boxes are usually made by wives and mothers for their kids and significant others to eat at school or the office. This method showcases the perfect balance of nutrients and the wonders of plating. The thought of showing off my cooking in such a pretty way motivated me. These days I cook every other day because it is genuine fun. Especially the next day when I have a nice warm lunch waiting for me. 

Dawn of the bento

I ordered a couple of cute bento boxes and started plating the food nicely. They don’t come out perfectly all the time, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve come a long way from eating boxed salads and resorting to ordering takeout every day.

bento box

Now I’m scouring the internet for new recipes I can make, trying to put in as many seasonal vegetables as possible. I also rediscovered my passion for soups. Because there’s nothing better in this dreary, foggy weather than slurping on some delicious, warm soup.

Bento4_blogpost

After sharing my pictures with my friends, they encouraged me to share them with even more people. So I opened a new account on Instagram for my cooking. You can check it out @bento.sofie on Instagram.

I hope my experiences will inspire you, dear reader, to cook yourself a lovely meal. And while you’re prepping, you can put on your favourite podcast, Humans of SDU, in the background! 

 

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