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The Meaning of Food

Obento

A typical mother spends almost an hour crafting every lunch into a healthful, beguiling blend of cartoon characters, flora and fauna — anything that will make the food appeal to her child. The teacher judges whether the lunch box is prepared according to obento rules (e.g., the food must be as handmade as possible, and it must be appetizing and aesthetically appealing to the child).

In the U.S. this tradition continues, albeit in a less structured fashion. Here it isn't so much about keeping up with the Tanakas as preserving small, edible morsels of culture that convey big emotions to mother and child.

Take a look at some of Yayoi Brown's creations:

“I have memories of my mother making obento when I was little. I fortunately have a child that eats anything and everything. Hopefully when she grows up, she’ll make obento for her children too, with the same kind of love.”

—Yayoi Brown, Mother and Obento Maker