xOn October 29, students in the new First-Year Learning Community, Tutmonda, participated in a bento workshop with renowned culinary writer, Debra Samuels. Bentos created by students featured a Japanese rice ball, known as onigiri.

Onigiri Action 2020 (October 1 – 31), part of the World Food Campaign, calls for participants to make onigiri “to make our world a little better.” For each onigiri photo or drawing posted, the campaign provides five school meals through Table for Two.

At the workshop, Samuels presented a brief historical overview of bento in Japanese culture – its importance in parenting, role in contemporary gender relations, and as a vehicle for communication (including the infamous revenge bento!) – and showed examples from her own extensive bento collection, from the artistic to the whimsical. Samuels then led students in a hands-on workshop via zoom to craft their own bentos, based on traditional Japanese ideas about nutrition and variety in food colors, portion size, arrangement, and the principle of “eating with the eyes” (me de taberu).

In preparation for the workshop, Tutmonda students received a special custom MIT-Japan bento, given by the MISTI / MIT Japan Program. Students participated from across the continental US, Hawaii, Ghana, and Palestine, using purchased Japanese or local ingredients. Participants got creative making their own assemblages, including making Japanese words cut out from nori! With typical MIT enthusiasm, some even suggested they might try their hands at making a Tim the Beaver out of food for their next bento.

Tutmonda is a collaboration between MIT Global Languages and MISTI.

– – – – – – – – –

Below: Debra Samuels’s onigiri.

Below: Two more creations based on the workshop