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Cute Yummy Time Review

I need to stop saying I’ll do something, cause that seems to curse my time management skills and suddenly all forces in the universe move to make me not do what I said. The review+contest I mentioned last week is still on hold as I make final decisions about how to do the contest, so just sit tight for a bit longer!

In the meantime, I’ll be reviewing another book today called Cute Yummy Time: 70 Recipes for the Cutest Food You’ll Ever Eat.


Set to be released on October 6th and written by Gothic Lolita fashionista La Carmina, the book is 169 pages in length and features (as noted) 70 recipes for making cute food. The book is quite clearly marketed for the bento community, offering up lots of creative ideas for accenting your bento lunches. However, I am not entirely convinced that the author knows much about bento making herself, which unfortunately ends up making the book feel as though it’s trying too hard to be something it’s not.

I say this because in her introduction, she talks about how “the most successful charaben usually abide by two constraints… the decorations are not too fussy. Intricate food sculptures may be impressive, but they’re not made on a regular basis or meant to be eaten.” I’m not sure what charaben she’s talking about, but I’m pretty sure one of the first rules of charaben is that you can cram the whole friggin’ thing in your mouth after all your friends OOH and AHH over it. The only charaben piece I’ve never eaten was my Shirt for Sawyer and that’s cause I couldn’t bring myself to eat my Nori Kate and the immaculate egg sheet that I cooked by nothing short of a miracle. I kept that sucker in my fridge as a trophy of my rare egg cooking success until it started to smell. Yes, my stupidity amazes even myself sometimes.

Speaking of Lost, I went to see Michael Emerson (Ben Linus) narrate The Tale of Babar at a Honolulu Symphony show yesterday. I went with two extra friends (Janice and a guy who is one of the stand-ins for a major character). We got to see Jorge Garcia (Hurley) there as he walked to his seat with his girlfriend. Me and Janice were hoping to see Michael Emerson afterwards and stalk him for a photo, but no luck there. He didn’t appear to be outside after the performance. Big bummer!

Anyway, back to the review…

The book is split into five parts: Ohayo! (breakfast foods), To Go (bento dishes), To Stay (dishes to eat at home),  Occasions (holiday themes), and Sweet Treats. Sadly, the To Go section doesn’t deliver much to bento fans. While the lunches are photographed inside bento boxes, some don’t really seem very practical or filling unless you’re trying to starve yourself to lose weight, which is Big No-No Number 1 in losing weight. The Gamblin’ Elephant Crackers is basically a fancy Lunchables with raw spinach leaves being the bed for 2 rye crackers with small squares of ham and cheese on top with a side dish of mixed berries and yogurt.


This picture is of the Politician Frog Pita, which was one of the few images I found to be cute, but it’s stuffed into a bento box that it wouldn’t fit into unless you ate half of it and then rolled up the rest. The bento boxes in this section seem to be more like photo props than actual containers for the dishes displayed.

The structure of the book is adorable, with cute little drawn characters accompanying a roleplaying story that continues on each recipe page. La Carmina makes her way through an imaginary land, meeting all sorts of cute foods along the way. The problem lies in the fact that a lot of the food just doesn’t live up to the title.


Case in point, the Hedgehog Pork Loin pictured above. When I came to this one, I was a bit alarmed. I thought maybe I was just a mean old foodie snob, so I showed it to a pair of innocent eyes. Baby Girl scrunched up her face and looked scared when I showed it to her. She thought it was a monster.


This photo is of the Little Birds Sushi, which is supposed to look like the kawaii drawing, but does not. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t make something similar if I tried because mine would probably turn out just as disastrous, but I wouldn’t put a photo of it into a cookbook that I wanted people to buy.


This photo is for the Waking Lovers Crepes. The story behind this one is that La Carmina comes upon two cute boy singers who try to get them to be hers. The crepes don’t look anything like the drawn boys. I’m not even sure that they’re supposed to be the two boys.

I feel terrible pointing out the worst parts of the book, but I suppose that’s part of the job of a reviewer. There were things in the book that I did like, such as the Animal Yogurt Popsicles shown here:


These were obviously made with the recently introduced sandwich cutters and it really is quite inventive to use them to make little frozen desserts. Still, you can see again about the weird use of bento boxes in the photography and why I feel like La Carmina is just throwing bento things in to appeal to a bigger audience.


This was cute as well, though I don’t know if I’d actually try the recipe out. The middle part is made of scallops, while the orange part is made out of mashed squash mixed with ginger and nutmeg. To be a honest, a lot of the recipes don’t sound like they’d taste good, which is a bad indicator for a cookbook.


These lattes were also among the things that were actually cute, but since I don’t make my own lattes or even drink lattes, I’d never use the recipe. One other cute dish worth mentioning is the Piggie Bread, which is the first recipe in the book and shown on the book cover. Cuteness aside, the recipe needs tweaking, as it relies on peppercorns as the piggie eyes. Imagine the reaction of your kids when they take a bite into those. Pandemonium would ensue for sure and you’d probably have to do some mental repair on your kids’ ability to trust what you feed them.

Overall, while Cute Yummy Time does have some cute ideas, I wouldn’t recommend the book to my readers, even with the low price of $11.57 on Amazon. The recipes are a little too gung-ho on the healthy factor for my own tastes. The photography was obviously done with a point and shoot, is grainy at times, and in general has poor lighting. Those who follow my blog know that this was precisely my problem with my own photographs in 501 Bento Lunches: 501 Unique Recipes for Brilliant Bento, which I consider an embarrassment I wish I could take back. The Coffin Tiramisu dessert was rather gross because it appeared to be photoshopped onto a black lace table so that it looked like it was oozing cream and crust onto the lace.

While the dishes no doubt had a lot of creative effort put into them, I think the book’s editor should have made a call not to include quite a few of them. While I’d like to provide readers with a more hands-on opinion by cooking something from the book, what I saw turned me off and I don’t feel motivated to try, which is vastly different from how I feel about Easy Japanese Cooking: Bento Love, which is a book I’ve cooked from numerous times in the short span of a week.

I don’t want people to think that I’m putting down their own bento creations, but this is a published cookbook. The bar is set higher for cookbooks as that’s where we look for inspiration. This one doesn’t deliver the cute factor it claims. If you want cute inspiration, stick to online bento blogs and communities and save yourself 12 bucks.

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  • Thanks for the review! I wasn’t aware of the book before, but looking at the Amazon page for it, I would have thought it was more bento focused than it apparently is, and you raise some other serious questions (edibility!) too!

  • Great review Pikko! I’m curious – how does the author suggest keeping the popsicles intact in a bento box? Or maybe they’re not meant for a bento?

  • It actually says nothing about putting them into a bento box, which is another reason why it seems like it’s just there to draw in bento fans. There isn’t even any instruction on how to get a stick into it. I guess you just eat it with a spoon?

  • Crafty Jester

    This is why we in the EGL community unaffectionately call her “La Failmina”.

  • What is EGL?

  • Sniple
  • Yvo

    Youch! Well, Pikko, you have earned my undying respect and affection for being completely unafraid to say what you think, honestly and without pulling punches. That’s not to say what you said was unfair – looking at the pictures you posted, I can see exactly what you mean, and I would be quite distraught if I was a bento beginner with kids I wanted to cook-cute for, and this is the book I had. Plus, peppercorns for eyes, forget the kids, that would upset ME as I tried to eat it!!!

    Love the review, thank you for saving a lot of us $12. <3

  • LolitaLove

    XD in addition to La Failmina I have heard her called:
    La Sardina
    La Chlamydia
    La Crapmina
    and some other stuff

    Anyway, this book really doesn’t look good for bento-ers :/ She generally doesn’t know what she’s talking about, IMHO. Her idea of “Lolita Fashion” is way off the mark, and apparently so is her impression of bento

    I cannot believe that her blog could have that many followers when she comes off as an uneducated weaboo (please excuse my use of that word – I generally try not to use it) trying to make money off of poor, unsuspecting suckers >:(

  • I was pretty shocked to hear that the book includes a near-duplicate version of one of Maki’s ( recipes. Boo. Must check it out myself to compare.

  • It’s not a point and shoot! On her blog it says she uses a Sony DSLR-700….

  • thanks for this brutally honest review pikko — i agree, some of these things make no sense at all (neither a frozen dessert NOR a latte can go in a bento! are the boxes really just there for show? wtf!)… you lost me at thinking mashed squash wouldn’t taste delish, but everybody’s palette is different… but anyway, i agree, the bird sushi and pork monster are weird and scary! and a lot of these ideas just seem impractical. i’ll stick with your bentos for inspiration!

  • I’m a bit boggled by the latte thing. That’s coffee, right? (we don’t do coffee; Ive never even been in a starbucks ;)) For me, cooking cute is cooking for kids; who serves coffee to kids?

    But I suppose there are grown ups out there that like cute food. *I* like cute food I guess. I’m just way too lazy to cute things up for me, it takes enough time to do it for the kidlet!

  • @Laura If she’s using a DSLR, then my bad, but I they photos don’t seem like they were done with a DSLR.

    @Gamene Mashed squash would taste good, but I don’t care much for ginger, so pairing it with nutmeg and scallops and I get scared off. lol

    @Kristen Cute food is for all ages, so I can see how latte’s could be in the book as she does say it’s meant to be not just for kids.

  • Heh.. the thing I .liked most here (apart from your wonderful review) were those mushroom faces in the frog “bento” – and that isn’t even a bento either. Of course, we can all present things “sticking up” of a bento box, but when the photo is taken it should still be possible to actually *close* the lid – otherwise… how would anyone bring it with them?

    If this is a bento book, then I’ the Pope.

  • Thanks for the review! It was on my list of books to buy, but now I’m not so sure.

  • Mer

    Thanks for the review! I agree that that hedgehog thing looks scary! Yikes.

  • Wow, glad I’m not gonna be suckered into purchasing that one!
    I’m enjoy 501 Bento Lunches, and I can pick out many of your photos. Despite your reservations, they’re still some of the best photos in the book! I say that to compliment you, as well as to complain about the utter lack of photo quality in some of them (even if they’d been doctored with PhotoShop they still would’ve looked bad). As good as yours were, there were some bentos in that book that looked worse than my first bento attempts back in the 90s! And there was even a duplicate photo in 2 different sections…with 2 different recipes for each, LOL. Still 501 is a massive collection of awesome ideas and coffee table impressiveness. But it sounds like CYT is only good for the coffee table of dieting childless women?! Oy.

  • Yeah, as the other lolitas here have said, La Carmina is NOT a reliable authority on lolita fashion at all, despite her claims otherwise. Most agree that she’s just an attention-seeker, and this book strengthens my opinion that she is not much of an authority on anything. Thank you for your review! It’s certainly a big help to be able to differentiate the good books from the bad before we go out and spend money on them. ^_^

  • Interestingly, there are 7 reviews for the book already (for a book that came out on Tuesday…hmm) and except for Pikko’s 1-star review, they are all rave 5-star reviews. Even more interestingly, each of those reviewers only has the one review up on Amazon.

  • maki

    (I meant to say there are 7 reviews for the book on up already, obviously)

  • JHz

    It’s been documented that this person, La Carmina, steals other people’s photos and claims them as her own, even ones with watermarks on them. She claims to be a fashion expert yet the one thing she is known for in fashion is purposely trying to ruin a fashion show. She jumps on every popular fad, claiming she is an expert, when she isn’t.

    I have to wonder who she stole most of this book from. It’s also odd that I can’t find any info about this publisher except they put out a lot of self-help paperbacks. I’m wondering if they are a self publishing company? Perigee Trade is not the same as Perigree books.

    I’d say the only thing Ms. Carmina has experience with is self-promotion. Too bad she has to pretend to have experience with other things, people have lost money because of her.

  • Well, she’s obviously got a following of people helping boost her Amazon rating, because there are lots of five star reviews for it by single review people. I don’t know if they’re fake or just high.

  • yuck!

    anyone has evidence that la carmina nabbed recipes? it has been alleged before that she’s stolen other stuff from people.

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  • t

    I received a copy of the book recently and was appalled at how poorly done it was. The execution was in my opinion amateurish at best and relied heavily on bento accessories instead of original ideas on the part of the author. I didn’t find anything in the book that I wanted to make and some recipes just sounded gross.

    For someone who is new to bento making it would be better to save their money and visit bento blogs like yours.

    Thanks for the honest review!

  • Looks interesting to spur other creative ideas. I’m oh and dont review my book!! Just kidding I know you’d be nicer to me!! 🙂

  • Hey! I just noticed . . .not sure if this is just me, but all the pictures appear to be broken, so unfortunately, I can’t see any of them.