With the joy of back-to-school, comes the dreaded burden of lunches. Early morning lunch assembly comes with a significant amount of loud sighing. We take our lunch making seriously in my household crafting well thought-out, immune-boosting, organic nutritional bundles of culinary love. We tried menu planning last year, it died down after a few months. Furthering the time commitment, we include a handmade little note each day (my husband often writes a poem and draws a picture!)
Brown bag lunches have come a long way from peanut butter and jelly on cotton-like white bread, accompanied with a bag of processed potato chips. My husband recounts a lunchtime staples: Oscar Meyer baloney on Wonder bread. I can’t think back to what my parents packed for me but I remember in high school, the choice finally became mine. I didn’t buy a turkey sandwich and instead feasted on a daily midday regimen of peanut M&Ms and a “Bar None” candy bars. Evidently, my body knew it was grossly malnourished (even at 40 pounds overweight), so I overcompensated the sugary lunch with a sodium fiesta: nachos, using almost an entire block of Cabot cheddar cheese, microwaved to perfection.
In my daughter’s healthy, well-balanced lunch, there are at least three colors of the rainbow represented and yes I acknowledge we’re fortunate she loves fruits and vegetables; processed food hasn’t entered her lunchbox or tainted her taste buds.
With the first day lurking, my daughter says, “Can I have hot lunch on some days? I tasted the pizza once and it was really good – and sometimes they have French toast sticks. I know it won’t be as healthy as yours but it’s delicious.”
I roll my eyes and make a mental note to include French toast sticks (with cinnamon AND added flax seed) to the monthly menu I intend to revive again this year. I’ve also noted to include a fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil wrap as a variation of deconstructed pizza.
If you Google “kid’s lunch ideas,” you get a glorious Bon Appetit spread with gorgeous displays of metal bento boxes filled with the quinoa salad, pizza roll ups, and vegetable sushi. The only nostalgic nod to bygone brown bag lunch days is “organic peanut butter and exotic jelly sushi rolls.”
As our children’s pallets become more sophisticated, the demand for higher-form creations unleashes a Pandora’s box lunch hell.
Many Martha Stewart-inspired moms have created “30 days of lunch recipes no repeats!” As I scroll through, impressed at the dedication to midday cuisine diversity, I laugh to myself at the irony that I’ve created this mini culinary connoisseur. It’s nice to know no matter how seriously I take my responsibility of feeding my child healthy meals, the Internet will always reveal another obsessive mom out there staying up all night concocting parmesan spinach cakes and Mediterranean tuna antipasto salad and making me feel closer to normal.