I was chatting casually with a reader of this blog a few days ago, and she said something that made me pause.
"I read your lunch blog," she said "and I kind of feel, well... I LIKE making cute special lunches for my kids!"
And right away I knew what she meant, because we here at The Ladies have a tendency to not only say "just eat the damn sandwich" but also to remark disparagingly about those moms who do the Bento box / smiley face sandwich thing.
So first, to that mom, I apologize.
I don't do the twee lunches because frankly, I do not have the time, patience, or skill. This doesn't mean I don't think they are cute! I do. I just practice keeping my kids' expectations low. Begin as you mean to go on, my mom said to me when I was deciding what traditions to try and create for our families' Christmases. That way, when you do feel inclined to go above and beyond, it's a surprise, not an expectation.
Cynical? Maybe. But I've found it invaluable over the years. It's why with three kids and the oldest one creeping up on eight years old that I've never thrown a birthday party. (I know, I know. But I work with other people's kids all week. Letting that creep into my weekend too just turns my stomach.)
That said, I *do* look at Pinterest links of beautiful lunches and think "man, that's cool". We all love to eat food that looks enticing. There's a reason why a late-night commercial for McDonald's will make you want a Big Mac, and it's not because they taste good - it's because an army of food stylists have spent their careers learning how to take two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-onions-pickles-on-a-sesame-seed-bun and make it look like something Gordon Ramsay would serve at one of his restaurants.
Food preparation and consumption at its best tickles all of our senses.
It's another reason to try and pack some variety in our kids' lunches. Brightly-coloured fruits. Unsquished sandwiches. A nice-smelling piece of cake or sweet bread. Vegetables that make a satisfying crunch. These are all important things to keep in mind if we want our kids to eat their lunches instead of trading them away or bringing them home untouched.
So, to all the moms who spend the time making their kids' lunches look like modern art: I salute you. Really. It's not something I'm prepared to do, but you've made me think. And this week, I've been putting more effort into making sure that the boys' lunches feature an array of colours, tastes, and textures, because they're as bored with eating packed lunches as I am with packing them.
This week we've had hummus and small whole wheat pitas for dipping, honeydew melon, black grapes, cheesestrings, egg salad with Italian parsley, corn & shrimp chowder, and popcorn (because kids are weird and don't mind cold popcorn).