My oldest child will be starting first grade this fall. Since kindergarten was half day, this will be the first time he’s experiencing the cafeteria scene. I’d be happy for him to buy the hot lunch every day, but I’m familiar enough with his taste in food to know that this will probably not be happening.
Which has left me figuring out how to keep lunch packing from landing on my daily to-do list for the next dozen-plus years of my life. My first inclination is to teach my son how to pack his own lunch. This has the benefit of helping him develop a life skill, as well as a sense of self-reliance. I figured this is what many parents do — until I learned that lunch box fare has become a major focus of modern intensive parenting.
I blame Pinterest. While once the only people privy to what was in a kid’s lunch box were the parent, the kid, and the other kids at the kid’s table, now people are into sharing high-design snapshots of their lives with the world. In Pinterest’s daily round-up the other day, I was promised hundreds of ideas for school lunches that, incidentally, looked like they should be pinned on Pinterest.
That same day, I received a copy of a magazine called Family Fun (the substitute for Parenting, which went to that great recycling bin in the sky). The back-to-school issue promised lots of “school fuel” as dreamed up by various food bloggers. There was the Green Monster Freezer Smoothie — cubes of blended spinach and pineapple, frozen and put in a thermos to thaw by lunch time. There was J.M. Hirsch’s “Minikopita” with spinach and feta, and some “Hummus-stuffed Baby Bells,” introduced with the hopeful (and naive) statement that “Even reluctant veggie eaters can be won over by the novelty of little bell peppers. Sliced in half, they make yummy, edible vessels for layers of hummus and tabbouleh, a parsley-seasoned, citrusy salad.”
The final straw for me, though, was the watermelon pizza. This was presented as an idea for a parent who volunteers for snack duty at school. You’re supposed to top 1-inch thick rounds of seedless watermelon with 2 tablespoons strawberry jam. Then you sprinkle on halved green grapes, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and sweetened coconut flakes. “Slice the rounds like pizzas and serve.”
Really? Do these people have preschool aged children? Because while the pizza looks beautiful — like something you’d pin on Pinterest — my own experience has been that the more something departs from the form in which a child expects it, the less likely he or she is to eat it. A child who will eat watermelon, grapes, strawberry jam, and dried cranberries separately may still balk at all of them touching each other. A sensible snack would be to bring several of these items separately. Mixing them together? That’s about creating a pin-able photo — not about actually feeding the kids.
What goes in your kids’ lunches? It would be PB&J every day here, but peanut butter is banned.
Photo courtesy flickr user Jeffrey Beall