It's not that I have anything against partitioned lunch boxes. I don't. I also have nothing against sushi. If you eat fish, eat it to the gills, I say. Heaven knows, as a vegetarian I've been known to scarf down my fair share of vegetarian California rolls--with extra wasabi and lots of pickled ginger. Tasty-day, I say. What I do have trouble with is the new heralds of style over substance who trumpet the bento box as the salvation to school lunches. Immediately their songs of praise turn sour as they try to convince me that cream cheese sandwiches are better if you take a rolling pin to the bread, slather on the cream cheese, maybe with clipped fresh herbs (it only takes a second), and then add micro-thinly sliced cucumber and carrot with, perhaps, a dollop of avocado, before wrapping it all up sushi-style, slicing it into rounds, wrapping the rounds in plastic to preserve their freshness and then gently plunking them all down into one lonely quadrant of a bento box--usually right alongside a hand-written note of maternal love and misplaced self-esteem boosting, all while the other three empty bento quadrants stare you down mockingly.
Are you kidding me? We are talking a school lunch here. The last I checked, I need to make 5 of these suckers a week, roughly 200 a year AND I have to have them ready and at the door no later than 7:45 am. It's not that I'm not earnest or eager, but a lunch is a lunch is a lunch. And school lunches are about survival not proving you're the best damn parent on the block. If you want to get all carried away with the pretty, save it for Christmas. Alternatively, if you want to extend your sense of guilt and obligation year-round, if you want to build a house of cards around tradition and expectation, be my guest: put those wittle sushi sandwiches and love notes and teddy-bear shaped pb&j's in a bento box. Knock yourself out.
That's not to say I don't believe in making an effort. I do. I believe in making healthy, diverse lunches that my daughter will eat and that won't compromise the health of her classmates, some of whom have multiple food allergies. I believe in batch cooking, my deep freezer, and making the most of the local harvest. I believe in yielding to supermarket short-cuts. I believe in creativity that doesn't become labour-intensive tripe. I believe in growing a healthy child who values nutrition and who can concentrate in class. I also believe in sleeping in as late as I possibly can as often as I possibly can.
My daughter starts school on Tuesday. My posts on this blog will communicate my triumphs, challenges and frustrations. I'll share recipes and survival strategies, and I'm sure I'll vent a whole heck of a lot too. In addition to eating many fine and some mediocre lunches, I'm certain to eat many, many of my own gamey words on the way. My name is Sue. My friends are Beck and Janet. Won't you join us?