Wednesday, January 30, 2013

School Lunches Again

At the start of every school year, I am full of Good Lunch Intentions, which rapidly fade away as the months progress. My kids' lunches are sadly pretty monotonous at this point - either soup in a thermos with crackers and cheese or a turkey sandwich with carrot sticks or homemade mini pizzas or wholewheat bagels with cream cheese if they're VERY lucky. Throw in something dessert-y - either a granola bar or a homemade cookie - and some fruit and that is IT, that's what they get, day in and day out.

And that is FINE. Life is not all beer and skittles, my children. The idea that I'm responsible not only for my kids' nutrition and well-being but also for an unending font of lunch-time novelty is a pretty new one, I think - I seem to recall my childhood lunches being peanut butter and jam or tuna sandwiches day in and day out (in the long-lost days before allergies swept them away) and apples, always apples and no real feelings of being hard-done-by on my part (except about the apples, which I still hate), unless lunch was that square lunch meat with olive and macaroni slices horribly embedded in it. Anyone who claims to feel nostalgic for pimento loaf is LYING.

I don't think parental effort is a bad thing and parenting should definitely not be a race to see who can be the worst, but there's a difference between a reasonable amount of effort (nutritious, balanced, reasonably tasty lunch? Check.) and trying too hard, making something that's already a daily hassle into a competitive sport. My kids' don't need elaborate Bento lunches to have a happy childhood, thank goodness. And meanwhile, this sickly winter just chugs relentlessly on and my kids are missing school AGAIN because of the weather, so I hardly need to make school lunches at all, do I.

In case they ever DO go back to school, though: what's your go-to school lunch routine? And did ANYONE like pimento loaf as a kid?


  1. For the 10 year old sensory integrative nightmare child: PB&J no crusts, a bevy of uninteresting crunchy carbohydrates, juice. For the 7 year old: juice, cucumber & carrot slices, hummus or ranch for dipping, applesauce, a few baked potato chips, and a jam sandwich. For the baby: uncured turkey hot dog, fruit, yogurt, goldfish crackers, juice. Never had pimiento loaf. Maybe that's a Canadian thing.

  2. My 7yo's lunches are either leftovers in a Thermos, with a banana and a cheesestring; or a ham & cheese sandwich on whole wheat with - you guessed it - a banana and a cheesestring.

    Sometimes I vary it, if I'm feeling inspired/guilty, but I always ask him what he wants and nine times out of ten he wants the same exact things. Going all out and coming up with a Pinterest-quality lunch doesn't register on his feed-the-machine radar, so who am I doing it for?


    As for pimento loaf, I still remember a lunch in 1st grade that included a PL sandwich. Our lunch monitor was a humourless, ancient hag of a woman who refuses to countenance the phrase "I really don't like this". She made me TAKE IT TO THE PLAYGROUND and sit in one place, painstakingly gagging the foul thing down while everyone else played.

    I won, though. I got the last mouthful down just as the bell rang. "There," she said "that wasn't so bad, was it? Tomorrow maybe you'll eat it without complaining". I opened my mouth... everything went grey... and I barfed the entire thing up right at her feet.


  3. My 9YO is not a fan of food or this whole eating thing (which makes me a little crazy sometimes). I was making his lunch everyday and discovered that he was throwing it away (unless there happened to be a cookie, then he'd eat that) so I said fine, you can throw away what they serve up in the cafeteria but I'm not wasting my time making lunch for you to throw away. Eat or don't eat.

    I was not a picky eater as a kid, I'd eat anything, including pimento loaf -- although we never had anything more exotic than PBJ.

  4. I never had pimento loaf or that horrible, gross looking "mac and cheese" loaf - whose idea was that? It's terrible! We did have a lot of bologna though. Bologna with dill pickles on white bread.

  5. I had pb&j, with 2 hard as rock gingersnap cookies, which I traded for Fun Fruits with a poor girl who for some reason loved hard as rock gingersnaps, and an apple or orange. Which I rarely ate.
    I can't even remember what R's school lunches were when he started school 11 years ago, but I remember being stumped when I couldn't pack pb&j and he wouldn't eat any sandwich of another variety.
    Now both boys enjoy pb&j as their after school snack, so I don't worry about it.

  6. As a child I LOVED pimento loaf, mac'n'cheese loaf and bologna. I also loved, loved, loved boil'n'bag corned beef. It may or may not be a coincidence that I'm a vegetarian now.

    My go-to lunches for M mostly stem from batch cooking & freezing leftovers: pizza, minestrone, veggie chicken noodle soup, mac'n'cheese, and lasagne. Throw in a carb snack, a piece of fruit, maybe some cuke slices and a treat if I have one to hand. Ta-da!

  7. I was bitter about lunch as a kid because my parents were ahead of the curve on the healthier lunch thing (in the 70s) so my sandwiches were on whole wheat bread and I never got twinkies or ding dongs or Fluff. Still it was all sandwiches and fruit or soup. Nothing fancy.

    I don't have the time or inclination to make fancy lunches for oldest (youngest's is provided at daycare thank dog). Oldest feels PB is of the devil, so he gets leftover dinner in a thermos, a bean and cheese burrito in a thermos, or a meat or cheese sandwich plus fruit. He can choose hot lunch two days a week because he thinks it's special and because his dad and I can hardly manage three lunches per week (dad and I trade weeks making oldest's lunch because we both work FT and if I had to make it every. damned. week. I would go insane).

  8. E gets the same thing day after day after day get the idea. B is forced to make her own. I used to try really hard and feel superior about my healthy food and and cute homemade snacks in order to (i think i heard this from you) make lunch a performance art. But now my husband makes E's lunch and B her own, so I'm off the hook!

  9. My kids have pretty much the same thing everyday (balanced day plan - 2 nutrition breaks):
    - Sandwich (cold cuts on whole wheat or cream cheese on bagel)
    - Yogurt
    - fruit cup or applesauce
    - fresh fruit
    - granola bar or cookie
    - juice box

    They don't even complain about it and it mostly gets consumed. Why put in any greater effort?

  10. I guess what you're saying, Beck, is that you were not interview for this article? Thanks be to god.

    I will pay you one hundred imaginary dollars if you send the kids to school with beer and skittles. Please.

  11. Nope, never ate PL. Just the SIGHT of it. *shudder*

    My homemade lunch staple was pbj, apple (which I hardly ever ate), and some sort of Little Debbie snack cake. My mother never made my lunch. I bought 98% of the time. I packed my own on the days I just absolutely could NOT stomach the stuff at school--but I was usually in too much of a hurry getting ready for school to bother.

    Like my mother, I trained my kids to pack their own lunches--and yes, that's right from 1st grade (with some supervision, of course). Lately, the two younger ones have been going on a food strike and hardly eating anything except pretzels. Even when I help them pack or give them fun new ideas (hot dog in a thermos!), I discover that they probably threw away most of it at school. And we do not have the finances for them to buy every day. My kids are feeling deprived lately. Deprived of gross, hot school lunches that are over-priced and not much more interesting then the stuff I buy for them to take. Poor, poor children.

  12. I have never eaten pimento loaf. True story.