From cartoon character sandwiches to bento boxed lunches, putting food on the table is suddenly an undertaking. How do working parents work it?
Eggs are a foul foul way to go through lunch. Don’t get me wrong, we all love fresh egg salad and hard boiled eggs, great protein. Win. But in a lunch there’s just something wrong. There’s the faint egg smell, a mild air of sulfer. Same goes for Tuna. I will not touch a can of tuna. If Phil wants them to have tuna for lunch, he will have to make it. I truly won’t go near it. Like those people who hate cats or cilantro, or those who call themselves “texturtarians,” the ones with an irrational fear of peaches, I detest any type of meat in a can.
Figuring out what to pack for school lunches sucks so hard. I hate making decisions, especially the ones that don’t matter. But when the decisions involve the kids and health, I at least try. But my God, I hate making school lunches. I hate cleaning little plastic containers of their bento boxed lunches, being green, trying to come up with inventive ways of serving up health. It’s exhausting. I can’t simply buy them Lunchables or some such prepackaged meal because a glance at the preservatives and fillers makes me twitch, despite the fact that they’ve eaten far worse at a movie theater. Still, to serve it up daily, I’d reek of guilt. I also don’t want to do what my mother did–what almost all mothers did once upon a time ago–pack a boring lunch. Turkey sandwich, mustard, a lone leaf of white lettuce, with the dreaded apple or box of raisins. I like to keep it creative, like breakfast for lunch or peanut butter and fresh strawberries served up in a waffle cone. Lunch should be enjoyable and nutritious. I’ve scoured the web and made a list of foods I could include, but it’s my own personal torture. And don’t get me started on the cookie cutters that come out, shaping veggies into flowers and bread into trains. Trying too hard is too fcuking hard.
Cherry tomatoes (Abigail will eat them, Lucas will bring them home untouched)
Sugar Snap Peas (same)
Cheese and whole wheat crackers will always be devoured
Apples sliced and shaken with cinnamon work
Hummus with carrots is an OK at home, but at school, it’s a NO
Jicama is good, as is endive (so long as you stand it upright in a cup of sugar to draw the bitterness out before serving)
Abigail loves red peppers, Lucas does not
Abigail adores mushrooms, only when they’re cooked. And when they’re cooked, and cold, they’re wet leaky messes of sponge.
She can devour an artichoke. But then that’s all she’ll eat, and lunch time will be over before she is.
Neither of them will touch jelly, which is fine by me. It’s all sugar, anyway.
They’ll both eat pretty much any fruit, aside from blueberries (this is a new phase)
All Lucas wants to eat is meat. Any type of meat. And peanut butter. Or waffles and cereal. Right now he’s sitting on the sofa eating Kashi in a cup wearing a tee shirt that reads, “I (heart) bacon.” The heart shape is of an egg white with a yolk.
I hate spending time on this, figuring out the fiber, ensuring their meals are balanced. Even if they only eat half of it, at least it’s an attempt. And to do this FIVE DAYS IN A ROW is hellacious. I realize that mothers across the country deal with this and manage it without complaint. I am not one of those mothers. Why don’t they sell these prepacked healthful meals, fruit kebabs and veggie t-Rex sandwiches? Why must I be the one to do this?
However, when I frame lunch as a way to offer different themes, suddenly an eyebrow is lifted. Theme, did someone say theme? Hello, lover. I perk right up.
Asian pear, coconut rice cakes with mango, stir-fry, California rolls.
Be a Jew: smoked salmon, a cheese blintz, a mini bagel, a kosher pickle and bacon.
Castle Cuisine: tea sandwiches, mini scones, a decaf iced-tea
Mambo Italiano: Chicken cutlets with tomato sauce dip, burnt broccoli, meatballs, mozzarella stick
It’s still a lot of work and planning, time I should be spending working. And don’t get me started on dinner! Phil walks in the door and wants dinner ready, on the table, so we’re able to eat as a family, with time enough for baths and books and a proper bedtime. Kids need sleep–it’s perhaps even more essential than the variety of nutritious foods. But getting it all done is proving impossible unless I’m defrosting. Because once I start writing, once I’m in a zone, I don’t want to stop or be distracted. I’m in it. And the rest of the world falls away. How can a woman work and plan lunches and play dates and after school shlepping, not to mention COOKING a dinner, and buying the groceries for said dinner? And make it to the gym and count her Weight Watchers points? Oh, the overwhelming hell. I wonder if there’s a theme for that.
From cartoon character sandwiches to bento boxes, putting food on the table is suddenly an undertaking. How do working parents work it? They learn to say fcuk it.