Never mind homework and exams. School lunches create as much anxiety for school moms at the beginning of each school year. Trying to juggle the tuck shop, your kid’s nutritional needs, your time, the odd hangover as well as your shopping planning (or in the case of my sister, forgetting to shop and raiding my fridge in desperation) is no easy task.
A few years ago, I read countless articles on “healthy school box lunches” and laughed at the mere suggestion of sandwich fillings. Sandwich? My child ate her first sandwich at the age of 12.
Every school day, I did the walk of shame, delivering my child with her strange lunch box, wondering what the teacher thought of this so-called “cook” and her dreadful lunch boxes, sometimes filled with only white rice.
But, I downloaded Martha Stewart’s lunch box notes and each day packed one into my tactile-defensive daughter’s blue Tupperware lunch box, along with her white rice.
She attends high School tomorrow, her eating habits and appetite are normal (often adventurous) but while she has little memory of eating the same meal, once a day for 6 months, she always reminds me of her “ lunch box love letters”.
Luckily I now have a little toddler whose favourite meal is broccoli and mealies but despite this I will continue to create magical moments and memories with her lunches. I will cut her white bread and sugary peanut butter sandwich into hearts and I will let her eat cupcakes without the icing, as she likes it, just as I let my first-born eat the icing without the cupcake. I will not stress about exams, homework or have lunch box guilt because these will not form part of her idyllic and nostalgic childhood memories.
This excerpt from the recipe book, Apples for Jam, resonated with me because as a child I remember reading the Famous Five, by Enid Blyton and wanting to try all the food she so beautifully described in each book: Tongue sandwiches, hunks of gingerbread, tinned sardines in tomato sauce, liquorice candy, fat fried sausages, potted meat and scones with clotted cream.
I ate Bull Brand (potted meat sounded better) anchovy paste, cooked tongue and gravy and spaghetti in tomato sauce because even though it did not match her description and my imagination, it made me feel sophisticated, magical and fortified to unravel any mystery.
But that was my memory.
My job as a school mom is not to create a picture-perfect balanced guilt-free lunch box but a positive relationship with food, beautiful memories of opening the lunch and magical moments spent eating it ( even if that entails only white rice).