What is it about lunch? When I ask a parent -- check that, when I ask a mother of school-aged children who are out of school how things are going, she almost always says, "What a relief it is not to make lunch!" And when I talked to a friend whose child is a toddler going to his first drop-off camp, which requires a packed lunch, she said, "I think about lunch all the time." As for me, my kids are now in a camp where they're given lunch. Not only are their food horizons expanding ("Today I had meatballs for lunch! And apple and peas and carrots!"), each morning I pace the kitchen in a state of easy contentment murmuring, "I don't have to make lunch...I don't have to make lunch...."
What's going on with lunch?
Like every other meal, lunch has to happen, each and every day. Unlike those other meals, you can't wing it with your kids. You can't run out and pick up a salad for them, or a turkey wrap (which, after reading The Ask, I can no longer eat anyway). No, none of that applies to lunch for your kids. Instead, it goes to school with them, and many days, it comes right back home. Its return, in full or partial format, is hard evidence of culinary failure. Sometimes I think I'm in some kind of pitched battle with my kids: Would it kill my son to eat a yogurt squeezer? Why won't my daughter try sunflower butter? Why won't my son eat bread? But, if the sandwich containers come home empty, I repeat the successful sandwich, over and over, until I run out of bread, throw away the bag, and can't remember which type of bread got eaten. Once, my daughter, who typically ate three bites of her grilled cheese, told me I wasn't sending enough food in her lunch box. "I want five things," she told me, "and a break from grilled cheese."
So for me, at least, not only does lunch mean the constant assembly and cleaning of plastic containers (which we use instead of snack bags and tin foil), it means exposure of my worst food habits, my ruts, my lack of creativity, ingenuity, verve. I'm beaten down my lunch, except, it turns out, during the summer, when, made by someone else five days each week, it's the perfect meal.