When I was in high school, Meg LeGros sat behind me in Latin class. She had a short, dark pixie do, and she was spritely and funny and smart. She introduced me to the lifelong joys of using a Rapidograph drawing pen, and inspired yearning for her plaid, tin lunchbox, which was retro even in the Seventies. Her cute lunchbox sat on top of her pile of books as we swotted along, droning declensions and memorizing key Latin phrases that would help us sail through the SATs.
I carried an ordinary brown paper bag for my lunch. There was never anything inspired in it, I am afraid. A cheese sandwich, an orange, some squashed potato chips. Meg, who was a junior and in a much loftier social position, and a more fashionable lunch period, probably had duck sandwiches slathered with nectar, and lavish metaphors of ambrosia and rose hips tucked into waxed paper bags. I think she ended up going to Brown.
Later on, I tried to be a little more inspired with our children, who had super cute (though never retro cute) lunch boxes, with ziplock Baggies filled with sandwiches, broccoli florets, orange slices, strawberries, and Fritos. When the Tall One was in elementary school his signature sandwich was bologna on Pepperidge Farm White Bread, with his portrait squirted out in bright yellow mustard on the watermelon pink disk of processed meat: a happy face with a tangle of yellow curls. The Pouting Princess carted an endless supply of peanut butter sandwiches with disgusting tubes of squirtable pink yogurt and shimmery packs of Capri Sun juices. Bottled water didn’t become fashionable until middle school.
We tried to be healthy and of the moment, packing vegetables along with the chocolate chip cookies. We were encouraged by the schools to bring homemade cupcakes for birthday celebrations – although the store-bought variety seemed more popular among the young. And now we would not be allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches from home. We were just ahead of the frightening peanut curve.We have a friend who is deathly allergic to peanuts, so the peanut ban makes perfect sense. These can be scary times!
Which is not to say that your lunches, and your children’s lunches, can’t be a spritely and groovy as Meg LeGros’s! Have you seen Bento boxes? Totally adorable. Meg probably has a collection of vintage ones. Even Rubbermaid is making colorful, healthy plastic (no dangerous BPA, and they can be recycled) Bento-ish boxes. They are a nightmare to keep sorted in the cabinet I must say, but their whimsical color-coding seems to cancel the annoyance.
If you have to prepare lunches for someone, say someone in kindergarten, deposit said short person in the car seat and buzz over to the grocery story. Better yet, do it on a Saturday when the farmers’ market is open, so the child meets the farmers.
Do you want an apple picked in Galena or some peaches from Sharpsburg? You choose, tiny student. Perhaps some local strawberries? Excellent idea! Shall we try some squash? Let’s put it in the little green box! Shall we make pita pizzas or ham pinwheels? What will fit in this box? Oooh, let’s try some salsa and some artisan ground corn tortilla chips (no high fructose corn syrup, please). And a few cracker nibbles spread with some of Eve’s Cheddar cheese? How delightful! Flavored water, or tap?
And you, too, Tall Reader, you can treat yourself to all these earthly pleasures. They are not only for the young. A nice packed lunch of tasty and local treats will perk up your day considerably. You can wander away from your computer, pick up your book, sit outside in the sunlight (which will be fading soon, and you need to store some up for the winter) and enjoy yourself for once. Don’t forget to pack a cupcake – homemade buttercream is the best.
Take a little time out to plan. I know. It is difficult, but the results will be beautiful and worthwhile. There is always something to see at a farmers’ market. Buy some flowers, too. We need to brighten all the corners that we can.
For you wrangling the young ‘uns:
And for the adults:
“They held their hard-boiled eggs in one hand and a piece of bread and butter in the other, munching happily. There was a dish of salt for everyone to dip their eggs into.
‘I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors,’ said George.”
― Enid Blyton,