Are You Singing the Lunch Lady Blues?

3 years ago

Shhh.  Do you hear that noise? That rustling sound? That’s the noise of paper bags being pulled from backpacks, smooshed under books and binders. And that sound? That wailing?  That’s the sound of my kids moaning as they discover yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting for them. Unoriginality at its best from a mother who prides herself on unique eats for dinner.  But when it comes to lunch, I’m flummoxed.

Breakfast is toasted waffles with pools of melted butter and warm syrup. Steaming hot bowls of oatmeal drizzled with honey. Yogurt topped with crunchy granola and plump blueberries. Seriously, I could eat it all day. Lunch? Lunch is lettuce. And bread. And deli meat. Blech. Lunch is just a jumble of condiments and nitrates as far as I’m concerned. It’s the forgotten meal in the middle of the day – the middle child of meals. The only thing lunch can boast is potato chips and pretzels.

So knowing it’s my son’s last year of high school, I vow to make peace with lunch. Make his senior year a year of inventive lunches and mealtime memories. Give him something to boost his brainpower as he tackles the mandatory PE and Health classes needed to graduate. Give his classmates something to salivate over – or make fun of him for – not sure how this plan will pan out.

Turkey and swiss on wheat bread will give way to roasted turkey breast (lovingly rubbed with cumin and coriander before baking in the oven) on toasted whole-grain bread topped with an Italian giardiniera (I hope that’s not an STD) and baby spinach leaves. The sandwich – I hesitate to even call it a sandwich – the creation (better) will then be wrapped in wax paper and be accompanied by a pickle spear (not home grown) and a bag of non-GMO sweet potato chips (not home baked). Or the ubiquitous PB&J will morph into an AB&C (almond butter and cherry preserves) with a handful of barbecue kettle-cooked potato chips nestled in between the gooey layers. Dippers and dips, hummus and veggies. My kids will either be the laughingstock of the lunchroom or the envy of their peers. Still not sure but leaning ever so slightly toward the former.

It wasn’t always PB&J 24/7. There was a time when I thought I was the best mother ever because I gave my kids those cute Lunchables.  Drink included! Convenient and healthy! Or so I thought.  I might as well have been feeding my kids pork rinds and pickled cow’s feet. My friend pointed out how sodium-laden and preservative-dense those super-expensive Lunchables were. The cute, perfectly round turkey slices probably weren’t even turkey at all. The drink in a pouch was sugar-water. I was horrified. It must have been how our parents felt when they learned that allowing their children to ride in a car unbuckled was actually a bad thing. I shake my head at their stupidity but then quickly remember my own lunchtime negligence. In trying to be a good mother, I had inadvertently put my kids in a preservative coma at school. Of course, it does explain Mabel’s inability to differentiate a city from a state when she was in the 4th grade. Keep it safe, I decided, moving forward. Hence the peanut butter.

But perhaps now I’m going a little overboard. Perhaps mashing my own chickpeas for hummus is taking it a little too far. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with a little PB&J now and then. Maybe even one of those tuna kits where they make their own lunch. Make their own lunch. That’s the answer.  I guess I always felt like that was my job as a stay-at-home mom. I make the lunches and they grumble about the lunches. But it’s a new school year and time for new ways. And I have no clue where to buy giardiniera anyway.


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