It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that, among my obsessions, the art of packing a decent lunch is quite high. This is entirely consistent with being a person who owns over 75 colored pencils, and a lot of cool paperclips. The packed lunch obsession began, innocently enough, when I discovered how calming it felt to use cookie cutters to cut the cheddar cheese I was putting into my kindergarteners’ lunches into the shape of…. well, bats. They were leaving home for school for the first time and I was nervous. Somehow, making a nice lunch helped me feel better. The bats were because Halloween was approaching. They were sort of cute.
I’m not allowed to cut their food into cute shapes anymore. (In fact, I never really was. I learned recently that they put up with it, because they felt sorry for me. Their father had to tell me it wasn’t okay to do that.) Now, they all make their own lunches, with some help, so what goes in there is a joint decision. But there is no question that what goes into lunch matters. It matters that we eat well and with pleasure. And so, every culture has an iconic packed lunch container. In Japan, it’s the bento box. In India and in Thailand, it’s the tiffin tin. In the United States, it’s those steel tins that construction workers use and the ubiquitous brown paper bag. English people carry fancy wicker picnic baskets. I’m sure there are others, but I’ve been too busy packing lunches to devote myself utterly to a survey of World Lunches.
But I have devoted an entire blog to the subject of the packed lunch. It’s fun. It helps remind my children that what and how we eat matters. And yes, it’s a little weird. But I’m going with it, because sometimes that’s what you do with things you just really like. And it turns out that, in Berkeley where I live, I am not the only person thinking maybe ‘way too much about school lunches. If you have a chance, you might want to check it out, dip your toe into the utopian scheme that’s happening in my youngest child’s school to stamp out childhood diabetes through the introduction of organic, non-processed, locally prepared and grown, delicious food. Sounds good, huh? Or, possibly, too good to be true. I’ve written about Berkeley’s Renegade Lunch Lady here. The New Yorker has also written about her, in the September 5 education issue. But they’re not right there, in the cafeteria, like I am. Ha.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 9/5), I’m having surgery. I’ll be away until Thursday. I’ve got more scary story reading to do. A novel to finish. Plus, I’ve been reading Francine Prose’s book of essays on reading for writers. Ella, of the wonderful box of books, is leaving me a box of her books, as she leaves the country, so there’s a lot there to read. I need to finish the Sun Also Rises for my book group. I imagine I’ll have a lot to do while I’m recuperating. I’m thinking somebody might even set a nice tray of lunch for me, if I’m lucky, with my toast cut into the shape of something appealing.
See you Thursday. Don’t forget to eat a healthy, delicious lunch!