The Lunch-Packing Manifesto

by Abby Byrd
Originally Published: 

If you want to hold on to a shred of belief that you’re a decent mother, don’t Google “healthy school lunch ideas.”

The first hit will take you to some obviously child-free assholes at who think that Asparagus and Gruyere Panini and Curried Egg Salad Pinwheels qualify as two of “25 Quick and Easy School Lunches To Pack For Your Kids.” According to them, I’m to roast the asparagus the night before—or shave it raw into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler—then add the gruyere cheese and drizzle the lemon juice the next morning before cooking the whole thing in a panini press. Or hard-boil the eggs and prepare the curried egg salad the night before, then use my ample lunch-preparation time the next morning to cut the crust off bread and fashion “pinwheels,” which I’m to secure with toothpicks. The “pinwheels” in the picture—I can’t even write the word pinwheels without putting it derisively in quotation marks—are lying upon a bed of lettuce. A bed of lettuce. And not iceberg lettuce—hipster lettuce.

I love my child. And I believe in his eating healthy. Since I’ve been packing his lunches for preschool, I’ve rolled up slices of nitrate-free turkey. I’ve sliced raw vegetables. I’ve washed grapes and then halved them, lest he choke on a large one. I’ve placed dollops of hummus and yogurt in adorably small containers labeled with his name. I’ll admit that when he was going through his shapes phase, I even cut his cheese into circles and squares and sadly irregular pentagons.

I’m all for prepping and cooking on the weekends—cold salads or casseroles, for example—to make my life easier during the week. But I will not press a panini (hypothetically—I don’t own a panini press) while trying to wrangle a naked preschooler at 6AM. on a work day. I will not drizzle. I will not pinwheel. That I’m even using “pinwheel” as a verb right now runs totally contrary to my philosophy of parenting. I need to save my energy for the necessities.

Even if I weren’t a working mom, I’m not sure I’d use my time to pinwheel. My mom stayed at home, and the lunch I always remember her packing for me was a baloney sandwich on white bread and a thermos of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with a handwritten note. I distinctly remember that there were no shallots in my soup. I never saw her whipping up homemade pesto and grilling vegetables for my Lunchbox Pesto Shrimp Skewers. She was busy reading me a book.

Besides, as one voice of reason pointed out in the comments section of “25 Quick and Easy School Lunches,” Really I don’t think you should send your kids to school with skewers.


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