Back-to-school season is here, and I’m nervous. I’m not nervous about the spelling tests or the inevitable revolving door of “best friend” drama. Do you know what really stresses me out? Packing school lunches. I remember when school lunches consisted of three parts: sandwich, produce, and treat. Now, it’s all organic blueberry and kumquat salads with sweet basil vinaigrette. Homemade chicken tenders in the shape of characters from the latest Pixar movie. And for dessert, a mini apple strudel.
When did everything get so complicated?
Since when did you need to be a cross between Banksy, Julia Child and an architect to pack a 6-year-old’s lunch? Are they going to be eaten or displayed at the MET?
You practically need a degree in Cheese Fine Arts with a minor in Carbohydrate Mixed Media to pack a lunch these days. It seems as if we’ve forgotten how to keep things simple.
I remember when school lunch meant a sandwich on white bread with a thin slice of unidentifiable meat, an apple that I’d trade for a pudding cup and some shrink-wrapped “treat” I gobbled up before running out to play. I remember when this was all packed in a brown paper bag that sat under my math book until noon. I’d pull it out, inspect the damage done to my sandwich and eat most of it anyway because I was that hungry. I remember the laughter and howls of the lunchroom, the ever-watching eye of the lunch supervisor and how I’d swing my feet back and forth under the table.
I may not have eaten mini homemade pizzas every day, but I survived. When did good enough become unacceptable? I love that we’re trying to be healthier, but can’t healthy be simple, too?
School is starting again, and I’ve decided to just relax. There will be no complicated bento boxes with edamame that they won’t eat on bread they won’t touch carefully arranged in small rectangles that will all become a mosaic after being dropped numerous times coming out of my kitchen. Sorry kids.
I’m going back in time. This year, I’m keeping it basic. Sandwich, fruit, a snack and, of course, some carrot sticks. I’ve learned a thing or two since I was a kid. My kid’s lunches won’t be fancy or Instagram-worthy, they’ll be ‘just lunch.’ And I think that’s plenty.