I have a bone to pick with the people at Scholastic Books – they recently tricked me into ordering one of the most irritating books of all time.
It’s pages are filled with perfectly styled, perky images of food that has clearly never been in sniffing distance of a battered old lunch box. But I’ll save my ranty-pants exposé for another time, and another post.
Right now, I’ll just want to get on my school lunch soapbox for a bit, and explain why the whole process is such a momentous brain drain (and why I’ve never had the inclination to tie up a pita wrap in coloured paper and string).
You might imagine that after five years of nutrition training, I’d be able to come up with some pretty awesome school lunch ideas without the help of a book. But being a dietitian hasn’t equipped me with any superpowers in creative lunch box planning, or the patience of a saint.
There are three main issues I have with the whole Lunch Conundrum:
1. There are just far too many variables involved, and too many points at which the whole process can fall down.
As is clear from the flow chart I’ve created (see Figure 1), the execution of a successful school lunch is dependent on a number of consecutive variables all being met. These encompass the pre-planning stage, the actual assembly and transit, and the oft-neglected stages of disassembly, sanitizing, and debriefing.
The middle spheres shown in Figure 1 (below) depict the integral role of various containers and temperature regulating devices in the school lunch box. This paraphernalia must first be procured, and then clearly labelled and stored (in the perpetually chaotic ‘Tuppaware cupboard’). And as losses are inevitable, stock-take and replenishment must occur on an ongoing basis.
The orange markers draw your attention to some of the danger points in the school lunch cycle, and key stumbling blocks where the whole process can come undone.
2. Most children I know are as fickle as all f*&%.
I’m sorry for swearing, but the school lunch process brings out the potty mouth in the best of us.
This week they love orange segments, next week they’ll make the ‘why don’t you just make me eat vomit?’ face if you suggest orange. They beg you to buy salami because their best friend is allowed to have it every day, but within a few days it’s old news, and coming home all greasy and gross in the bottom of the lunch box (or worse still, just loose in the school bag). Now what are you supposed to do with the large salami stockpile, which you bought in bulk because it was on special?
This is the reason that Stage 4 – the debriefing (see Figure 1) – is such a key point in the cycle. If you unwittingly skip this step, there’s a high likelihood of ending up with a kitchen stand-off and a rejected lunch box the next morning.
3. School lunches will never end.
The fact is, that only a number of hours after you’ve engineered and assembled the lunch(es), you need to be locating and washing the containers, and planning for the next day. This is where I frequently come undone. I generally feel so relieved that one set of lunches is done and dusted, that I neglect the fact that it all needs to happen again the very next day. It’s quite frankly exhausting – and one of the reasons that weekends and school holidays are such things of joy.
And I just calculated that I’ve got another 12 years of this ahead of me.
I’ll leave you with this meme I created. With any luck it will go viral and I’ll be commissioned to write my own smug 101 fast fun and fabulous school lunches book by this time next week 🙂