I did warn you that I was by no means done, on the subject of school lunches. Specifically, I need to finish my rant about the contents of this cheery-looking little yellow book, which set me off in the first place.
It’s not that I feel any real malice toward the authors – I’m sure they are nice people, and that no-one was actually harmed in the making of this book. Perhaps they live in an alternate universe, where time can be suspended indefinitely in order to make lunch, where children’s lunches are packed in wicker baskets, and set out at picnics under shady trees?…
Anyway, I’m working through my emotional issues around this book. And to help me do so, I’ve selected the ten lunch ideas I found the most irritating and preposterous.
You be the judge.
1. Celery, cream cheese and sultana tree.
Where do I start? I mean, this is the first page of the book, and we can already see some pretty outrageous examples of food styling gone mad.
A carrot has been carved into a sun, which is shining down on a celery, cream cheese, peanut butter and sultana tree. Oh, and I think the flowers have been fashioned from two different cheeses.
For now I’m going to ignore the fact that most schools don’t encourage nut items at school, and just ask the question: How does one assemble and transport such a tree in a lunch box?
When we tried a version of this in my daughter’s lunch box, the result was decidedly less ‘tree in under blazing carrot sun’ and more ‘glumpy smeary celery logs’. They arrived home in much the same fashion, with a few nibbles around the edge.
2. Hand sewn fabric sandwich and fruit bags in fresh, zesty colours
At risk of alienating readers, I going to come right out and just say F-A-R-K OFF at this point.
Now I don’t sew, but if I did, I still wouldn’t be caught dead making fabric sandwich pockets when I have a cupboard full of, sturdy, unsquishable, WASHABLE containers that are designed for the purpose of transporting sandwiches. Simply preposterous.
3. Glass of risoni and grilled vegetables
The most pressing issue here, is that the food stylist does not appear to comprehend the simple physics of the harsh school bag environment. A bright yellow napkin tied up with twine isn’t going to do much for you when you’re trying to clean mouldy fetta out of the darkest corners of a school bag.
I also don’t know of many parents who keep a stock of risoni and grilled vegetables in the fridge, in the off chance that their child may ‘order’ the risoni salad that day.
(Okay, so it looks pretty tasty – but I think that’s partly me, projecting my fantasy that it’s just been delivered to me while I sit alone in a cafe and read the paper).
4. Pretty infuriating pita wraps
At a stretch, these infuriating wraps may be appropriate for cute Instagram opportunities at race-day picnics. But let’s be serious for a minute here. They have no place within spitting distance of a school ground.
I think we all agree that a pita wrap is a pita wrap, regardless of how many hours you may spend cutting pretty paper with serrated scissors and tying them up with matching twine.
But thanks to The Lunch Box for creating this visual, which my children can contrast against the austere (yet infinitely more practical) cling-wrapped version I make.
5. Home made sushi handrolls
Okay my kids love sushi, and this looks great, but….
NUP. BABOM. BZZZT.
Come Monday morning, you won’t find me rising an hour or two early to roll my own sushi for the kids lunch boxes (and I don’t know any of my friends who would beg to differ). This one fits into both the ‘life is too short’ and the ‘don’t be ridiculous’ categories.
6. ‘Fruitwiches’ (AKA silly ways of using fruit in a sandwich)
For a change here, I’ll stop picking on the food stylist, and take the author to task on these sure-fire candidates for the ultimate sandwich fail.
Firstly, I give you the pear and avocado open sandwich. As the layperson will be aware – both pear and avocado have a tendency to turn a delightful shade of brown once they are opened and cut. They are also very high in moisture content. So it doesn’t take a masters in Nutrition and Dietetics to predict that by the time lunch rolls around, this creation will have morphed into a very sad, soggy brown object de mush.
Or perhaps your child is more of a ‘strawberries, strawberry jam and goat cheese on a toasted english muffin’ type? OH PLEASE SPARE ME!!
7. Devilishly devilled eggs.
Excuse me? Have I unwittingly boarded a time machine and been transported back in time to a 1970’s cocktail party?
I mean, sure this looks quite fetching for an alfresco lunch with a crisp glass of white, but I think we digress.
Next time I find I’ve been forward-thinking enough to have pre-boiled eggs at hand… they will be mashed up with mayonnaise and chucked between two slices of bread. Quite simply, life is too short to make devilled egg salad for your child’s lunch box.
Okay, now bear with me – I can feel you flagging, but we’re almost there. My last three candidates are sure to get your nostrils flaring with pure indignation.
8. Oats with ‘toppings galore’
This is not lunch! This is quite clearly breakfast. Why would I want to take a perfectly good breakfast option and try to turn it into a lunch?
A handy little hint states ‘No-one likes cold oats, so be sure to use a well-insulated container’.
Well I’d like to tell them where to shove their well insulated container, because I stand by my original statement that this is BREAKFAST, and therefore I will feed it to my child first thing in the morning, eliminating the need for the INSULATED CONTAINER.
9. Swirly layered yoghurt and fruit compotes
As you will have identified without my help, there are a number of issues here. These include (but are not limited to) the idea that any parent has the time or inclination to create such a dish for a school lunch, and the fact that, quite clearly, THIS IS A DESSERT. It’s a lovely idea for a brunch party, but I think I’ll stick with my conventional option of yoghurt in squeezie tube, frozen so that it doubles as a cool pack. Sheesh.
And finally, I bring you the last, but by no means least annoying lunch box idea:
10. Cheesy steak roll (or if you prefer, hipster child burger)
I saved this one for last as it got up my nose the most of all. It involves making a ‘special sauce’ (which you whip up with 4 different ingredients), and requires both cooking in a pan (of the onion and peppers) and then heating under a grill to melt the provolone cheese. And although it is not implicitly stated, that bun just reeks of the brioche variety.
‘just wrap in foil and slide into an insulated bag to help keep the roll warm’.
Quite simply, this is NOT IN ANY WAY a valid school lunch suggestion – I would be both a fool and a masochist if I thought otherwise. It is perhaps acceptable for a swanky Saturday night burger at home with a glass of cider.
And that brings me to the end of this rather cross little post. I hope you’ve been fuming alongside me all the way, and will forgive me for today’s rather shouty demeanour. You see, us nice dietitian folk can get just as cross as the next person when provoked.
I mean, take another look at the hipster lunch burger. Tell it doesn’t make you want to stab someone.