12: Confessions of a Lunch Maker

12: Confessions of a Lunch Maker

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Confessions of a Lunch Maker

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.

~Erma Bombeck

According to my mother, my generation has it easy. She’s referring to bread machines, microwave ovens, smartphones, Internet banking… the list is endless. But I can stop her cold with two words: school lunches.

When I was a kid, she made me a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. On white bread. And tossed it in a brown paper bag with an apple. That was it. Simple, simple times.

My daughter uses brown paper bags to make hand puppets. Lunch bags come with insulation, pockets, zippers, water bottles, mini ice packs and a matching thermos. Peanut butter is banned in most schools, and white bread is looked upon as a nutritional wasteland. That leaves the apple. And that’s precisely what my children do: leave the apple. But I keep sending the apple. No mother worth her minivan sends her child to school without fresh fruit for the teacher to see. (Tip: An apple can go back and forth for a couple of weeks before it bruises, rots and needs replacement. A banana, on the other hand, has no longevity.)

Of course, every September I hope it will be different. I approach a fresh year of lunchmaking with a fist-full of “kid-proven” recipes torn from newspapers and magazines. I vow to buy breads with flax seeds and ancient grains, certain that if I use a cookie cutter to shape them like a star or a horse, the kids won’t notice the lack of fluffy white dough. But within days, the sandwiches begin returning.

It’s important to me that all the food groups are represented, but I confess, as the school year progresses, each group is open to interpretation. For example, by Christmas I consider chocolate-covered raisins a fruit. By April, so are those rubbery “fruit” chews. By spring, I’m so worn out I consider cheddar popcorn both a vegetable and a dairy product.

I have one disguised vegetable trick that has yet to fail me, but it takes great commitment. The kids know it as “chocolate bread.” It’s actually a low-fat zucchini loaf made with applesauce. Cocoa and a half-cup of mini chocolate chips are its cover. The most important step is grating the zucchini so fine that it isn’t visible to the naked eye when baked. I grate late at night when my children are sleeping.

I shared this recipe with a friend. Her children loved it, but the late-night grating wore her down. She became careless and grated while they were still up. I think it was a cry for help. She was caught, and her kids never touched “chocolate bread” again. She tried to act disappointed, but I think she was secretly glad to have her life back.

I soldier on. So, Mom, have a little sympathy. I may bank in my bathrobe, but at night as you sleep, I’m bleary-eyed in the kitchen, silently grating zucchini.

~Kim Reynolds

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