The school lunch. The bain of every parent’s existence; the making or breaking of every child’s school day.
My personal school lunch history, which I can recall as far back as Grade 1 with my plastic Charlie Brown lunch kit, has been integral in molding me into the domestic goddess that I aspire to be every day.
You see, I grew up in a single-parent household until I was seven, then after our mother remarried, we continued to be raised strictly, and doing things for ourselves was the norm.
My mother worked. She left the house by 7:30 am. To be able to get herself out the door, she had us make our own lunches from the ingredients in the fridge. The contents of my lunch box directly reflected our socio-economic status, such that my two older brothers and I did not go hungry, but we certainly were not doing cartwheels over what we ate at lunchtime; sandwich and a whole orange. Apples rarely appeared, and once in awhile Wagon Wheels would show up, but never cookies, or juice boxes or Wagon Wheels or donuts or whatever else my friends had in their lunches. But we didn’t know any differently, so we enjoyed our peanut butter and jelly on white, or perhaps chicken-loaf with mustard, and our sticky orange that was so difficult to peel with small fingers.
Despite this seeming hardship, I learned the value of eating what was put before me, and to this day I will eat anything served on a plate. When you only have exactly enough, and never too much, you waste nothing. There were no snacks in our house, only breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But the best part of having to make my own lunches as a child is that, as I grew older, I experimented and came up with imaginative alternatives to the white bread and oranges, and from there I graduated to assisting with cooking dinner and finally mastering baking, canning, and catering for large groups.
As a parent, I recalled my own meager lunches, and made different choices for my kids. For one thing, my son and daughter liked entirely different things, and neither of them like sandwiches. I provided sliced veggies and dip, sliced fruit, squares of cheese, crackers, flatbreads, juice boxes, pickles, homemade granola bars and muffins, and anything else that was bite-sized and ready-to-eat.
I am so very grateful that my mother forced me, at the tender age of six, to fend for myself in this way. She unwittingly fostered in me (and my brothers) a love cooking (that we all share to this day), and also a deep understanding of thrift, which should never be underestimated.
Thank you mom <3.