Thinking Out of the Box, As it Were

I remember my school lunches very vividly. My mother was cutting-edge in the seventies in that she latched on to the health food movement when all of perhaps 1,000 people in the United States were doing it.

I went from bologna sandwiches and chips to peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat with an apple. I was devastated because who wants to trade their Twinkie for an apple? Nobody, that’s who.

I also remember hating my lunches because they sat in my lunchbox, moldering all morning long in the coat room. By the time lunchtime rolled around, anything that was supposed to be cold was nowhere near, and anything that should have been warm was no longer. That seems like it should defy the laws of physics, doesn’t it? How does a cold thing get warm and a hot thing cold in the same box? I say the government should spend some of those research dollars on this topic, don’t you agree?

Anyhoo, lunches have evolved greatly since those days, and it’s high time they did. The paper sack was discarded in favor of a lunch box or reusable bag. Then, the reusable bag/lunchbox added insulation to better ensure that food temperatures stayed true.

Apparently for the hip moms, even those are passe now.

It’s all about the bento. And listen, the debate on whether kids today are more spoiled can be for another day. Today I’m all about the lunches.

These are not necessarily the laquered kind served to you in Japanese restaurants, or even the kind that Molly Ringwald had for her sushi in The Breakfast Club. No, some of these babies are pretty high tech.

mr-bento.jpg

 

I kind of like this because it looks fairly indestructible. You can stack the lidded bowls in the stainless steel canister. To me, stainless steel spells long-lasting, and if I’m going to spend that kind of money on a lunch “system” it had better make it through a year of dropping on the floor by accident. Which as we all know happens way more than you would think. Or perhaps my kid is just a klutz. Don’t answer that. Even on sale, it is a bit pricey.

Or you can be creative like my bloggy friend J, and create your own bento with brightly colored individual containers. Behold the beauty of this balanced lunch:

bento.jpg

So, this year, try to do something different with lunches. You just might surprise yourself with your brilliant ideas. And if you have any, please share them with the rest of us!

29 Responses to “Thinking Out of the Box, As it Were”

  1. Margaret August 29, 2007 at 9:45 pm #

    I always had PB&J and cheetoes and some type of cookie. In a lunchbox. Unless it was pepperoni pizza day. Then I’d buy. And occasionally on hamburger day. But not on square hamburger day. That was some fake hamburger like meal. I wanted a REAL ROUND one darnitalltoheck.

    There is no way I would have ever gotten a stainless steel lunch box. No WAY. Either I would lose it or my brother would use it as a weapon against me.

  2. Glinda August 29, 2007 at 10:59 pm #

    Margaret- I only had a sister growing up, so the weapon aspect completely eluded me.

  3. Meg Q August 30, 2007 at 3:51 am #

    “I went from bologna sandwiches and chips to peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat with an apple. I was devastated because who wants to trade their Twinkie for an apple? Nobody, that’s who.”

    Obviously, my mother must have been one of the other 999. Overnight we went from “yummy” PB in the tub to “that” Smuckers PB with the brown label. Goodbye, lunch trades! I’m so there, girlfriend! (At least I had my Little House on the Prairie lunchbox!)

  4. ML August 30, 2007 at 8:30 am #

    Cool bento boxes! I guess I need to make my lunches more hip.

  5. J August 30, 2007 at 8:58 am #

    Not to be all commercial for bento on you, but I got that bento at Laptop Lunches. :)

    I remember the metal lunchboxes, and how they used to get smelly after awhile, no matter what you did, and you couldn’t get that smell out. Gross. And my mom also went through the super health food thing…can you say bran muffins and carrots? Blech.

  6. Captain Corky August 30, 2007 at 9:56 am #

    I was a weird kid… I used to eat Velveeta cheese sandwiches for lunch almost every day. For a long time I wouldn’t eat anything else.

    But Max, our son, has just started sleeping through the night, 3 days and counting so I don’t think I need to worry about school lunches just yet. ;)

  7. Jennifer in GA August 30, 2007 at 10:00 am #

    Ooh ooh! I *love* the Laptop Lunboxes! I bought them for my two girls two years ago, and they love them, too. Nothing gets squished or soggy, and there’s even a little lidded container for dips or ‘add-ons’. They are a little pricey, but they are *extremely* durable. And they come in several different colors, so kids can have their choice.

    On days when they want something hot, I found some adorable insulated thermos-type containers at IKEA for only $1.50. It’s made of plastic, so no stainless steel weapons to deal with. ;) It doesn’t fit in their Laptop Lunchbox carrying case, so they use a different bag on those days.

  8. Frontier Former Editor August 30, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    Ah, but the government was all about the bento long before we were:

    http://wephaus.com/prodimages/293747g.jpg

  9. Glinda August 30, 2007 at 10:42 am #

    Meg Q- Oooh, Little House on the Prairie! I was a dork who had some kind of math one. It was bad. And I hated math, so I’m not sure why I had it.

    ML- They just look really handy for people who like to bring their own lunch.

    J- Thanks for the link! And yes, I remember that stuffy lunch box smell. Ick.

    Capt. Corky- Well, you didn’t have to tell me you were a weird kid! ;)

    Jennifer- IKEA has some stuff that rocks, and your thermos find sounds fab!

  10. Glinda August 30, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    Frontier Former Editor- Ah yes, the infamous MRE’s! They’re no better now than they were back than. And how thoughtful of them to include those Marlboroughs! The food sucked, but at least they had their cigs!

  11. Glinda August 30, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    Typo alert! “back then!”

    Can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet?

  12. Frontier Former Editor August 30, 2007 at 11:01 am #

    Better ‘n MRE’s – the C-rations

    And there were actually a few culinary jewels among the cans (emphasis on ‘a few’)

  13. Glinda August 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm #

    Frontier Former Editor- I love you, but can I shorten your name? Even to FF Editor?

    Weren’t C-rations the predecessors to MRE’s? WWII era?

    Or, I could be totally wrong. And I’ve eaten breakfast, so I have nothing to blame it on.

  14. Frontier Former Editor August 30, 2007 at 1:33 pm #

    Everyone calls me FFE – just ask your colleague.

    C-rats were the standard combat meal from late WW II up til about 1980, and some will say they all were manufactured in late WW II. We always used to get excess cases for our Scout troop, and there were actually some decent items: apricot jam, caraway cheese spread, crackers, the ‘John Wayne’ candy bar (a Krackel bar the shape and thickness of a hockey puck), spiced beef, turkey or tuna loaf (basically identical and interchangeable). The canned fruit was to die for – especially the pears and the fruit cocktail. The spaghetti and meatballs were better than Chef Boyardee’s stuff. The nut rolls (chocolate or banana) looked dry in the can, but were pretty good – just get a Sara Lee packaged muffin at your convenience store and you’ll get the idea.

    Amazingly, the canned scrambled eggs and ham were pretty edible if you heated the can (opened, of course) in hot water.

    But then there was the ham and lima beans – toxic waste incarnate.

    But I digress . . . .

  15. SpacePeep August 30, 2007 at 2:52 pm #

    That seems like it should defy the laws of physics, doesn’t? How does a cold thing get warm and a hot thing cold in the same box?
    My sarcasm sensor is seriously malfunctioning. Do you really want an answer?

  16. Glinda August 30, 2007 at 3:35 pm #

    SpacePeep- You need to get a new microchip for your sensor! :)

  17. raincoaster August 31, 2007 at 3:49 am #

    FFE is indeed known as FFE on at least two continents, maybe three. And MREs are MREs no matter what you call them. I went to air cadet camp and one of those was supposed to last the whole weekend; it was great for the girls who didn’t eat as much as the huge, lumbering males, because we got to trade our food for…attention.

  18. raincoaster August 31, 2007 at 3:50 am #

    PS
    I had a pink plastic Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox, which ebay tells me is worth more than the whole outfit I have on now.

  19. Ginger August 31, 2007 at 1:45 pm #

    My kids buy their lunches. There are alot more choices now then 25 years ago. I took my lunch most everyday in elementary school. And now? I bring my lunch to work everyday. Of course I have a fridge and micro so the choices are a lot better there, too.

  20. Glinda August 31, 2007 at 8:04 pm #

    rain- don’t you wish we could have kept all of the crap we had as kids? then we’d be rich!

    Ginger- I actually never had any lunches to buy at school. Once a month, they had “Hot Dog Day” and that was it.

  21. me August 31, 2007 at 10:47 pm #

    I can barely bring myself to pack my own lunch. If I have kids, there is no way that I’ll have the energy or the time to put that much effort into their lunches along with my own.

  22. Ninjarina September 1, 2007 at 6:13 am #

    I came from the ghetto where everyone was poor enough to get free lunch every day during the school year. Having your mom pack lunch for you was a luxury since a lot of kids came from single parent families. If your kids complain about your cooking, you can tell them that they’ve got it good and don’t have to eat government lunch.

    I guess I’m just not used to complaining as a kid about food b/c when I actually got a packed lunch, it was the best parts of dinner (mom always picked out the best pieces of food to go into the lunch box before serving the dish for dinner) on top of rice in a cleaned out plastic take out box. The box was reheated in the morning, put in a supermarket shopping bag and I was sent to summer school. I hope I don’t get cancer from ingesting all that melted plastic over the years. Chinese people don’t really believe in Tupperware :(

  23. Glinda September 1, 2007 at 11:04 am #

    me- Then I guess something like Lunchables would be perfect for your kids (whenever they arrive). Or maybe you should look into them for yourself! ;)

    Ninjarina- You were lucky to get the best parts of dinner instead of the leftovers! Usually if I got leftovers for lunch, it was some sort of unidentifiable mass by the time I got around to eating it.

  24. Frontier Former Editor September 1, 2007 at 7:28 pm #

    Even at age 6 I was a closet Warholic and Oldenburgian – I had a breadloaf metal lunchbox with a Campbell’s Soup thermoss

  25. Frontier Former Editor September 1, 2007 at 7:29 pm #

    And C-rats are a whole different experience from MRE’s – the canned fruit alone is a different dimension . . .

  26. Glinda September 2, 2007 at 12:35 am #

    FFE- You are so persuasive, I almost feel like going out and trying to buy some! Are they still out there? I imagine they are more valuable unopened than in my stomach, though.

  27. Frontier Former Editor September 2, 2007 at 8:34 am #

    They’re probably deadly opened – you feel safe trying something canned in 1983?

  28. Glinda September 2, 2007 at 11:00 am #

    My mother is certain to have something around that vintage in her pantry. As long as it wasn’t dented, it should be ok, right? ;)

  29. Frontier Former Editor September 2, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    As long as it isn’r dented, bloated or labeled as containing some liquid or semi liquid foodstuff.

    But then again, fermented fruit cocktail in heavy syrup could make a great apertif.