Like most baby boomers, I don't have to worry about school-age kids anymore. I'm 53, and my daughters are all grown. Even my baby is getting her doctorate and planning her wedding. It doesn't seem like that long ago, though, that I was trying to figure out what food I would put in her lunch box.
"I loved mini Babybel cheese, egg salad sandwiches, pretzels and juice boxes," she said when I asked about her favorite lunch memories from elementary school.
It was a rare thing that she would eat school food, and it took only one cafeteria meal for me to learn to do the same whenever I visited at lunch. It's not that the cafeteria workers didn't try their best to prepare good food. They just had to deal with the cards they were given.
My memories go back a little further to hamburger Thursdays at Missionary Ridge Elementary School. That was the only day my mother would let us eat a school lunch. Thinking back, I don't know why we liked the burgers so much. They were pretty pitiful. I guess it was just a change from PBJs and chips that made them so good.
Fast-forward a few decades, and food hasn't gotten much better. I put out a Facebook request to friends asking if their children like school food. The overwhelming response was no, although most said that their children will eat the schools' pizza and chicken nuggets. With childhood obesity now in epidemic numbers, I'd say those two foods, though favorites, are probably among the worst nutritionally.
Your child may enjoy school lunches, though, and if that's the case, great. But sending them off with a homemade lunch every now and again is something they will appreciate. Bento box lunches, with foods packaged in separate compartments, became a big trend last year. Here's how to put one together.
Deviled Egg Wrap Bento
4 large hard-boiled eggs
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon pickle relish, optional
Greenleaf lettuce leaves
Remove yolks from eggs and set aside. Chop egg whites finely. Combine yolks, mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish. Fold egg whites back into yolks and spread on flour tortillas, place a lettuce leaf on top and wrap, then secure with a toothpick.
Build your Bento lunch box with other finger foods such as cereal mix, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, celery sticks, cheese slices and red or green grapes. It's important to keep moist foods separate from dry foods to decrease the risk of spoilage. Muffin cups are ideal for keeping foods separate, but anything from dry lettuce leaves to wax paper works as well.