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KIDS / Oct ‘2017

Buffet Up Mama

Two cute boys laying on ground in nature and happily eating healthy food
PHOTOS Two cute boys laying on ground in nature and happily eating healthy food
KIDS / OCT ‘2017

Buffet Up Mama

Have you noticed how much you need to pack in your kid’s lunch box as well as to share with the class? What ever happened to the classic Vegemite sandwich?  Now, it’s fruit plates, sushi muffins and so much more!

Words ARI CHÁVEZ

PHOTOS Two cute boys laying on ground in nature and happily eating healthy food

There’s a lot of talk, this time of year, post-hols-and-with-the-schoolyard-looming, of the humble school lunchbox and what should go in it.

My son is going to Kindy this year, so I’m new to all this. I must admit, I’m a bit gobsmacked by the AMOUNT of food that’s expected to be packed for a six hour stint in the classroom and playground. There seems to be all manner of muffins, and snacks, and fruit platters, and sushi, and rice paper rolls, and bread rolls, and olives with cubed fetta and sundried tomato and some sort of marinated mushroom. Plus a drink, half a sack of popcorn and a tub of yoghurt. And some grapes, preferably seedless.

There are lots of fancy lunchboxes, with nifty little slide-out compartments, so you can send a veritable buffet of food options for lunch and your child can pick and choose. There are fabulous cool bags, and ice block-thingies to keep your sushi fresh, and neat little pockets to store a drink bottle in. It’s all terribly organised, and the expectations are clear. Buffet up, Mama, you have work to do.

I am a child of the 70s; a latchkey kid, with parents who favoured the Free Range approach before it was even called that. Basically, I’m so old I am almost desiccated. Even so, the buffet-lunchbox approach seems excessive to me. I hate to play the ‘in-my-day’ card but, heck, I’ll do it anyway.

brenda-godinez-228181

In my day, I distinctly remember being sent to school with:

1. A vegemite and cheese sandwich on wholemeal bread.

2. An apple.

3. A mandarin or carrot.

4. Possibly a water bottle, if anyone remembered and usually they didn’t. If I needed a drink, I could find a water fountain somewhere or, failing this, a puddle. Like I said, Free Range. Use your initiative. Find your own way, even if it does involve slurping from a puddle to avoid dying of thirst. All of that.

Brown bag lunch and apple with red background

My lunch was packed in a recycled paper bread bag, which more often than not retained a veritable avalanche of bread crumbs that stuck to everything inside. I did envy the other kids who had proper brown paper lunch sacks, clean and crumb-less, and always hoped that Mum might buy the same. Great expectations, and all that. She never did, by the way, being somewhat embarrassingly before her time in regards to waste and recycling.

If I needed a drink, I could find a water fountain somewhere or, failing this, a puddle.

My school also put on Dry Roll Days semi-regularly. On Dry Roll Day, the whole school abstained from bringing lunches and, instead, purchased plain dry rolls – white and fluffy as clouds – for about fifty cents. The reason for this was twofold. Firstly, it was an attempt, well intentioned but perhaps misguided, to make us comfortable middle class kids experience how it might feel to have limited food options and be a bit hungry. I’m not sure how successful this was, given we had breakfast before school and afternoon tea and dinner afterwards, and could buy as many dry rolls as we pleased, and we did. Secondly, all those fifty cent pieces we handed over for our dry rolls went to a charity, which provided food to people who needed it.

All well and good, but I’m not sure if Dry Roll Day would cut it today. There would be all sorts of worry about malnutrition and the like. Stern notes might even be sent home, reiterating the value of healthy food choices. It sounds dramatic, but I have heard of such things. Teachers policing lunchboxes and pouncing on illegal biscuits, only to have a tetchy word with Mum at the school gate about sending broccoli florets instead. That sort of thing.

It’s all rather daunting if you think too much about it. You can’t spend your whole life dodging behind the lavender bush near the school gate, because you sent a donut to school for your child’s morning tea. Or can you? There are fourteen years of school, counting Kindy and Pre-Primary. That’s a heck of a lot of dodging. Bad for the knees, I’d wager. It’d be better for everyone to Mum up to things, and learn to make rice paper rolls and the like. Even if your child turns up their nose at them and asks for a vegemite sandwich instead.

Not that I’m worried about my boy doing this, of course. No, not one little bit.

ARI CHÁVEZ

Ari has had work published in Australia, England, Japan and Singapore. She has a delightful toddler, Gabriel, who was born with coffee in his veins. She is currently completing her first novel as part of a PhD project.