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Why Deb Perelman Hates Packing Lunch

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If you like reading what Amanda feeds her kids, you'll love taking a look into what other people -- both in the food world and the world at large -- prepare for their own children (and occasionally their signifcant others and maybe even their pets). Prepare to be either resentful or appreciative of your own parents.

Today's lunch comes from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, who we wish would pack our lunch (even if she hates doing it).

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We cannot have a conversation about my son's lunch boxes without me coming clean from the outset: They are the bane of my existence. Not because he's a particularly terrible eater (he's...normal), or because he sends back everything uneaten (thank God, not very often), or because it doesn't give me pleasure to know that he ate five strawberries and four cucumber spears at lunchtime. Rather, I resent the bigger system: That school lunches aren't better (despite efforts), and that we're not making it a priority to normalize warm, balanced meals on real plates in deliberate, un-rushed meals—that these things aren't considered life skills. Also, I'm usually packing these lunch boxes at about 7:32 A.M. and the last thing I want to is a) be awake at all or b) smell steamed garlic-pork dumplings. 

I don't do cute or fancy lunch boxes. I have a system—two vegetables, one fruit, one piece of dried fruit, and something savory—and I lack the inclination or creativity before my first cup of coffee to vary from this. The savory thing is usually the compromise; ideally it's something with protein—maybe leftover chicken or pasta—but it's equally likely to be a peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwich (no more than one a week is our agreement) or organic chicken nuggets from the frozen food aisle (ditto). To me, the primary benefit of packing his lunch box is that he'll eat two more vegetables and one more piece of fruit than he would ever put on his own cafeteria tray, mostly because I choose them exclusively from the narrow list of things he's shown willingness to eat. In case you were wondering if I negotiate with terrorists: always. 

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The other morning, he took great interest in my grumpy lunch box packing and insisted that I include olives (which he'd taken interest in for the first time the day before, because they were in a bowl next to a pitcher of Bloody Marys we'd set out for friends and I let him go "fishing" for them with a toothpick) and hard-boiled eggs (also a new interest, mostly because I introduced him to the egg slicer; had I realized this would be what piqued his interest, I'd have dug it out of useless kitchen gadgets purgatory years ago). He also chose the boiled broccoli; even I wouldn't subject a kid to cold, soggy florets while the other kids are eating three-color goldfish crackers and things with sprinkles. With two slices of prosciutto, a prune (we jokingly call him a mini-grandpa), and a clementine, I primarily took a photo because this 5-star Michelin lunch box cracked me up.

Photo by Deb Perelman

Tags: lunch, kids' lunch, kids, children, brown bag lunch