Everyday Cooking

For Lunch, You Have to Meet in the Middle

April 18, 2013

Every week we take a peek inside the lunches of the luckiest kids in Brooklyn. Read on, suppress your jealousy, and get a little brown bag inspiration. 

My son doesn't like blue cheese but he loves cucumbers so I met him in the middle with mild, creamy blue and cukes. I don't believe in entirely avoiding foods that kids don't like. Their tastes change all the time; something they detest this week is next week's darling. Plus learning to compromise is valuable. So for today's tough love lunch: Cambozola cheese, cucumbers, and garlic mayo (Hellmann's + smashed garlic + squeeze of lemon) on thinly sliced brioche. On the side, salted caramels and medjool dates.

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Get another peek inside the twins' lunches.
For lunch tomorrow, make your own mayo.
Have some leftover dates? Stuff them. 

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


breadwhisperer April 29, 2013
Love the lunch, love the philosophy! I have 3 boys who at various points transitioned from mac and cheese to raw fish and sriracha. It continues to surprise and delight me. A friend from Ireland used to say, "hunger is the best sauce!"
Amanda H. May 3, 2013
Like that. Thanks.
Shalini April 21, 2013
This is exactly how I feel about exposing kids to foods. Especially Cambazola! If only my son didn't have so many food issues at school...he never eats his lunch there, at all! Love this lunch, want it myself.
Amanda H. May 3, 2013
The lunchroom can be a tough place -- hope things improve for your son!
StephL April 21, 2013
There isn't any one way that is right. There taste buds do change and you do have to offer foods multiple times sometimes. I don't do it though when I'm not there. When I pack my son's lunch, I only put in things I know he will eat. Hats off to you if you make it work.
StephL April 21, 2013
Sorry for the spelling. Too tired to be posting
anita April 21, 2013
Smart, StephL. You give your son new foods when you have a backup plan, not when it's the only thing available to him.
ChefJune April 20, 2013
I'm with you, Amanda, on not avoiding foods kids purport to dislike. I know I came to like many foods because my mom persisted.
Now for that yummy lunch! I think I'll make one for myself next week. :)
anita April 19, 2013
I understand having your kids try food they don't like. But I don't understand packing them a lunch with food that they've said they don't like. If he doesn't like it, and doesn't eat it, your kid goes hungry. Is your ego that important you'd do that to your child?
Amanda H. April 19, 2013
Not sure if you read the other comments but my son did eat the sandwich. Also, I see this matter differently. It's my job as a parent to introduce him to foods and to give him a range of experiences. If my kids continue to dislike something, I stop serving it. I actually feel that parents who cater to their child's every passing like/dislike are being needlessly afraid of not being constantly loved.
kasia S. April 21, 2013
Kudos to you Amanda, I don't have children but I would do the same creative thing if I had to feed them at lunch time, otherwise they all end up eating fries and chicken nuggets... treating the child w/ respect is actually teaching them about the global array of foods and flavors, you never know what they will end up loving!
anita April 21, 2013
I understand and applaud your exposing your son to different foods. I think "children's menus" are a sad thing. But... what happens on the day that your son doesn't like and can't eat the lunch you make for him for school? Are you ok with him going hungry that day?
anita April 21, 2013
Just to be clear, my mom made foods that I loathed, and everyone was served the same meal at dinner. She wasn't concerned about being "loved", but wanted to expand our palates, too. But she did it at a time and place where I had other options, and didn't starve because I couldn't eat that food. I actually learned how to make scrambled eggs because of this. And - it turns out that I'm actually allergic to the foods I had trouble with as a kid. My dislike was my body's way of protecting me. I still think it's best to serve these foods when the child has other options and won't go hungry.
Amanda H. April 21, 2013
Thanks for your note back, anita. To answer your question: if he's really hungry, he'll eat it. And if he chooses not to eat it, then he can have the rest of the lunch I packed and wait the 2 hours before his afternoon snack. We follow the same rule at home.

I pretty much never worry about my kids being hungry. Our kids are surrounded by food all the time -- in fact, I feel like I'm often having to protect against our snacking culture. People are constantly trying to feed kids snacks. I want them to eat meals and to be hungry for them. I guess I'm old-school!
VA January 15, 2021
Very old comment---not even sure you're still around---but this pique my curiosity. Is it a common habit for children in your nation/culture to starve themselves by refusing to eat foods they don't like? Sorry if it comes out as rude, this concept is just so foreign for me.
Reynaul April 19, 2013
Very tasty looking lunch! This just might be mine tomorrow!
mrslarkin April 19, 2013
there you go again, putting my Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches to shame. ;)
saragrad April 18, 2013
Did Walker finish the sandwich?
ATG117 April 18, 2013
Wondering this as well? I still feel conflicted about making kids eat things they don't like, and I don't mean that in a judgmental way whatsoever. I just don't think food should ever feel like a burden or a reward for that matter. I'd love a feature that addressed both sides of this coin. I'm sure there's passion on both ends
Amanda H. April 18, 2013
Great question -- need to check with our babysitter!
Peter April 19, 2013
Oh please, the babysitter won't know. Walker is smart enough to destroy the evidence.

If you really want an answer ask Eleanor -- she never takes her eye off of Walker. ;-)
Amanda H. April 19, 2013
Walker says he ate it and that it was "ok." Tough critic.
Christina H. April 19, 2013
I agree with the concept of continuing to serve foods my children "dislike," or at least with which they have expressed dislike in the past. Their tastes are constantly changing and shifting, even day to day. It's hard to keep track sometimes. I serve food that is good and healthy, that I enjoy, and that expands their palettes, and yes, I also serve the unhealthy stuff every once in a while too.
Ecuacan April 20, 2013
I've read that it can take up to 20 times of trying something before a kid will learn to like something. That makes sense to me. We've all acquired tastes for foods that we didn't like. I'm kind of in the middle. I have one kid who is a super taster. If a change up a recipe, she will tell me exactly what I did differently (you put flax oil in the smoothie, didn't you?), while it goes completely undetected by everyone else. I do occasionally send lunches that I know she won't love and I do ask(make) her try something new with eventual success. On the other hand I don't put raisins in the baking - can't handle the rejection!
Cinnamonbark April 18, 2013
Oh my god. Spoiling. I wish my lunches were half so yummy!! I'm going to have to replicate this one!! Interesting...I've never heard of Cambozola. Is it a more mild and creamy blue cheese? It kinda looks it, and i imagine that's probably more popular with kids. A *gorgeous* lunch, at any rate!
Amanda H. April 18, 2013
Yes, it's very mellow compared to most blues -- like Camembert meets gorgonzola.
lecampbell April 19, 2013
I describe Cambozola as a cross between a brie and bleu cheese. Heated up and served with grilled bread...it becomes the crack of all cheese. But you know, in a good way.
Amanda M. April 18, 2013
Wow, that is a beautiful lunch!
Amanda H. April 18, 2013
angelahenderson0716 April 18, 2013
I want that lunch!
Amanda H. April 18, 2013
Easy to make!