Monday, January 17, 2011

The Creative Lunch Box

In the interest of full disclosure, you need to know that the author of this book is the mother of London, my oldest son’s wife. There has been no remuneration or special favors (flavors???) provided in order to review this book. Not that I’d turn them down, but none were offered.

Little Bro loved our mother’s homemade bread—because he sold the sandwiches she made at school to kids whose mother’s did not bake 7 or more loaves of bread weekly. He was quite the entrepreneur. He bought the school lunch with his proceeds and had money left over. Wish I had thought of that.

It started innocently enough. We didn’t have enough money in our family to buy school lunches, so Ma packed ‘em every day. After a couple of weeks, Little Bro asked for an extra sandwich each day, which Ma happily prepared. Growing boy and all.

After another couple of weeks he requested a third sandwich. Wow! Hungry guy! It was when he requested the fourth sandwich that she broke him. Tied to a kitchen chair with rope from the barn, he finally confessed what he had been doing. She offered to make 12 sandwiches daily if he’d split the take with her, but that didn’t work out very well. So, back to one sandwich and she’d better not hear he didn’t eat it. She smelled his breath every day after school for a week just to make sure.

The school lunch program in America has come under justified attack in recent years. Too much fat and processed food. Jamie Oliver brought the issue to the forefront with his reality TV show, and Michelle Obama has pushed for better school meals. In light of all the negativity and economic realities, more parents are preparing lunches for kids to take to school.

If you have (had) kids for whom you pack(ed) a lunch, you’ll immediately recognize the value of Ellen Klavan’s little treasure, The Creative Lunchbox: Easy, Nutritious, and Inviting Meals for Your Child (Crown Publishers). Few of us make delicious homemade bread to entice our children’s taste buds, but there is much more one can do.

When Brooklyn, my oldest was little, I’d cut his sandwich into puzzle pieces for him to assemble. I’d put little notes in his lunch box to read—a joke maybe, or riddle, sometimes “I’m thinking of you right now.”

I digress. Ellen includes ideas of this sort along with innovative lunches to entice even picky eaters. Her eleven chapters are: Lunchbox Realities, Commonsense Nutrition, Pack It All In, Add Some Fun, Sandwiches, Salads, Hot Meals, Drinks, Quick Breads and Muffins, Something Extra, and Desserts.

Not only is this a delightful little cookbook, but it is filled with information about nutrition and practicalities like packing hot foods. And one important lesson she comes at from many angles is your child is more likely to eat the lunch you prepare if you involve your child in the lunch box choices.

Ellen’s sense of fun (Halloween Cucumber Monster) and style (Sandwich Roll-Ups with festive toothpicks) shine throughout the book. Her child-tested tips fill the pages offering a veritable cornucopia of creative lunch ideas. This book will go a long way toward ensuring your child eats more healthfully and joyfully at school. My brother would have made a mint if Ma had this book!

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